3 Settings for Sports Photography

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 800, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

Before you can snap a photo like this you need to first setup your camera to the proper settings.

3 Settings: Exposure, Focus, & Motor Drive


Cameras today let you automate the exposure settings, which will let you then concentrate on getting the moment.

You can put the camera into Manual mode where you pick the Aperture, Shutter Speed & ISO. What I want to tell you is why you want to pick certain settings.

You need a fast shutter speed to freeze the baseball or it will blur so much you can’t see it. [Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

First of all for the majority of all your sports photos it is important that you freeze the moment. I recommend shooting as fast as you can. I recommend 1/4000th of a second. Now there are lighting situations that will not let you get that fast, but the thing you need to remember that shooting as fast as possible is the priority.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, ISO 200, ƒ/2.8, 1/4 with off camera flash

Use a slow shutter speed only if you want to show the blur.

Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 720, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

Second choose a shallow depth-of-field to clean up the background by throwing it out of focus. Yes there are moments where you may want a lot of depth-of-field, but this is the norm for most sports photos.

Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 800, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

Third too many people are concerned about a high ISO giving a poor quality image. If you are shooting in daylight then this is really not a concern with cameras made in the last couple of years. Take a look at the baseball player. Note this was shot at ISO 1000.

What is important is a photo that is sharp and in focus more than if there is any noise in the image. You can live with noise more than you can live with out of focus or blurred images.

Last thing I recommend if you have it is to turn on the VR [Vibration Reduction] or often called OS [Optical Stabilization] which will help minimize the affects of your body movement on the image.


With today’s cameras you can get a lot more in focus cameras with auto focus than we could do by just using manual focus.

First set your camera to continuous auto focus rather than singular. This will keep the camera focusing as long as you are keeping the camera active. To do this the default setting for cameras is by pushing the shutter release half way down. This activates your focus, but doesn’t take the picture.

Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 1400, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

On many cameras they offer a second button that is on the back of the camera where your right thumb can push. You can go into your menu and separate the focusing from the shutter release. This way you just push the back button with your thumb and keep it held and follow the action. Then when you want to take a photo you press the shutter release with your index finger. This will increase the probability of in focus photos.

Now I highly recommend getting out your camera and studying the Auto Focus section. Each camera is different from all other cameras. This is true even if you own the same brand name.

Also search the internet by putting in your camera and look for videos where someone has already studied the camera and discovered the advantages of certain settings.

Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 4500, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

Motor Drive

You want to set the camera to take more than one photo when you press and squeeze the shutter release. I recommend going to the highest frame rate your camera will let you shoot.

Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 4000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

Learn to anticipate and push the button just milliseconds before the moment and hold the shutter to capture 2 or 3 frames. The reason for this is you may get the ball popping out of the glove which changes the play from safe to out.

Don’t just keep the shutter pressed all the time. First of all you will find the camera will stop firing. The camera will need to write those images to your media card and you will miss better moments because you cannot take photos.

For those of you that own the Nikon D4 here are my settings for that camera for shooting sports. Here are the settings for the Nikon D5.

My Gear for these photos
Nikon D5
Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 Sport
Sigma 2x