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7 Softball and Baseball Photography Tips for Better Shots

Last updated: March 22, 2024 - 10 min read
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Sports photography is one of the trickiest genres to tackle. The hit rate for getting a great shot in softball and baseball photography can be worse than an amateur’s batting average.

To get the best shots of the ball game, you need a mix of the right camera settings, the ability to anticipate the play, and some compositional tips. Most baseball and softball games offer plenty of opportunities to practice and hundreds of chances to get a great shot.

Photography Unlocked
Photography Unlocked
Unlock your camera’s full potential with this guide:

  • Master manual mode to capture moments you’re proud of.
  • Overcome the frustration of missed shots with quick exposure settings.
  • Benefit from visuals with hundreds of images and illustrations.


7 Softball and Baseball Photography Tips

Before you head out to the game, read these softball and baseball photography tips. They’ll increase your odds of hitting a home run with a fantastic shot!

1. Find the Best Spot to Photograph From

Perspective in baseball photography can mean the difference between an excellent shot that shows the height of the action—and a shot obstructed by a chain-link fence.

Before the game starts, find a safe spot to stand that lets you see most of the action. Look for a view of at least home plate and first base. Your location should let you capture the players’ faces, not their backs.

Where you stand depends on the league you photograph and the field you shoot on. If you don’t have a press pass, it can sometimes help to talk to baseball officials or representatives for amateur leagues or teams.

When I photographed high-school baseball for the local newspaper, I spoke to the umpire beforehand. Often, they let me stand inside the fence in a designated area between home plate and first base. This was outside the play and well beyond the foul line.

During my son’s T-ball games, I volunteered to organize the batters. I stood in the opening of the dugout, and it’s a great spot for pictures.

You may not have a press pass, a willing official, or a lenient league. Arrive early enough to scout a location free of obstructions like chain-link fences. Shooting from the stands is fine, too. But you might need a longer lens to get close to the action.

A wide shot of a stadium and field with a batter hitting a ball taken from the stands as an example for baseball photography
Shot with a Sony a7 III. 70mm, f/2.8, 1/500 s, ISO 320. Kirk Thornton (Unsplash)

2. Use Fast Shutter Speeds and High ISO to Freeze Action

Like all sports photography, shutter speed is the most important exposure setting to master in baseball photography. The shutter speed must be fast enough to freeze motion no matter what sport you photograph.

The pitcher winding up a curveball and the batter sending it to the outfield happen quickly. So, shoot in shutter priority mode or full manual mode if you’re comfortable with the latter. To begin with, set the shutter speed at around 1/500 s (seconds).

If it’s a bright sunny day, you can raise the shutter speed even higher. You may need to slow the shutter if the game is at dusk. You will likely need a higher ISO to get that fast shutter speed.

Many modern digital cameras can shoot high ISO with little degradation to image quality. Knowing your gear helps you determine how high you can push that ISO without serious loss in image quality.

The best exposure settings for baseball and softball photography are similar. It’s best to have a high shutter speed to eliminate blur and an ISO low enough not to introduce noise. Most digital cameras have a fairly flexible range, particularly for a daytime game.

Close-up of a catcher and a batter about to hit the ball as an example for baseball photography
Shot with a Canon EOS 80D. 150mm, f/5.6, 1/4,000 s, ISO 800. Jakob Rosen (Unsplash)

3. Use Burst Mode to Capture the Perfect Shot

Snapping a photo the moment the bat hits the ball is about as hard as hitting that pitch yourself! To increase the odds of capturing that moment, turn on the camera’s burst mode. Instead of taking a single photo, a burst captures several images.

Activating burst mode varies depending on your camera type. The setting is sometimes a physical shortcut on some DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. Look for an icon that looks like three rectangles layered on each other.

Some cameras place the feature near the same controls as the self-timer designated by a timer symbol. Other cameras hide the feature in the shooting menu. If you’ve looked at the physical controls and menu and can’t find it, consult your camera’s user manual.

Using burst mode is almost identical to shooting a single photo. But after pressing the shutter button, keep pressing the button until you’d like the burst to stop.

It’s best to be cautious when using burst mode because your memory card fills up quickly. Due to a small buffer, some cameras need a few seconds to finish recording files before starting another burst. Keep that in mind as well.

High-end sports cameras can often keep up with fast bursts while shooting RAW. If you are using an entry-level camera, you may want to see if shooting JPEG increases the camera’s performance in burst mode.

A runner tagging up at second base to beat a throw as an example for baseball photography
Shot with a Canon EOS 7D Mark II. 200mm, f/3.2, 1/4,000 s, ISO 320. Chris Chow (Unsplash)

4. Set Autofocus to Continuous or Single Point

Continuous autofocus (AF) in sports photography is ideal for getting sharply focused images. In this mode, the camera focuses even after the shutter button is pressed halfway. It increases the odds of getting a sharp-moving subject.

This mode is called continuous autofocus or AF-C on most camera models, such as Nikon and Sony. Canon calls the same autofocus setting AI Servo or AF.

Most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras have the setting as a shortcut on a physical control for easy switching. In some cameras, the option is inside a quick or full menu.

Some cameras will slow the burst speed in continuous autofocus mode. You may need to use the slower burst mode for this option.

Along with continuous autofocus, switching to a single-point mode helps ensure the camera focuses where you want it to. In this mode, use the joystick or the arrow keys to move the focus point to different parts of the image.

In baseball and softball, it’s generally pretty easy to anticipate where you want to place the subject in the frame. Single-point area mode helps you focus on a specific player when multiple athletes are in the frame. Set this or continuous autofocus to avoid soft-looking shots.

A batter hitting a ball with a catcher and empty stands behind as an example for baseball photography
Shot with a Sony a6500. 100mm, f/2.8, 1/1,250 s, ISO 100. Josh Hemsley (Unsplash)

5. Zoom in Close But Keep Composition in Mind

A wide-angle lens cannot capture most of the detail that makes a great softball or baseball photo. Use a telephoto prime or zoom lens to get close to the action, and you can see the players’ expressions.

A 70-200mm telephoto zoom lens is good if you can position yourself close to the field. If you need to stand farther away, you may need more zoom.

Composition in softball and baseball photography is a balance. You want to get close enough to see facial expressions but be far enough away to see what’s happening in the play.

If an infielder is about to tag a base runner, reframe the composition to show both players. When composing for softball and baseball photography, leave lots of negative space in the direction the player or ball is heading.

This leads the viewer’s eye through the frame. Leaving space behind the player often creates a less dynamic image and can cause you to miss the moment.

A softball player about to hit a ball at home plate as an example for baseball photography
Shot with a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II. 112mm, f/4.5, 1/1,600 s, ISO 500. Chris Chow (Unsplash)

6. Anticipate Action Shots During Games

Don’t wait until the play happens to pick up your camera, point it, and focus. You’ll have already missed the moment! In any form of sports photography, anticipation is key. Part of that is understanding the game.

Do you know the signs for when a runner is about to steal a base? Do you know where an outfielder will likely throw the ball? If this is your first time at a baseball or softball game, watch a few games or read up on the sport. It helps you expect what’s going to happen and when.

When the ball is in play, keep the camera up to your eye and anticipate the action. Softball and baseball games have plenty of downtime. But the biggest moments happen in milliseconds. Be ready for the action when it happens!

Keep track of which bases have runners on them and which are empty. This helps you determine where the ball will be thrown.

Baseball and softball have a few key moments that you should look for. Try capturing the batter hitting the ball. It’s a tricky shot, but you have plenty of opportunities to get a well-timed image.

Watch the bases for an out or a tag, or photograph the pitcher in action. The latter is another one that you have plenty of chances to take. Then, watch for action in the outfield and infield.

Close-up of a playing being tagged while sliding head first into a base as an example of baseball photography
Shot with a Canon EOS 7D Mark II. 255mm, f/5.0, 1/8,000 s, ISO 500. Gene Gallin (Unsplash)

7. Keep Your Eye on the Ball and Player Faces

In any sport involving a ball, the best shots are the ones with the ball in it. If the ball isn’t in the photo, it’s sometimes difficult for the viewer to make out what’s going on.

In general, focus on capturing the action that involves the ball. A player safely running to the base while the ball is a good distance away isn’t as exciting as a player running to a base with a potential out.

Close-ups are good. But avoid cropping too close. You might get the action without the ball.

Along with looking for the ball, the baseball player’s face should be in the image instead of their back. Part of that is where you stand on the field. Standing near first base gives you most batters’ faces except the lefties.

Getting the ball in every shot isn’t a hard and fast rule, but it should be in most shots. For example, an image of players celebrating a good play is a great shot that won’t have the ball in it. Or, perhaps you take a portrait shot of a player for their emotional reaction.

A pitcher on a mound that just threw a ball as an example for baseball photography
Shot with a Sony ZV-E10. 180mm, f/2.8, 1/1,250 s, ISO 160. Ksama (Unsplash)

Conclusion: Baseball Photography

Most of your shots in baseball photography will be throwaways, while a handful will be keepers. That’s normal for any sports photography. No one can anticipate the action and be in the right place for the shot 100 percent of the time. Not even the professionals!

The average baseball game offers plenty of chances to capture a good shot if you put a handful of our baseball photography tips into action. With the right settings, composition tips, and some anticipation and practice, you’ll capture excellent shots of the game.

Check out our complete guide to sports photography for even more tips!

Photography Unlocked
Photography Unlocked
Unlock your camera’s full potential with this guide:

  • Master manual mode to capture moments you’re proud of.
  • Overcome the frustration of missed shots with quick exposure settings.
  • Benefit from visuals with hundreds of images and illustrations.