Cheerleading Action Photography

Timing is critical for action shots.

Capture memorable moments at games and competitions with cheerleading action photography. With a bit of practice and planning, timing and patience, it's entirely possible to snap motion, write it to memory, and save it forever. Here's how you can make your digital camera more action-friendly. As cheerleaders may say, "Get fired up/ Get fired up/ Let's go!"

Know Your Camera

When it comes to action photography, out-of-focus pictures can be an exercise in frustration. However, with a few adjustments to your camera, you too can freeze dramatic moments: Group toe-touches, somersaults in unison, a basket toss at its peak--the list goes on.


Action shots need light. Trying to capture motion is already a challenge, but to do so in poor lighting is nearly impossible. The more lighting you have, the better chance you have of getting your shot. For cheerleading action photography, either you'll be inside a gymnasium or outside in the stadium stands. While there should be enough light outside (even at night); inside, you will need to use your flash.

  • Note: Adjust the aperture. On your camera, aperture is a setting expressed as F-stop. A lens' aperture is what lets light in. You will want this at its maximum; thus a lower your aperture setting. The smaller the F-stop, the larger the aperture (or lens diameter).

Shutter Lag

Shutter lag is the time it takes your camera to take a photo after you've pressed the shutter button. The slower your shutter lags, the more difficult it will be to take action photos. If you wish to capture a toe-touch for example and snap the photo when you see the jump, you'll instead get a photo of the cheerleader moving onto her next skill. Timing is critical in cheerleading action photography and knowing your camera's shutter lag and compensating for it will help you get the photo you want. That toe-touch? Instead, snap it as she readies for the jump, not as she jumps.

Shutter Speed

The shutter speed of your camera correlates to the amount of time your shutter is open. For action photography, you'll want a fast shutter, to freeze a moment. Measured in fractions of seconds, typical shutter speeds are at 1/60th of a second, but for cheerleading, a good setting is 1/250. What's more, shutter speed is related to aperture, as both influence the amount of light that is let in.

Write Times

Finally, a camera's "write time" is the time it takes to commit the image to memory. If you have a slow write time, you'll need to again compensate with timing. If purchasing a camera, look for one that has a continuous shooting mode or burst mode. Most cameras these days have this feature and it can be a wonderful tool. For instance, if your camera takes 2.5 frames per second, you could take five successive photos in two seconds - which is about the time it takes to pop a toe-touch.

Cheerleading Action Photography Tips


In addition to your camera's specifications, there are other ways to improve your action shots. On your part, you can make slight adjustments to your photo taking while keeping in mind "practice and planning, timing and patience."

  1. Plan your shot: In cheerleading, you know the routines. Typically, a routine lasts one to three minutes and by game-time, each jump, lift, and somersault has been perfected. As a photographer, you can plan for a moment based on the composition of the routine. Unlike with baseball, where you don't know when a batter will connect with a home run, you do know that the back-tuck basket toss is coming. Taking into account your camera settings, you can then plan your shot.
  2. Location: Be as close as you can to the action. In cheerleading, you'll likely be at the rails or if lucky, on the sidelines. With action shots, you'll want to try and isolate your subject - although a blurring effect of surroundings can be cool too.
  3. Keep snapping: Finally, take lots of photos. This refers back to the burst mode above. The more photos you take, the better the odds you'll find one you like. With digital cameras, the beauty is that you can instantly delete unwanted photos from your memory stick, as well as lock or protect the ones you feel are the "B-E-S-T"! Experiment-you'll find the right combination for you.
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Cheerleading Action Photography