How Much Can You Crop in Sports Photography

In sports photography, you’ll likely get good results from cropping your photos quite a bit. Cropping helps to focus the picture on the action, so sports photographers crop more often than photographers in many other niches.

My name is Caleb, and I have over four years of photography experience. I’ve shot games at the semi-pro and college levels, and my experience also includes editing those photos to bring out the best in them after the fact.

In this article, I’ll talk about cropping and what you should consider when cropping your own sports photos. Keep reading if you want to improve your sports photo quality without much extra work.

How Much Can You Crop in Sports Photography?

The short answer is: a lot. There are a lot of benefits from cropping your sports photos, and depending on the composition, it can even dramatically improve your final outcome.

Why is that? Well, sports photography naturally focuses on the action happening on the field and emphasizes it. However, sporting events tend to have a lot of distractions from the primary subject.

In any given shot, you might also capture signboards and advertisements in the background, other players who aren’t involved in the current play, coaches by the sideline, and more.

Sometimes, these things can add to the shot. But more often than not, they can feel like visual clutter that takes the focus off the main subject.

Cropping can help cut out some of this clutter, leaving the viewer with the parts you want them to see.

Dos and Don’ts Of Cropping Sports Photos

However, you should keep some things in mind when cropping your sports shots.

The main rule is that you should avoid cutting off limbs. That means avoiding cropping out hands, feet, or parts of the arms or legs. You won’t always be able to follow this rule, but it’s a good one to keep in mind.

Sports photography, after all, emphasizes the larger-than-life nature of athletes. Cropping limbs usually works against that look.

Something that you should do when cropping sports photos is straightening them. It’s hard to shoot straight during the heat of the moment, and you probably have some photos you shot at an off-angle.

In editing programs like Adobe Lightroom, you can also change the rotation of your photos while cropping them. You should use this to straighten them and make sure the horizon is level. 

Even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal, it will go a long way in making your photos more easily readable and professional.

Sometimes, it also helps to crop out players who aren’t involved in the current play. This is up to your discretion. Some shots benefit from a larger focus, while others look better with a narrow focus on one or two players.

In any case, playing around in your editing program for a bit and trying out different crops will often improve your end result.


Here are some other frequently asked questions about cropping sports photos.

How Do You Crop Sports Photos?

The best way to crop sports photos is by using a dedicated photo editing program like Adobe Lightroom. But even if you don’t have a photography-focused program like Lightroom, even basic image editing software like Paint.NET should still have a crop tool.

Does Cropping Reduce Quality?

Cropping your photos won’t reduce the quality. While the photo size will obviously get smaller, the resolution will stay the same.


Sports photography is heavy on cropping compared to other photography niches, and there are several benefits to taking the time to crop your photos during editing. If you want a quick way to make your photos look more professional, you should try it for yourself.

What program do you use to crop and edit your photos? Tell us in the comments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *