Top tips for rugby match photography

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Success can depend on a split second. To take an award-winning photo of a rugby match, you need to master the tricks of the trade.

If you are working as a sports photographer, you’ll love these six tips that will help you capture the best moments of a rugby match, despite the fast-paced action. And if you’re not yet a professional, but this is the career you imagine for yourself, you’ll still benefit from learning these tricks.

1. Planning and preparation

It goes without saying that knowledge of rugby as a sport is essential for success. With this knowledge, you can anticipate what will happen, where a player will go, or where the ball will go. But that is not enough. In fact, the preparation starts long before the photographer arrives on the scene.

It’s important to check the news, gather information about the club or individual players, and think about what you can take exciting pictures of. For example, if a player is about to play his 100th match or score his 100th goal in a match, that could make a big splash in the news. With this in mind, try to choose carefully the shooting position from which you can capture that player’s big moment.

If you don’t know where to start, just try to apply for working as a sports photographer. As a rule, a team of skilled photographers will provide you everything you need to start.

2. Play with perspectives

Never always shoot from the same angle, but think about what makes your photos unique. Perhaps you could lie down on the ground to find a lower angle or take a symmetrical composition of the players from somewhere high up. You can usually get better shots standing on the edge of the pitch than from behind the goal.

You can also experiment with different focal lengths. If you’re using the camera with interchangeable lenses, you can add a telephoto lens to your camera, which will bring you right up close to the action, and the built-in image stabilization prevents the camera from moving.

3. Set the continuous recording mode

Most of the time, you’ll be shooting simple images, but when you’re shooting action-packed sports like rugby or football, you’ll want to take every opportunity to capture the most dramatic moments. That’s why most sports photographers shoot in bursts or opt for continuous shooting.

In continuous shooting, most cameras shoot 5-12 frames per second. It allows you to look through the images at the end and choose the one that best captures the moment, for example, when the goalkeeper makes a great save.

4. Using automatic white balance

Shades and colors can be accurately reproduced thanks to the camera’s auto white balance function. Whether you’re shooting a match during the day or at night, AWB comes in handy as it automatically adjusts to changes in lighting conditions. Thanks to AWB settings, you can concentrate on the composition and wait for key moments.

To turn on automatic white balance, you’ll usually find a WB button on the back of the camera, or if your camera has a touchscreen panel, you’ll find this option on the LCD screen. You can press this to choose between the different options.

5. Shoot JPEG images

Photographers are often instructed to shoot RAW files or use JPEG + RAW format, but this is often not important in sports photography. Many serial photographers (photojournalists, especially sports and nature photographers) use the JPEG format because they can usually shoot more images per second than with RAW files.

RAW files are larger and contain more data, and on some cameras takes longer to clear the camera’s buffer memory. JPEG images are smaller files, which means the camera can write them to the memory card faster, giving you more time to capture the moment. Your camera may also use JPEG by default, so if you haven’t changed it before, you won’t need to now.

JPEG images also take continuous bursts of shots – all you need to do is press the shutter for a second or two. Hold it down too long, and the buffer memory will fill up, slowing down the shooting speed.

6. Don’t just watch the players

Watching a match live is not just about the most exciting moments. Use your camera to scan the crowd for hopeful faces and creative outfits, or get close-ups of the players’ concentrating faces or arms around each other before the match.

Good tips, right? Which was your favorite?

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