Cart

12 Helpful Pieces of Advice on Photographing Gymnastics

Sports photography is certainly not something I specialize in, though I do love bringing my camera to sporting events like football, basketball, and baseball. When it comes to my children, they have a few hobbies that loosely fall into the category of sports: dance and gymnastics.

Both dance and gymnastics often have certain photographic challenges: low light, fast movement, and inability to move to ideal locations to shoot the photograph.

My daughter Jenna recently performed at her studio’s recreation holiday show. It was fairly dark and there were not many spots for me to go capture images. So I did the best I could.  Here are some of the images along with tips.

  1. Shoot at a high ISO – shoot at the highest acceptable ISO for your camera. I was at ISO 3200-6400 on my Canon 5D MKII for these shots.
  2. Use a fast focusing lens – I used my 50 1.2.
  3. Shoot at a fairly wide open aperture.  I shot most pictures at f 2.2-2.8 so I let more light in.
  4. Use a fast shutter speed – gymnasts move fast. I varied speed, but primarily was at 1/500.
  5. Use a flash to help stop action and light the subject.  I used my 580ex (ceilings were too high so I aimed the flash directly at her versus bouncing)
  6. Consider black and white if the color are harsh from the lighting and spotlights.
  7. Consider staying with color when it sets the mood.
  8. Embrace grain and noise. You cannot get noise-free image at this high an ISO, so use the noise to convey a feel to the images.
  9. Try and capture feeling and emotion with the light.
  10. Be flexible. Sometimes you may not get he angle you want or there may be a barrier (such as a person) blocking you. Do the best you can.
  11. Be creative. Look for environment to enhance the image (for example the mirror showing a reflection).
  12. Take a silhouette shot.

gymnastics performance 12 600x876 12 Helpful Pieces of Advice on Photographing Gymnastics

gymnastics performance 22 600x410 12 Helpful Pieces of Advice on Photographing Gymnastics

gymnastics performance 17 600x410 12 Helpful Pieces of Advice on Photographing Gymnastics

gymnastics performance 3 600x876 12 Helpful Pieces of Advice on Photographing Gymnastics

gymnastics performance 51 600x876 12 Helpful Pieces of Advice on Photographing Gymnastics

gymnastics performance 33 600x876 12 Helpful Pieces of Advice on Photographing Gymnastics

gymnastics performance 13 600x410 12 Helpful Pieces of Advice on Photographing Gymnastics

And the certificate and ribbon to make it all worth it…

gymnastics performance 30 600x876 12 Helpful Pieces of Advice on Photographing Gymnastics

Ellie was very proud of her sister. Since her gymnastics tumbling class was not part of this performance, she decided to perform for us at home.

gymnastics performance 36 600x410 12 Helpful Pieces of Advice on Photographing Gymnastics

 12 Helpful Pieces of Advice on Photographing Gymnastics

Jodi Friedman, MCP Actions

Jodi Friedman is the founder of MCP Actions. She designs popular Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets that make editing faster, easier and more fun.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
twitter 12 Helpful Pieces of Advice on Photographing Gymnastics facebook 12 Helpful Pieces of Advice on Photographing Gymnastics pinterest 12 Helpful Pieces of Advice on Photographing Gymnastics googleplus 12 Helpful Pieces of Advice on Photographing Gymnastics

16 Comments

  1. 1
    Nils says:

    Thanks for these great tips! Question – how do you take a silhouette shot?

  2. 2

    [...] 1 votes vote 12 Helpful Pieces of Advice on Photographing Gymnastics Sports photography is certainly not something I specialize in, though I do love bringing my [...]

  3. 3
    Channon Zabel says:

    Great post! I need to learn to embrace the noise. Love that tip. I get shy about upping my ISO for fear of noise, but need to let that go and focus and catching the action. And love the silhouette shot. Gonna aim for one of those next time I do a dance class shoot. Thanks!

  4. 4
    Regina White says:

    These are great. I love these tips. I always wondered when it comes to sport. My son is only two but I’m sure I will be shooting some in the near future.

  5. 5
    sharon says:

    Wonderful advice! My daughter is a highly competitive gymnast. I have thousands of gymnastics pictures just sitting around in files. Gymnastics has some of the worst lighting. Gyms are usually very dark and movement is very fast. To make it even harder, at competitions… NO flash photography is allowed for the safety of the athletes. A flash of light from a camera in their eyes can cause them to miss a piece of equipment and result in injury. I have found that if a gym has balcony seating, go there. You will be closer to the light source for the gym and action shots become more clear. You have to get creative with ISO/noise and just accept it and work with it. Black and white images always save the day! Haha!

    • 5.1

      For whatever reason our gym allowed it – and even the photog they hired was using one. This said, they were entry level gymnasts, 6-8 yrs old. But you would think rules are rules. So maybe they allow it for all, hard to say.

  6. 6
  7. 7
    Wendy Mayo says:

    Good advice. Similar advice can be given to shoot plays and concerts, except you shouldn’t use flash in those instances. In December, I shot a performance of the Northern CA ballet’s performance of the Nutcracker, and shot at high ISO with my trusy 50mm 1.2 lens. Had to “zoom” with my feet, but it was worth it to get good shots. Oh, and Noiseware is great for high ISO stuff!

  8. 8
    Tanya T. says:

    Thanks Jodi!!!! My daughter just moved up to team at her gymnastics and I will want to photograph her next fall at meets!!! Your tips will help greatly!!! I am going to practice before next fall so I can get good pictures!!!!!!

  9. 9

    Thanks for the tips- I’m struggling with the really high ceilings and cruddy flourescent lights in some of the old gymnasiums that my girls play basketball in. Trying to shoot non-flash so as not to be a distraction…. but think I need a different lens- the EFs 70-300/2.8 just isn’t getting the results I want…

  10. 10
    JohnG says:

    I would like to advise people AGAINST trying to use flash. In any type of competition and in most gyms it is strictly forbiden. It’s a big no-no for gymnastics throughout the world. Having a disrespect for those policies is also a way to get photography restricted or banned. So, as a sports photographer and proud uncle of a Level 6 gymnast I ask that you NOT use flash. I’m amazed the gym the original poster with allowed it in the first place.

    • 10.1

      Our gym allowed it. For dance recitals we were allowed during rehearsal but not recitals. I would say to ask your gym for their rules. If you are not allowed, you will need to boost the ISO even more.

      Oh and the professional the gym hired was using a flash too.

  11. 11

    Hello
    You have given really nice and useful tips for gymnastics photography.This will be very helpful for my cousin as he like this.Those photographs are also very wonderful.Thank you very much for this nice post.

  12. 12
    Mindy says:

    Thanks for the tips. I always love coming back to your blog for great tips.

  13. 13
    Jennifer says:

    Thank you for posting this. My son plays highschool football in Taylor, MI and there are so many times I feel like throwing in the towel trying to get photos. Why on earth would I not think to raise my ISO off of 100? doh’ The tips are great and now I cannot wait to try them out. I have a few months until football though. There were many times trying to get shots of the kids in the gym during band concerts. I think these tips will help too. Although band is obviously not fast action the colors are wonky because of the lights inside. Converting to b/w is a great idea.
    Thank you so very much.
    Jennifer

  14. 14
    Jen Harr says:

    Thanks for sharing this Jodi. I’m finally getting time to check your blog out :)
    Thanks too for the awesome products!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 12 Helpful Pieces of Advice on Photographing Gymnastics - [...] 1 votes vote …
Add Comment Register



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current ye@r *

Optionally add an image (JPEG only)

Show & Tell

Explore before and after photos from photographers who use MCP.

1photoshop actions and lightroom presets number 2 See More