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Swimming Photography Tips (How to Take Photos of Swimmers)

Last updated: November 12, 2023 - 4 min read
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If you’re looking for a fun and challenging photography project, why not try shooting swimming photos? Swimming can make for some beautiful and unique shots, but it’s not easy to capture well. Here are a few tips to help you get started with swimming photography.

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7. Swimming Photography: Use a Camera With a High Burst Rate

It’s possible to take photos of swimmers with any camera or mobile phone. However, if you want to take professional-looking photos, you’ll need specific equipment to get good results.

An action shot of a female swimmer - how to take swimming pictures
© Pixabay

Swimming is a fast-moving sport, so the burst rate of your camera is very important. A camera with a burst rate of 12 photos per second will give you better results than a camera with a rate of 3 per second.
The higher the burst rate, the more likely you’ll be able to capture the peak of the action.
Professional sports photographers also prefer to use cameras with fast auto focus. The faster the auto focus, the less likely you’ll miss the action.

6. Bring a Telephoto Lens to Capture Close-Ups

You’ll be far away from the action so a long telephoto lens is necessary to fill the frame. A 100-400mm lens is perfect to get both the close-ups and environmental shots.

An action shot of a female swimmer celebrating victory after a race - how to take swimming pictures
© Pixabay

If you also want to take photos of the start, you’ll need an even longer focal length. In a 50-meter pool, you’ll need a 600mm or even 800mm.

5. Use Servo Focus for Sharp Pictures

Set your camera to servo focus mode. This way, your camera will keep focusing on the swimmer while you follow them. It’s almost always the best focus mode for sports photography.
Also, if you want to take photos of fast-moving objects in general, this is the best option.
For the better results, you should pick a focus point depending on the composition. Usually, the face will be in the top of the frame. This will help you pick a focus point accordingly.
a face on view of a male swimmer in action

4. Read Up On the Swimming Event to Know What to Expect

Know before you go. Like any other type of photography, the better you know the subject, the better your photos will be. If you want to take great swimming pictures, you need to learn about the sport.
Shooting a freestyle event is more challenging than breaststroke. A freestyle swimmer won’t show his face that often. Their head only pops up when they need to breathe.
Every event requires a different approach. If you want to take great swimming pictures, you need to know how they’re different.

3. Move Around to Get Different Perspectives

Don’t just stick around the pool. Try to mix it up by finding new angles.
You can position yourself behind the swimmers or go all the way up in the stands.

Overhead action shot of swimmers racing in a pool - how to take swimming pictures
© Pixabay

2. Look for Interesting Reflections and Details

Don’t focus only on taking photos of the swimmers. Try to capture details or reflections in the water. The colors in and around a swimming pool are also interesting to experiment with.
Find contrasting colors and make them pop.

1. Take It to the Next Level and Go Underwater

Once you get the hang of taking photos of swimmers above the surface, why not take it a step further? If you have the right equipment you can ask the organizers if they’ll allow you to take photos underwater.
It requires a whole new skill set but the results will impress your audience.

An underwater action shot of swimmers in a pool - how to take swimming pictures
© Pixabay


Taking photos of swimmers is all about skill and timing. Learn what the best camera settings are for swimming pictures and know which event you’ll be photographing.
Don’t forget about composition and creativity. Combining skill and creativity will make your photos stand out.

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