Photo Tips

How to Photograph Kids Sports, Part 1 by Photo Expert Beth Wendland

Elizabeth Wendland

How to photograph kids sports is one of my most frequently asked questions, and that is exactly what we’re going to talk about over the next three weeks.  You may have stood next to me on the field, trying to get that perfect shot.  We might have shared a laugh under an umbrella.  We may have even compared photos.  So how did all this start?

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Sports!  I’d love to be able to tell you my sweet babies inspired me, but apparently my daughters’ adorable faces weren’t enough to spur me into learning how to take a decent picture. However, missing a great shot at their lacrosse games… that drove me nuts!

At every game, I would take pictures of my kids playing.  And every time I looked at those pictures, they left me unimpressed.  Half the time I could barely tell which player was my kid… You know what I’m talking about; you have pictures that look just like this one, don’t you? 😉

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The tipping point came one year with team pictures.  The photos the company delivered were overexposed and boring, and the only thing in focus was the construction equipment in the background!  The pictures were so bad that, for the first time ever, I returned pictures to the company. I thought, “even I can do better than this…” and with that, I started really learning how to use my camera.  I wanted to know how to photograph kids sports in a way that highlighted my kids and their accomplishments.

I headed to my local library and went through every photography book they had.  I learned a lot, and my pictures got a little better, but they still weren’t great.  I hit a wall.  Not even all-knowing Google could explain things to me.  I wanted to learn how to photograph kids sports, but my images were far from jaw-dropping.  That’s when I took my first workshop–a Me Ra Koh CONFIDENCE Workshop–and that’s when I finally started getting better.  I love that I now get to teach workshops; the same workshops that helped me!  Seriously, I get such a rush seeing women who have been struggling with their photos when they finally “get it”.  I love breaking down all the confusing concepts into manageable, easy to understand chunks of information.

I  love a good sports photo, but it’s not just about getting a good action shot.  It’s also about the emotional impact of the shot.  One of the reasons I love capturing athletes is that they are totally in the moment.  When they are fully involved in their sport, they don’t know–or care–that you’re there.  You get a glimpse into the real person.  Nothing is being hidden behind some plastered-on smile; it’s just them.

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For the next three Fridays, I’m excited to share with you my favorite tips and tricks for capturing some great sports shots.   Whether you want to know how to photograph kids’ sports, your teen’s, or even mom and dad, Fridays will be the perfect day so you have time to get ready for your weekend games.  Get ready, your sports photos are about to change!

So how about a tiny tip for this weekend?  Turn off your camera’s flash.  The built-in flash will frequently fire, even when you don’t need it.   Since the light from the flash will not “throw” far enough to light your athlete, it will only serve to drain your battery and blind the spectators!  Instead, go find the light!  That means you might have to leave the cool shade and move around until you manage to get the sun behind your athlete.  If you are shooting a sport happening in the evening, like football, try bumping up your ISO to increase your cameras’ sensitivity to the available light.  Even though they seem bright, the stadium lights are pretty dim to your camera.

So until next week, here are a few fun facts about me…I am blessed to live on a hazelnut farm in Oregon’s beautiful Willamette Valley (you’re welcome Nutella lovers!).  I’m the wife of one amazingly patient husband, mother to two quirky redheaded daughters, and playmate for one overly-energetic canine!

If you have a second, leave me any questions on how to photograph kids sports!

Play hard, and have fun!


Bio Photo for Beth Wendland, Kids Sports Photographer in Portland OR


  1. Wow it’s sports is tough to capture. Thanks for posting. I rely on 70-200 2.8 😉

  2. Christina B says:

    What do you have your focus set on? I had mine on “one shot” while photographing my daughters soccer game. I found that it would focus on the background instead of my daughter!! Today i changed to “al focus” and the pictures came out better BUT still had quite a few focusing on the background instead of my daughter!.

  3. Janice Fenwick says:

    Beth, looking forward to this blog feature. If you need any photos to critique, please feel free to pull anything from my facebook page. All my albums are public. High School Football is what I attempt to photograph. So tough with lighting and they more so fast.

  4. Jennifer Tacbas says:

    So glad you are breaking down this intimidating topic for all those sports moms out there. They are going to LOVE it!

  5. Theresa LaFrance says:

    Wow Beth! So impressed and so proud of you. Looking forward to your tips and tricks for sports photo’s.

  6. […] of you have asked this question, so this seems like the perfect topic to end our series on learning how to shoot kids sports.  I’ll also answer any other questions that have come in as […]