Sports photography: tips for setting up your camera to shoot anything

Step-by-step how to set up your camera for sports photography

Best camera settings for sports photography - step 1

01 Drive mode
It's worth setting the camera to the highest speed Continuous Shooting drive mode for any fast action shots. Using this mode means the camera is always ready to shoot, even though it's usually best to fire in short bursts, rather than taking shots continuously.

Best camera settings for sports photography - step 2

02 ISO and image format
If you want to freeze the action, especially in low light, you'll need to set the ISO to 400 or even higher. Otherwise, for the best quality, use ISO100 or 200. It's also worth considering shooting JPEGs, rather than RAW, to allow the camera to write the images to the card quicker.

Best camera settings for sports photography - step 3

03 Exposure mode
Choose Shutter Priority (S) mode as this is the most useful for most sports and action. It enables you to decide whether to freeze the movement with a fast shutter speed or add some blur by using a slower one. The camera will automatically choose the aperture.

Best camera settings for sports photography - step 4

04 Autofocus mode
To allow the camera to track moving subjects, set it to Continuous Autofocus. On some models you can change the priority from Focus (where the camera won't fire until it's in focus) to Release, which will allow the camera to shoot even if it hasn't focused exactly.

Best camera settings for sports photography - step 5

05 Autofocus area
On most models you select Dynamic Area in the AF-Area mode in the Custom Settings menu. On models such as the D7000 and above, you can choose between different numbers of active AF points in Dynamic Area mode. For predictable subjects like cycling, choose the 9-point option.

Best camera settings for sports photography - step 6

06 Back button focus
In the Controls option in the Custom Settings menu, choose the 'Assign AE-L/AF-L button' option and then select AF-ON. This means that instead of having to half-press the shutter to focus, you press the AE-L/AF-L button on the back of the camera to activate the focus.

FIRST PAGE: Camera settings you'll need


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