The History of Sports Photography

Flickr Creative Common / khaleel haidar

By Jennifer Classin

With continued advancements in the technology of photography, many photographers took advantage of the new methods and equipment to leave their studios and take more and more of their pictures out in the field. More and more, photographers sought to capture the action as it unfolded, where it unfolded. The world of sports was a prime target for these new photographers.

In ancient history, sculptures captured the scenes and events that modern day photographers document today. From the inception of man, there has always been a need to capture the motion and excitement of competitive sports. In sculpture, with pottery, in pencil and paint and later, on film right on to the digital cameras of today.

Sports photography was not possible in the past do to the movement in the action and drawbacks in the evolution in the technology of photography. Recollection of events was relied on by memory and first hand accounts, rather than through images. Today, with the current evolution of photography, even the most novice of photographers can take an exciting action picture.

The Collodion Process, and early photographic process for capturing images, was replaced in the late 19th century by the use of dry plates, a method that allowed for shorter exposure time. Even so, despite this advancement in the technology, the time needed for processing did not make action shots possible and therefore sports photography was not a feasible field.

Later, in the 1930s, photography continued to advance, with the time needed to capture images gradually becoming quicker. Photographers were able to use timed cameras, which were quite a bit faster than original methods, creating a boom in portrait photography and finally enabling the capture of action shots.

One of the first sports to utilize photography was American baseball. During this time, people used baseball as a desperately needed form of distraction from their war time worries. Sports helped to alleive the collective anxiety and depression of the country. The pixel was invented around this time as well, inventing an entirely new method of printing. The improvement of printing methods, gradually improved the way that sports photography was taken. These advances allowed for the spread of exposure for the baseball games and their players.

As the world evolved, so did the tools of photography. Today, digital cameras can easily capture even the fastest animals and human actions. Any photographer, whether professional or novice, can pursue the exciting field of sports photography.

To begin a career in sports photography, a photographer will likely begin with a local newspaper. If you are interested in this career, you can begin by photographing local high school and college athletes. You can then forward the images you’ve captured to a local newspaper who is covering the story. Photographing sports events is an exciting endeavor, especially if you are lucky enough to see the results of your work in print.

To pursue a career in sports photography, you will need a camera with fast shutter speed capabilities. Shutter speed is determined by the type of lens used. You will require a wide variety of lenses to rapidly shift along with the type of action you are shooting, depending on the sport you are photographing. A quick auto focus is also a must. Without that particular feature included, you will need to learn how to manually focus your camera, being sure to capture the players just as they pass through that particular point.

The amount of money spent on your equipment, especially your lenses, is directly proportionate to the quality of images you will be able to take. Even so, knowing where to position your camera and a thorough knowledge of any of the sports you decide to photograph will enable you to capture the very best action shots possible.


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