How to take pictures at sports day

How to take pictures at sports day

Introducing tips and recommended lenses for taking good pictures of children at their next sports day

Sports day is a major event, an annual highlight that only comes around once a year. I'm sure many of you are excited, thinking, "I want to capture memories of my child growing up strong!" However, to capture the perfect shots smoothly on the big day, it's not just about being familiar with your camera; you also need to choose the right lens. In this article, we'll guide you on selecting the appropriate camera gear and settings to excel at capturing those sports day moments, along with tips for various scenarios. 

What lenses are suitable for taking pictures at sports days?

One of the quirks of sports days is the challenge of getting up close and personal with the kiddos for snaps. Especially during the hustle and bustle of races and competitions, you often find yourself stuck shooting from a distance. This means your smartphone might not cut it for close-ups, and zooming in too much can seriously compromise image quality.

That's where a single-lens camera with zoom capabilities comes in clutch for sports day photography. Opting for a high-magnification or telephoto zoom lens lets you capture those little expressions and moments with clarity and punch. 

But not all single-lens cameras are created equal, mate. The key here is picking the right lens. If you're just dipping your toes into the single-lens camera world, chances are you'll start off with a standard zoom lens that comes bundled with the kit.

But standard zoom lenses often fall short when it comes to getting up close and personal with distant subjects—like those speedy kids across the field at sports day. That's where a high-power zoom or telephoto lens steps up to the plate.

A high-power zoom lens is a versatile beast that can adjust its focal length across a wide range, from a sweeping wide-angle to a tight telephoto. Think something like a 28-200mm for full size or 18-300mm for APS-C cameras. With one of these bad boys, you can switch seamlessly from snapping close-ups of the littlies to capturing sweeping vistas of the whole shebang without missing a beat.

And the beauty of it? No need to faff about swapping lenses and risking missing that perfect shot—all the while lugging around a hefty kit bag. With just one lens, you're set for whatever the sports day throws your way.

Then there's the telephoto lens, packing a focal length of 85mm or more. Perfect for zeroing in on distant subjects—like those kids tearing up the track at sports day. Even from a distance, a telephoto lens lets you capture their expressions and movements in crystal clear detail.

Plus, it's a pro at creating that dreamy bokeh effect, making your subject pop against the background. Ideal for giving your sports day shots that extra bit of oomph and making your kiddo the star of the show, all with the power of a single-lens camera.

[Preparation for shooting] Check the camera settings

When it comes to capturing the action at a sports day, nailing the camera settings is key. You got to tweak the shooting mode, shutter speed, ISO sensitivity, and all that jazz to dial in your shot just right. Let's break it down, shall we?

Shooting mode

When it comes to your camera, there's a whole bunch of shooting modes to play with. If you're not yet a pro with single-lens cameras, I'd suggest kicking things off by selecting "Sports" mode for each scene. Pop it into sports mode, and bam! Your shutter speed gets dialled in automatically to snag those split-second action shots. No fuss, no muss.

Once you're feeling a bit more confident behind the lens, give shutter priority mode a whirl. With shutter priority, you get to set the shutter speed you want, and the camera takes care of tweaking the aperture to keep things looking just right. It's a neat trick that lets you play around with different styles and adapt on the fly to changes in light and weather. 

Shutter speed

Shutter speed controls how long your camera's shutter stays open, affecting how motion appears in your shots. Basically, the quicker the shutter speed, the less time there is to capture movement, giving you crisp, freeze-frame shots of action-packed moments.

Conversely, if you dial down the shutter speed, it takes longer to capture the action, leading to that cool motion blur effect. But when it comes to sports days and all that hustle and bustle, you want to keep things snappy. Aim for a shutter speed around 1/1000 second or faster to freeze those fast-moving moments in time.

But here's the kicker: faster shutter speeds mean less light hits your camera's sensor. So, on a bright sunny day, you're golden. But if it's overcast or shady, you might find your pics coming out a tad too dark. In those cases, dialing back the shutter speed just a smidge can help brighten things up without sacrificing the action.

ISO sensitivity

ISO sensitivity determines how much your camera boosts the incoming light to the sensor. Cranking up the ISO means brighter photos, which is handy when you're shooting in dim conditions. But tread carefully—go too high, and you might end up with some pesky noise creeping into your shots. Aim to keep it within a range that keeps your images looking natural and clean.

While many cameras default to auto ISO, it's good to have a ballpark figure in mind. On a sunny day, stick to around 200 to 400 for crisp shots without too much noise. But if the clouds roll in, you'll want to bump it up to around 800 to 1600 or even higher to compensate for the lower light levels.

F value (aperture value)

The F number, also known as the aperture value, tells you how wide or narrow the lens's opening is, determining how much light hits the camera sensor.

Lose a few notches on the F number, and you're opening up the aperture, flooding in more light for brighter snaps. Crank it up, and you're closing things off, dialing down the light for a darker overall image. But that's not all—the F value also plays a role in how much blur you get in your pics. Smaller F numbers mean bigger blur, while larger F numbers keep things sharper.

When you're out shooting sports events in sports mode or shutter priority mode, your camera's likely handling the F value for you. But if you're taking the reins, aim for somewhere between F4 and F8 to nail those action shots while keeping those little faces nice and clear, even when they're on the move.

AF (autofocus)

AF (autofocus) is like having your camera do the focusing legwork for you, automatically locking onto your subject. When you're snapping away at sports days, it's smart to switch your AF setting to continuous AF mode.

This mode keeps the focus locked on your subject as long as you've got the shutter halfway pressed, perfect for capturing all that action. It really shines in fast-paced scenes like foot races and relays, where every split-second counts.

Image stabilisation

When you're working with a telephoto lens or shooting freehand, there's a higher chance of camera shake creeping into your shots. That's why it's crucial to switch on image stabilisation for both your camera body and lens.

But wait, there's more! Some gear might even come with a special image stabilisation mode tailored for fast-paced action, like sports. It's designed to keep your framing steady, even when your subjects are darting around unpredictably. So, before you start shooting, double-check if your setup has this feature—it could make all the difference.

How to take photos by event

Sports day is chock-full of photo-worthy moments, from foot races to relay races and team events. But here's the kicker: the best shooting tips will vary depending on the event, so it's all about adapting on the fly. Let's dive into some scene-specific pointers for capturing the magic of sports day.

[Pre-game Prep!] Get the lowdown on rules and schedules

Before you gear up for your photo session, make sure to brush up on the dos and don'ts laid out by the kindergarten or school. The info packet they hand out ahead of time will clue you in on photography no-go zones within the park or school grounds, as well as any specific rules to follow. It's all about playing by the rules and snapping shots with style.

And speaking of style, pay attention to your positioning to really elevate your photos. Scope out the day's schedule, nab a spot near the front to catch the action up close, and mark out your spot at the finish line for those epic foot race shots.

Now, here's the kicker: sports day draws a crowd like nobody's business, with parents and families crowding around to catch a glimpse of their little champs in action. It might be tough to snag a front-row seat amidst the chaos, but fear not! Equip yourself with a high-power zoom or telephoto lens, and you'll be snapping crystal-clear shots from afar like a pro.

Running (foot race) and relay

70-300mm F/4.5-6.3 Di III RXD (Model A047)

Focal length: 300mm

Aperture: F/6.3

Shutter speed: 1/1600 seconds

ISO sensitivity: 1000

The ideal composition for snapping foot races or relay races can vary based on the venue. For short-distance sprints, nabbing the start or finish moment, or catching the curve during a relay race, can result in jaw-dropping photos. But let's face it, snagging the perfect spot ain't always easy. Even if you're not front and center, you can still zoom in for a killer close-up using a telephoto lens (or the telephoto end of a high-power zoom lens) from a spot where you've got a clear shot of the kiddo in the lead.

Now, here's the deal: keep that camera steady to avoid any pesky camera shake. Hold your stance and wait for the perfect moment without jiggling the camera around too much. Set that shutter speed to a lightning-fast 1/1000 or faster, half-press that shutter button to lock focus on the sprinting kid, and fire away as they zoom past. And as your little athlete grows, keep those shots coming by snapping away in continuous mode.

Dancing, cheering contests, and acting

70-300mm F/4.5-6.3 Di III RXD (Model A047)

Focal length: 200mm

Aperture: F/7.1

Shutter speed: 1/1000 seconds

ISO sensitivity: 800

Capturing dynamic moments during activities like dancing, cheering contests, and acting scenes can be challenging due to the fluid movements of the children. To enhance your chances of getting great shots, try to anticipate key moments and position yourself accordingly. Understanding the flow of the performance beforehand can also be beneficial.

When photographing group events such as ball toss or tug of war, where there's a lot of action and movement, using a fast shutter speed and continuous shooting mode can help freeze those exciting moments. Focus on capturing expressions and emotions, especially during peak moments like picking up a ball or exerting effort in a game.

For shots outside of the main competitions, don't overlook the moments of anticipation and camaraderie among the children. A telephoto lens can help you capture these scenes even from a distance, allowing you to preserve those precious memories. capture such scenes.

Furthermore, when taking pictures when children are nearby, such as during lunch, or when capturing scenery at a venue, it may be easier to use a standard lens instead of a telephoto lens. If you use a high-power zoom lens, you can change the angle of view flexibly, so there is no need to change lenses. In addition, a lens with a short minimum shooting distance allows you to take pictures freely even in a narrow leisure seat where the range of movement is limited.

Considering the impact of light on your photography is crucial for creating compelling images. Let's delve into the nuances of light direction, position, and angle.

Light Direction:

Different lighting directions—front, backlight, and side—affect the mood and appearance of your subjects. When shooting people, backlighting can obscure facial expressions, so opting for front or diagonal lighting is often preferable. Side lighting, on the other hand, can add depth to facial features and evoke a sense of drama, particularly as the day progresses into the evening.

Position and Angle:

Let's explore the significance of position and angle in photography.


The position of the camera relative to the subject greatly influences the composition and perspective of the photo. Shooting from a high position, above eye level, or a low position, below waist level, can dramatically alter the mood and impact of the image. When photographing children, getting down to their eye level, using a low position, allows for better connection and more dynamic shots, particularly capturing their authentic facial expressions.


Angle refers to the direction in which the camera is pointed relative to the subject. A low angle, where the camera is tilted upwards, can make the subject appear larger and more imposing, while a high angle, with the camera pointing downwards, can create a sense of vulnerability or diminishment. Utilizing a low position and angle when photographing children can enhance their presence and imbue the photo with a powerful perspective. Experimenting with different positions and angles adds depth and intrigue to your photographic storytelling.

Indoor photography during bad weather, such as sports days held in gymnasiums, presents unique challenges due to limited light availability. Here are some strategies to overcome these obstacles and capture memorable moments:

  1. Adjust Camera Settings: Increase exposure by slightly slowing down the shutter speed or raising the ISO sensitivity. You can also decrease the aperture (F value) or apply exposure compensation to brighten the images. Avoid using flash to prevent disruptions and unnatural shadows.
  1. Choose the Right Lens: Opt for a telephoto lens to capture facial expressions from a distance, considering the confined space indoors. A telephoto lens with a focal length ranging from 200mm to 300mm ensures clear shots even of distant subjects. High-magnification zoom lenses are versatile options, covering both telephoto and wide-angle ranges for capturing various scenes with ease.
  1. Respect Rules and Etiquette: Be mindful of designated photography areas and any restrictions or guidelines provided by the kindergarten or school. Respect other parents by not obstructing views and rotating positions between classes to ensure everyone has a chance to capture their child's moments.

By implementing these tips and selecting appropriate equipment, you can navigate indoor photography challenges effectively and document cherished memories from sports days despite bad weather conditions. 

Size and weight

When selecting a camera and lens for capturing sports day events, prioritizing lightweight and compact options is key for ease of use and portability. Here's how to make the right choices:

  1. Lightweight and Compact Design: Opt for a lightweight camera body and lens to minimize fatigue during prolonged shooting sessions. Compact lenses are also advantageous for reducing bulkiness, particularly when you're carrying additional gear for the event.
  1. High-power Zoom Lens: Choose a high-power zoom lens to cover a wide range of focal lengths without the need to switch between multiple lenses. This versatility ensures you're prepared to capture various scenes and perspectives throughout the sports day festivities.
  1. Wide Aperture (Low F-number): Select lenses with a wide aperture (low F-number) to maximise light intake, facilitating brighter photos in indoor or low-light environments. This feature enhances flexibility in challenging lighting conditions commonly encountered during sports days. 
  1. Autofocus (AF) Performance: Prioritize lenses with reliable autofocus performance, especially for capturing fast-moving subjects during dynamic sports events. Look for lenses equipped with advanced autofocus systems capable of smoothly tracking moving subjects with minimal effort. Additionally, consider the quietness of the autofocus mechanism, particularly if you'll be recording videos or shooting in quiet environments like opening and closing ceremonies.

By choosing a camera and lens combination that meets these criteria, you'll be well-equipped to capture the excitement and energy of sports days with ease and flexibility, ensuring memorable photographs and videos of the event.

Telephoto lenses tend to amplify camera shake, particularly when zoomed in, making it crucial to select lenses equipped with internal image stabilization. While tripods are commonly used with telephoto lenses, they may not always be practical during events like sports days. Hence, the presence of image stabilization within the lens becomes even more significant in such situations. Moreover, the ability to fine-tune the effectiveness of image stabilization enhances your creative options across diverse shooting scenarios, extending beyond just sports events..

Tamron lenses recommended for sports days

Tamron's high-power zoom lenses offer an extensive focal length range, spanning from wide-angle to telephoto, catering to diverse shooting needs. Renowned for their lightweight, compact design, and superior image quality, these lenses are ideal companions for capturing the action-packed moments of sports days. Additionally, our wide selection of telephoto zoom lenses provides further options to explore. Be sure to explore our range to find the perfect fit for your photography endeavours.

28-200mm F/2.8-5.6 Di III RXD (Model A071)

The 28-200mm F/2.8-5.6 Di III RXD (Model A071) lens is a product of Tamron's extensive expertise in high-power zoom lens technology. It marks a significant milestone as the world's first high-power zoom lens with an impressive F2.8 start brightness. With this lens, Tamron delivers exceptional rendering performance across the entire zoom range, from 28mm wide-angle to 200mm telephoto, showcasing our commitment to innovation and excellence in lens design.

18-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di III-A VC VXD (Model B061)

With the 18-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di III-A VC VXD (Model B061), Tamron introduces a remarkable zoom lens boasting a 16.6x zoom ratio. Featuring a swift and silent linear motor focus mechanism called VXD, this lens ensures agile autofocus drive. Its optimised arrangement of specialised glass materials guarantees exceptional image quality, maintaining clarity from the centre to the edges of the frame. Furthermore, it comes equipped with outstanding close-up shooting capabilities and a VC image stabilisation mechanism. This versatile lens offers practicality and convenience, allowing users to effortlessly enjoy high-quality images across a wide range of focal lengths, from wide-angle to super telephoto. 

50-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di III VC VXD (Model A067)

The 50-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di III VC VXD (Model A067) stands out as a versatile super telephoto zoom lens compatible with full-frame mirrorless single-lens cameras. With a focal length range starting from 50mm at the wide-angle end and boasting an impressive 8x zoom ratio, this lens offers exceptional flexibility in capturing a wide range of subjects. Despite its remarkable performance in the 50-400mm range, it maintains a compact and lightweight design comparable to lenses in the 100-400mm class. Equipped with a linear motor focus mechanism (VXD) and image stabilization (VC), this lens ensures swift and precise focusing, particularly beneficial for capturing fast-moving subjects such as sports or wildlife. Additionally, its excellent close-up shooting capabilities enable half-macro shots, allowing for detailed and intimate compositions. The Model A067 represents a new standard in super telephoto zoom lenses, combining unparalleled image quality with outstanding manoeuvrability.

70-180mm F/2.8 Di III VC VXD G2 (Model A065)

The 70-180mm F/2.8 Di III VC VXD G2 (Model A065) builds upon the success of its predecessor, the "70-180mm F/2.8 Di III VXD (Model A056)," known in the market. This second-generation "G2" model represents a significant evolution, introducing Tamron's proprietary Vibration Compensation (VC) mechanism for enhanced stability during shooting, all while maintaining its class-leading compactness and lightness. Furthermore, the optical design has been completely revamped from the original Model A056, ensuring exceptional image quality across the entire zoom range. Notably, the minimum focusing distance at the wide-angle end has been significantly reduced from 0.85m to 0.3m, enabling photographers to explore unique photographic expressions previously unattainable with this lens.

70-300mm F/4.5-6.3 Di III RXD (Model A047)

The 70-300mm F/4.5-6.3 Di III RXD (Model A047) lens is designed to democratise telephoto photography, offering a broad telephoto range in a lightweight and compact form factor. Utilising special glass materials, this lens effectively suppresses various aberrations, including chromatic aberration, resulting in high-quality images with beautiful bokeh. Additionally, the autofocus (AF) drive mechanism is equipped with... a high-speed, precise stepping motor unit RXD that is extremely quiet. In addition to landscapes, sports, trains, and airplanes, it also demonstrates its power in scenes where you want to easily enjoy handheld photography, such as portraits and snapshots.

<Summary> Let's enjoy taking photos at sports day with these tips!

During sports days, capturing children from a distance is common practice, making high-power zoom or telephoto lenses ideal choices. Alongside lens selection, adjusting camera settings like shutter speed and ISO sensitivity is crucial. Remember to adhere to photography rules and etiquette while documenting your child's growth through images.