Our award-winning photographer shares tips on taking images you’ll want to keep.

By Keith Walters ’11

See Keith’s gallery of favorite  athletic photos to illustrate the tips.

With fall sports underway, many Geneseo alumni hope to make memorable photographs of their children and friends competing. As the College’s lead photographer, I’ve learned a few key things during the past eight years of photographing athletic events that help me better tell a story through photographs.

A few basic guidelines help me improve with every event I photograph. You can use them, too. Start by famililarizing yourself with the sport, paying attention to the lighting, and changing the perspective or point of view.

Some of my best sports photos actually have nothing to do with the action. At last year’s SUNYAC Championship hockey game, the winning goal didn’t end up being my most powerful image. Instead, the photos of the team celebrating following the final horn ended up making it into our print and online publications. You can see examples of “non-action” in the online photo gallery.

The plethora of camera settings and program modes can seem daunting at times. But regardless of whether you have a professional camera or just a smartphone at your disposal, you can improve your chances of catching the decisive moment, and the following tips should land every photographer more “keepers.”

Just remember, making great photos is about the photographer first, and the gear second. As they say, the best camera is the one you have on you. Have fun experimenting!


• Familiarize yourself with the sport. The more you photograph it, the better you’ll be at anticipating the next great moment.
• Read your camera manual. It’s dry, but knowing your camera functions will make you a better photographer.
• Zoom in on your subject. Closeups will eliminate distractions in the background.
• Shoot with the sun at your back. Positioning yourself carefully will eliminate harsh backlight from the sun.
• Use a monopod. If you are using a heavy telephoto lens, a monopod will help support your gear and reduce fatigue.
• Shoot with both eyes open. A lot of photographers will close one eye when looking through the viewfinder, but your peripheral vision can help you see all action outside the viewfinder.
• Look for moments outside of the action. Goal celebrations and chemistry between teammates, such as hugging or cheering, can help tell your story.
• Experiment with a wide view. When the action approaches you on the sideline, photographing wide can give a dramatic view of the entire playing field. This works best when the athletes are very close to you, so be careful!
• Keep looking up. While it’s useful to look down occasionally at your digital playback to make sure your exposure is correct, looking down too much may cause you to miss a critical moment.
• Get your “safety” shot, then experiment. Once you have a few photos that you’re happy with, start changing your location on the field and camera settings to get something different. Ideas: pan with a slow shutter speed; shoot your subject against a bright background for a silhouette; get low to the ground or up to a higher vantage point.
• Use a fast shutter speed. Speeds of 1/1000th of a second will freeze the action and eliminate blur. Your camera’s “shutter-priority” mode allows you to set a fast shutter speed, and the camera takes care of the rest to make the correct exposure.
• Switch the “focus” mode to a continuous tracking function. This will allow your camera to continually track focus with your subject up until the moment your shutter is released.
• Use your camera’s continuous shooting or “burst” mode. This will allow you to take several images in quick succession while pressing and holding down the shutter- button. Having a range of photos from one sequence of events can increase the odds of getting the decisive moment.