7 Tips to Master Sport Photography on Your Smartphone

In Action Photography by Stefano Caioni Leave a Comment

If you are reading this, you possibly want to start shooting sports photos that can have an impact. Sports photography offers many opportunities for people who want to capture vivid dramatic photos that can last a lifetime. You are unlikely to get any other medium that presents heart-pounding actions, unique shooting opportunities and vivid colour patterns. 

Unlike standalone cameras, smartphones come with many features in addition to the cameras’. That doesn’t mean that you cannot harness the power of their cameras in any sporting activity.

Your first step should be to select the best smartphone on the market – one that can capture images in tennis championships or local kid’s rugby events. A smartphone with a quality camera will help you capture what you need.

In this guide, you’ll find how to manipulate the light, anticipate the movements of the athlete and following the actions with your smartphone. Remember that practice will always make perfect. You have to ensure that your hand is steady when capturing photos and you are ready whenever a big play takes place. Here are the tips you need. 

Learn How to Manipulate Light 

Today, smartphones allow you to choose auto mode, and manual mode similarly to mirrorless cameras.

To capture quality photos, you have to reduce the shutter speed so that the smartphone can capture the photos in time-pausing snap. Try to shoot from an app like Lightroom mobile to have full control of your settings.

You can also increase the shutter speed so to create some motion blur in your photos.

If the light conditions are right, you will have to grab the photos at roughly 1/1000 seconds. That way, a running man or speeding bike will look motionless.

Unless the light conditions are perfect, you will have to up the ISO so that all your shots can be properly exposed. Don’t forget that for smartphones you can also use a mini tripod.

If you use a tripod you can use a slower shutter speed, obtain motion blur and keep the background crisp. If your smartphone has good optical image stabilization you can also try hand holding it.

This way the subject will look like a real ghost moving through the frames and making beautiful movements. 

Understand and Anticipate the Athlete Movements

Always remain on the lookout for decisive moments such as corner kicks in soccer matches and fast breaks in basketball.

The best sport photographers wait for such events and prepare to capture them in real-time. To predict such actions and movements of athletes, you will need a better understanding of the sport you are capturing.

By paying attention to the rhythms and rules of the sport, you will get better and better. 

Master Composition 

In the smartphone’s camera viewfinder, you will find an overlaid option grid. Regardless of your skill level, you can use it to get a good composition.

Start practicing by applying the rule of thirds. Use the grid to position your subject at the intersection of the lines represented on your screen. Those are points of interest in the image.

The human eye is naturally predisposed to go to those points and you’ll create a better experience for the viewer.

Get Closer to the Subject

Do not zoom with your smartphone. Smartphones don’t zoom in the same way as traditional camera lenses allow you to enlarge images.

What you do when zooming with your smartphone is getting rid of some portions of the image and actually reducing the quality.

Avoid doing so, instead, get close to the action as possible as you can.

Burst Mode to the Rescue

A professional camera will grab full resolution burst of shots within a short period. However, you may not realize that your smartphone camera can do the same perfectly.

By keeping your finger on the shutter button when taking a shot you’ll record a burst. If the camera manages to capture many shots, then the burst mode is already activated. If it fails, then you will have to find burst mode in your smartphone camera settings.

Follow the Action with Your Smartphone

Follow the game with your smartphone and know what is happening. With a better understanding of the rules, you will know what to capture and what to leave out as the game continues.

Do not put your phone away when following the game so that you can capture swiftly.

The advantage of using your phone is that it’s not as heavy as a normal camera. Have it with you all the time and get ready to snap that key moment in the action.

Use Snapseed to Edit Your Photos 

After you have captured the whole event, you will have to select the best photos for editing. The market offers a wide range of free photo editing services. My favorite by far is Snapseed.

Snapseed gives you a wide range of tools and feature to edit and manipulate your images professionally. It helps you look at everything you have captured and decide on what to crop out and what to leave.

Remember that practice will always make you perfect regardless of the sports. The free photo editing app for iOS and Android offers the tools you need to improve the brightness and contrast, saturation, ambiance, warmth, shadows and highlights and much more. 


With a good smartphone camera, you will capture photos similar to those you would capture with a standalone compact camera in any sporting activity.

The above tips will help you get the most out of any sporting event. As a beginner sports photographer, you have to take the largest number of shots possible regardless of the sport.

And if you are just starting out, using your smartphone will save you from spending a lot of money to buy a camera!

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