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If you’re reading this post, you probably googled the similar words that appear in the title of the article.
Welcome – you are just like the rest of us.

  • Most probably you don’t have a £5,000 lens at your disposal.
  • Most probably you also don’t have a full frame DSLR (you don’t need it yet in my opinion anyway).
  • And most probably you flipping love sport and action as much as you love taking photos, and thought about combining two of your loves into one.

Any or all of the above, and you’re essentially where I was at (am still at in many ways!) 12 months ago.


I’ve been taking photos for years. However its only really in the last 12 months that I’ve invested in equipment or ‘hand-me-downs’ to a semi-professional level.

I use Nikon, have never had a Canon DSLR so can’t compare properly, but have always loved how weighty and solid Nikons have felt compared to the plastic-y feel of Canons (again, can’t really compare and have never owned a pro-canon – or indeed played much with one). Get a fast lens – ASAP

I started in sports photography by taking photos last year of my daughter’s football team.
At the time I had a budget Nikon DSLR D3400 which had just about come out to market that year.
Great reviews and specs as an entry level camera, and the 18-55mm kit lens was good all rounder.

I struggled to freeze the action – pics were slightly blurry and pretty dark on winter days.
The D3400 has great ISO range but the higher I went on ISO with the kit lens on the camera (the only lens I had) it  just became super grainy and lost its quality.
I’ll save you the research… If you invest in 1 piece of kit that you save up for – get a FAST lens. 

Save up – don’t swap your budget body for a hugely expensive amazing body before getting good lenses. You’ll notice more difference with a better quality lens on a budget body than the other way round – ESPECIALLY in sports or action photography, and even more so in low light. But what is a fast lens? 

The speed of a lens and how ‘fast’ it is relates to the maximum aperture of the lens. The larger the maximum aperture the faster the lens is. This bit confuses a lot of people as its (sort of) back to front.
The larger the aperture of a lens, the lower the “f number” will be = the aperture. So an F1.4 vs an F3.5 means that the 1.4 has a larger aperture (even though its number is smaller!) than the 3.5.

Aperture is the size of the hole in the lens that lets light in. So the bigger the maximum aperture (1.4 in this case) – the more light that your lens will allow in. Typically this is referred to a faster lens as it can capture more light as faster speeds – purely because it has a ‘bigger window’ (hole) for the light to come in.

Lets compare 2 different lenses – fast vs not so fast :

nikon 50mm 1.4G
Nikon 50mm 1.4 – Fast aperture/ Fast lens
This has a fixed focal length of 50mm (a fixed focal length is also called a ‘prime lens’)
Lovely lens to have – they’re often referred to as the ‘nifty fifty’ as its very versatile – as well as makes you physically get closer to your subject. Always a good thing to do ?

Nikon 18-300mm 3.5 – 6.3  aperture – not as fast…!
I borrowed one of these from my brother in law. Great lens, but for what I do in sports and music, I’ve struggled to get crisp images with it. So now I use it as a backup if I really need to. New, these are about £300 (roughly). Thats a LOT of cash for something just to have a zoom.
Basically – don’t be fooled by price and having a big zoom.
100% you need a big zoom for sport. But do your research. You may regret it otherwise! I was lucky that I can borrow a relatives.

What lenses should I get for sports photography?

BIG question. Lets go on the basis that money doesn’t matter.
1 – get a 70-200mm 2.8 – every big manufacturer does them. I have the ED version Nikon and use it for almost everything apart from close up work. Its the lens that gives me the crispest images in my kit.

2. if money really is no object, then I probably can’t advise – as I’m not there yet, but one of the Nikon 300mm f/2.8 (latest version at around £6,000) is probably where I would head…!

Lets go on the fact you have a tight budget. This is all relative and is also in regard to what you aspire to do as a photographer. I saved quite a bit, and spent months on youtube and forums exploring options for my level of sports or action / music photography. I settled on the need for a 70-200 as an initial starter. Naturally I couldn’t afford the latest model (£2k +) so found a used older version and saved for that.

You can pickup used lower grade fast zoom lenses for around £300 now from Sigma, Tamron and others based on the desire for a 70-200mm lens at 2.8 – that fit both Nikon and Canon. is a great place to go for used kit – seem to be much cheaper than too who also offer used stock.

For closer action sports you can pickup used kit that will serve you well there too – 100% still need a ‘fast’ lens – 2.8 should be the minimum – and aim for 1.8 or even 1.4 in low light situations.

I have a 35mm 1.8 which I have used in an indoor poorly lit arena for Kent Roller Derby bouts. In that same arena I also use a Sigma 2.8 18-50mm and my trusty 70-200mm Nikkor.

nikon 70-200mm telephoto zoom lens

To summarise (plus some final thoughts) 

  • Understand your camera – Please don’t use ‘complete’ auto…thats not you. Thats the camera. And you won’t learn from mistakes
  • Always have an extra battery (or more)
  • Always have an extra memory card (or more)
  • Get a fast lens as soon as you can f2.8 or wider (lower in number)
  • Buy used lenses – they are still awesome for your level
  • Don’t compare yourself to the pros – look up to them, aspire to produce work like their work, but don’t look down on your own
  • Do something different each time you’re out (I lay down right in the middle of a game at a training ground the other night (with the permission of the teams) and took shots from a completely different angle. Some were rubbish, but some came out great!)
  • Enjoy taking photos of sport!

I’m still learning – loads. Although I’d like to think that anyone who says theres nothing left to learn doesn’t really understand much about creative industries. ?