Tips For Water Sports Photographers

Sports on the water are usually some of the most dynamic, and if you happen to spot someone water skiing, windsurfing or otherwise riding the waves it often presents a great opportunity for a photo. These aren’t the easiest subjects to shoot, however, so you should be prepared if you hope to get some really impressive shots. Consider the following…


Firstly, you’ll probably need some specialised gear if you want to capture the best water sports photos. A study tripod may be a good idea to keep your camera steady on land, although this depends how long your subject stays in one area. Using the correct lens is crucial, as you’re likely to be quite far away and you’ll need to zoom in so as not to make your subject a tiny dot on the ocean.

If you do manage to get nearer and take some close-up shots, you may want to experiment with different lenses. At this point you should also consider how water resistant your camera and accessories are. If they need to be protected, be very careful and test your gear before going near deep water.


Generally speaking, water sports are all done at high speeds and it can be hard to predict where your subject will go next, so photography isn’t made easy. Try starting off with a slower paced activity to get some practice before trying anything too challenging to keep up with. It will be easier to get good results if you stay focused on one person.


Of course, your skill level will probably show in your final photos and it’s worth practising different techniques as much as you can. Remember to think about…

  • Shutter speed – Increasing this to 1/100 or more may be necessary to get those “freeze frame” shots of fast-paced action
  • Focus – If you continuously pan to keep up with your subject, you should be able to auto-focus on them fairly easily while blurring the background
  • Framing – You should usually try to fill the frame as much as possible, rather than leaving too much plain water and sky with a small subject in the middle somewhere. Try to keep the camera straight, but don’t be afraid to try taking some portrait-oriented shots.
  • Exposure – On a bright and sunny day, reflective water can trick your camera into underexposing your photos because it thinks the light is brighter than it is. Looking into compensating for this with your settings.

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