watersports photography


Watersports make for some of the best photos. It’s great to take a crisp photo of a wakeboarder mid-air. If you head to a populated coastal region or local rivers on sunny days, you’ll almost always find someone bouncing across the water. Whether they are holding to a rope or to a sail of sailboard, the professionals are very good at making it look effortless.


If you are going to head out into the water for your watersports photographic adventure, always think about safety. Make sure you are wearing a brightly coloured personal floatation device. Make sure you let those about know you are out there. If you don’t know who you are photographing, it’s always best to get permission. That’s a great way to break the ice. Furthermore, you need to be wary of powerboats and jet skis. Always be wary of your surroundings and it is your job to get out of the way.


If you are not into getting into the water, you are going to need a telephoto lens to take these photos. That’s a considerable investment but the telephoto lens is great for a wide range of outdoor photos. You’ll need a tripod to keep it steady too. If you are really looking to get some great photography, head down to one of the surfing competitions a Byron Bay each year. You’ll have ample opportunity and you won’t be alone with your telephoto lens.

If you don’t mind getting wet and you’re one for a bit more action, getting right into the thick of it with a fisheye lens is the other way to get some really amazing shots to share. If you’re a little new watersports photography, I suggest you stick with a longer focal length at around 100mm while keeping enough distance between yourself and the action so you don’t get bumped in the head.

Wide-angle lenses are good for when you want to give your photos some context but it is easy to make the subject look rather small in the whole frame.


Now, there are not too many cameras that like getting wet. Even waterproof cameras don’t like it. They are built so that the camera doesn’t get wet. If you have armed yourself with a waterproof camera housing, I can’t stress the importance of testing it each time you use it. Place your camera in some water to make sure it is safe from water before you head out into the action.

Don’t forget about your camera bag either. It’s best to have a waterproof covering for that too. There’s a whole lot of water being thrown about in watersports and it’s way too easy for some of that spray (not to mention sand) to get into your gear.

If you’re heading to the beach for your photographic adventure, try not to change lenses because sand gets into everything, including your bag.


While there are loads to photograph with the fast moving action of many watersports, it’s no easy feat to get a great shot. Watersport photography is really the realm of the experienced. The only way you are going to get experience is to get out there. I recommend starting out in contained areas of water rather than heading out to the surf because taking photos while you are being thrown about in the waves is another tricky game altogether.


If you are getting serious about your watersports photography, you’ll really need to turn up your shutter speed to catch the moment. A Shutter speed of 1/100 and higher is required to catch the action on film, even if it is digital. I always switch to continuous shooting so that I am bound to get at least one great photo whenever I am photographing moving targets. Auto-focus is fine if it’s continuously tracking your target. I always try to pan slightly ahead so that my target can enter the frame.

By selecting a slightly slower shutter speed and panning simultaneously, you can add a sense of speed to your photos. That will bring some blur to the background. Playing around with different shutter speeds and panning techniques is a big part of the fun of moving action photographs. I personally like a blurred background and a subject in focus, but the choice is yours. For that, I like to add a pop-flash to really make the subject stand out.


Unless there is something really interesting like the wave the subject is riding on, I advise you go with filling the frame as much as possible. The key to great watersport photography is getting up close. Most people see watersports from a distance. A photo of a small person on top of a wave isn’t very interesting unless that is one gigantic wave you have in the frame.

Watch out for your horizons too because shooting vertically and horizontally give profound differences.


Reflections make watersport photography a little more difficult than most other types of photography. You’ll need to keep an eye on your metering. This is because the bright sun and reflections will often result in images that appear to be underexposed. One way to deal with this is to dial down your light exposure.

As you can see from these tips, there is a lot going on with watersport photography.

It’s worth checking your histogram and using the highlight clipping feature on your camera to ensure.


When I first got started in watersports photography, I started by taking action shots of people getting in and out of the water. I didn’t need the telephoto lens or the waterproof housing. There are lots of interesting things to take photos as you learn your way into this exciting area of photography.


Is there anything you would like to add to this article or do you have one you would like to publish? Share your experience and let us know through the comments section below.

Martin White

Martin is huge on everything outdoors and is even bigger on driving and technology. He loves boats, new stuff and writing about it.