Top tips for shooting adventure sports

Adventure sports – thrilling, exciting, often dangerous and of course, adventurous! But, how do you capture that in a single photograph? Well, we’ve put together a few of our top tips to get you started. From scaling the walls of Yosemite, to hiking the Appalachian trail, adventure sports photography can cover a wide array of activities. So whether you’re capturing a month long expedition or simply taking on a micro adventure with a few friends, get out there and make some epic images!

Don’t forget! This month’s theme for our Digital Splash Photography competition is Adventure Sports so what better opportunity to put these tips into action. Enter your best Adventure Sports images and you could win up to £500! 



Framing and composition

Composition is an important aspect of any picture. In adventure sports photography we can use composition for dramatic effect, to focus the viewer’s eye to the subject or to show the environment in relation to the subject’s activity.

Using a wide angle lens is a great way to get the viewer as close to the action as possible. Getting low down is another great way to add excitement as well as emphasising the subjects height in a shot – don’t be afraid to get down in the mud!

In most situations when shooting adventure sports however, you’ll be opting for the trusty telephoto zoom. A 70-200mm is a very versatile option. This lens will allow you to get in close when you can’t with a wide-angle lens. When zoomed in, the background will blur and appear compressed. This really focuses the viewer’s eye into the subject and allows details to be seen very clearly. Just look at the images below; simple in framing and composition, but lots of action and detail for the eye to see!

Once you’ve got the hang of the basics of composition, try to capture images from unique angles and unusual perspectives – this can be a great way to differentiate your images from other photographers!


Positioning of the subject is key to great action shots. As the photographer, it’s your job to capture the action in its very best moment.

Take the motorcycle image above as an example – if the image was taken just a few seconds earlier or later, the bike would have both wheels on the ground and the mud wouldn’t be up in the air. The resulting image would be a lot less interesting and would also lose the feeling of action and momentum. With this in mind, capturing the most impressive part of the action is important. Utilising your camera’s burst mode is an effective way of capturing multiple shots, ensuring you don’t miss the action – you can then choose the best image afterwards.


Include the environment

Often when shooting adventure sports, we’re fortunate enough to be surrounded by incredible vistas and nature and so capturing the scene is just as important as capturing the action within it. The backdrop quite literally puts the ‘adventure’ into adventure sports.

When framing, look for opportunities where you can include the environment. By doing so will give your subject a sense of scale and place, ultimately telling a bigger a story within the image. Slowing down and taking your time to think the composition through will result in an image with interest and depth – try framing the background first, then introduce your subject and position them where you want them to be.

Remember to watch out for those messy backgrounds however! Unwanted foliage, buildings and other distracting objects can lead the viewers eye away from the subject so always try to keep your compositions clean and simple.


Communication and planning

Communication and planning is key to capturing a successful image in a safe and efficient way. Before you switch the camera on, the first thing to do is to gain an understanding of what the subject is about to do and more importantly, where.

Often, you’ll have the luxury of choosing where you want to point the lens and where you want to position your subject, but in some sports such as climbing or mountain biking, access to certain shooting positions will be difficult to gain. Communicate with your subject and ask them approximately where they’ll be, how high they may go or where they may land (if they’re doing a jump for example). With this information you can then anticipate their actions beforehand through the viewfinder and accurately decide on a focal length and composition that ensures you get the subject in frame first time.

Eventually this knowledge will come natural over time with the more experience you get shooting that particular sport. We highly recommend you try shooting a sport that you participate or have interest in. Not only will you enjoy shooting, you’ll already have the necessary knowledge to capture the critical moments as you know what’s likely to come next. This insight and passion will reflect in your images.

It goes without saying that Adventure Sports has its risks for both the athlete and photographer, so having an understanding (and respect!) for the sport and your athlete’s ability is very important – it’s the photographer’s duty to look after their own safety and ensure their actions don’t get in the way of the athlete’s.


Camera settings

Capturing a sharp, crisp image in action is important. Set your camera to Manual, EV or S for maximum control over your shutter speed and exposure.

Using a fast shutter speed of around 1/500 sec or higher will ensure you freeze the action. In other shooting situations we’d most likely choose a wide aperture setting when using a fast shutter speed to let more light in – doing so however will make gaining critical focus difficult. So ideally an aperture of around f/4 or higher will give you a wide enough depth of field to get your subject in focus. Don’t be afraid of raising the ISO sensitivity if you’re struggling to gain correct exposure when using faster shutter speeds.

Always try to experiment too – why not try using a slow shutter speed to add motion blur and movement to the image?

Other camera settings to consider include sequence shooting and focus. Setting your camera to its maximum burst rate will allow you to consecutively fire off a series of images. This raises your chance of getting your subject in perfect position; you can then pick and choose your favourite image afterwards.


Focusing in any kind of sports photography can be tricky to master. However it’s of paramount importance that you do. More often than not, you’ll only get one or two chances to capture you’re subject in action so nailing focus the first time is key.

We suggest using AF-C (auto-focus continuous) with a single AF point and using the AF point selector dial to pre-select a small focus area – this allows your camera to reliably and precisely gain focus, giving you the best chance of getting what you want in focus first time.

Also experiment using back button focus. With this method, your focus is controlled by a button on the back of your camera, which you can reach with your thumb. By separating the actions of focusing and taking the picture, you will have greater control and independence over both roles. It also allows you to experiment with more advanced focusing techniques such as manual focus overriding. You may need to consult your camera manual if you’re unsure on how to set this up.



Enter Digital Splash and you could win up to £500!

Don’t forget! This month’s theme for our monthly photography competition, Digital Splash Awards is Adventure Sports. So why not put your new knowledge to the test, shoot some adventure sports photography and send us your best! Entering is simple, just visit – you could win up to £500 and be crowned ‘Digital Splash Photographer of the Year’!



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