What Is The Best Aperture for Sports Photography?

The best aperture for sports photography is usually the widest one that your lens will allow. This will reduce background blur and help maintain a high shutter speed and avoid underexposure.

My name is Caleb, and I have more than four years of experience as a sports photographer. I’ve shot games in several sports, from the semi-pro to the college level. 

In this article, I’ll explain the best aperture for sports photographers to use. If you want to learn more about these settings that are key to getting great photos, keep reading below.

The Best Aperture for Sports Photography

Most of the time, the best aperture for sports photography is the widest one possible. That means the lowest f-stop number on your camera. This is for multiple reasons, which I cover below. 

Reducing Underexposure

For one, and most importantly, a wider aperture helps to prevent underexposure. Because of that, it can be just as important of a setting in sports photography as shutter speed.

Faster shutter speeds are required in sports photography to freeze the action and get crisp shots, but raising the shutter speed also darkens the image. 

Using a wider aperture lets more light into the lens and counteracts this. It’s also possible to brighten an image by raising the ISO setting, but raising the ISO raises the amount of grain in the photo. Therefore, it’s almost always preferable to use a wider aperture instead.

Providing Background Blur

A wider aperture also blurs the background more. There are a lot of situations where this could be useful, but sports photography stands out in particular.

Sports venues often have a lot of distracting elements. Faces in the crowd, advertisements by the sideline, and other players in the background can inadvertently draw the viewer’s eye.

If you want the people viewing your photos to focus in on the main subject and not the background, using a wider aperture will help. 

Of course, this doesn’t apply to every shot. For example, you might want the crowd’s faces to show up in the background of a photo to show off the tense atmosphere of a certain game.

But when you’re focusing on capturing the action itself, using a wide aperture helps reduce distractions.

After all, much of sports photography is about making athletes look dynamic and larger than life. Getting rid of background clutter, and focusing on just the athletes, makes that task easier.

What Is A Good Maximum Aperture?

You might have noticed that I haven’t named a specific f-stop as the best. That’s because the best aperture for you depends on your equipment. 

Each lens model has its own maximum aperture, so it’s almost impossible to give a universal recommendation.

F/2.8 is generally a good maximum aperture to aim for when choosing a lens for sports photography. Some of the most popular sports photography lenses around, such as the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM lens, have this as their max aperture.

It’s entirely possible to get good sports photos with a lens that doesn’t handle aperture as well as this. 

But the worse your lens’ max aperture is, the more you’ll have to lower your shutter speed and risk getting blurry photos. Also, you’ll have far worse performance at outdoor night games.

Getting an f/2.8 lens with an excellent focal distance for sports photos is usually a costly endeavor. Still, if you’re serious about this kind of photography, it’s one of the best investments you can make. It will improve the quality of your photos and make your work easier.

FAQs

Here are some other frequently asked questions about aperture and sports photography.

What Aperture Should I Use For Indoor Sports?

When shooting indoor sports, your aperture should still be as wide as possible most of the time. Arenas aren’t naturally lit, so you’ll usually need this wide aperture to avoid underexposure.

What Lens Should I Buy For Sports Photography?

There’s no universal best lens for sports photography. After all, not every lens performs the same in every sport. However, an f/2.8 25-70mm lens or 70-200mm lens is always a solid choice. The 70-200mm lens is better for sports that require more zoom.

Conclusion

The best aperture for sports photography is usually the widest one possible. This varies depending on your lens, but the best lenses for sports photography usually have a maximum aperture around f/2.8.

Which lens do you use to shoot sports or other kinds of action photography? Let us know in the comments.

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