Tag Archives: gymnastics

5 More Lessons From Photographing Gymnastics

Coming hot on the heels of 5 Lessons from Photographing Gymnastics – here are 5 more lessons from photographing gymnastics. I learned these while shooting the Australian Gymnastics Championships in Melbourne, and hope you can use these in your own sports photography. So, what’s first in 5 more lessons from photographing gymnastics?

hand stand

Look to photograph specific skills on each apparatus

Lesson 6 – Look to Photograph ‘Skill Execution’

Gymnasts learn different skills at different levels of gymnastics. As an athlete progresses up the levels they can execute more difficult activities. Among the high speed action of gymnastics championships are specific skills. Look to shoot these skills as they are meaningful to gymnasts, coaches, and gymnastics fans.


Lesson 7 – Photograph the Details Outside of the Competitive Performance

In a gymnastics competition there are lot of opportunities to shoot elements of the event outside of the actual competitive performance.

This is where a photographer can shoot very unique content. All photographers will shoot the spectacular tumbling runs in the floor routine, but it is the unique details around the competition which will make your coverage of the event stand out.

Gymnastics bar routine

Gymnast preparing for her bar routine with chalk on her hands

There are opportunities to shoot content where:

  • the athlete is preparing to compete
  • you capture the emotion after a gymnast has completed the routine
  • there is interaction between gymnast and coach
  • there is interaction between gymnasts

Look out for these opportunities to shoot unique content. It is this detail that spectators can’t see from their seat in the grandstand.

Lesson 8 – Shoot Bursts at Fast Shutter Speeds to Freeze the Moment

Below is a unique image where I’ve managed to create the illusion of a headless gymnast! This was taken during the floor routine during one of the gymnasts tumbling runs. If you look carefully you’ll see that the gymnasts head is not visible except for a tiny part of her chin. This kind of image is unique as you can’t see this with the naked eye.

lay out flip

This image captures an illusion of a headless gymnast

Your best chance to achieve this type of shot is with high ISO, fast shutter speeds, and shooting in burst mode. When I looked at this image on the back of my camera during the event and was amazed to see the illusion of the headless gymnast. I thought that was very unique – but then managed to produce the same type of image with different gymnasts. And the more I studied their floor routines, the higher my chance of recreating this shot.

Pay attention to what the athletes are doing, and then shoot in burst mode at fast shutter speeds.

Lesson 9 – Use Different Backgrounds to Create Different Effects

The spectators sat on the sides of the main gymnastics floor which meant it was straightforward to shoot images with the crowd in the background. I like that style of image as the presence of the crowd helps define this event as the national championships not a local club event.

Gymnastics bars routine

The black curtains at the end of the gymnastics floor enabled me to shoot a different style of image

At the ends of the gymnastics floor were large black curtains to separate the warm up area from the main arena. I hadn’t expected to be able to isolate the gymnast against plain backgrounds like this. It was fun creating different styles of images against different backgrounds.

Lesson 9 of my 5 more lessons from photographing gymnastics is to use different backgrounds to create different images. Is this something you can use in your sports photography?

Lesson 10 – Use Different Angles to Isolate Action

This image was shot during the warm up phase with athletes and coaches behind the apparatus waiting for their turn. I shot a range of images where the other people were visible in the image – it documented the event as it happened.

beam routine

Getting a low angle enables me to isolate the gymnast against the background during warm up

I then experimented with different angles and lenses to create different styles of images. I like this low angle perspective. We have no distracting people in the background. What are we left with? An athlete doing her warm up, isolated against a plain black background. What the spectators saw from the stands was a lot of activity on the floor. What I saw in this image was like the athletes perspective – oblivious to all the activity around them and focused on their own performance.

Experiment with angles to create different images.

Thanks for reading 5 more lessons from photographing gymnastics. I hope you can apply them to your own sports photography. If you’d like to learn more about gymnastics check out the Gymnastics Australia website.

5 Lessons From Photographing Gymnastics

I recently had the opportunity to photograph the Australian Gymnastics Championships at Hisense Arena in Melbourne. I have shot a lot of basketball and netball over the last 5 years, but the chance to photograph gymnastics was something new. It is refreshing to shoot something new, like I posted about in Fresh Perspectives on My Hometown. Before the championships I studied gymnastics photos, and then had a great time at the event. I learned a lot about gymnastics photography too. I have 10 lessons which I will share over two posts. So first, here are 5 lessons from photographing gymnastics.

Gymnast doing split leap

Gymnasts combination of athleticism, flexibility and strength produces images not seen in other sports

Lesson 1 – Gymnasts Athleticism, Flexibility and Strength leads to Unique Images

As this was the Australian national championships the standard was very high. The athletes have typically spent 10 years or more training to achieve this level. That means they are great athletes able to execute difficult gymnastics skills. I’m not sure why that surprised me (!) but the gymnasts had a tremendous combination of strength, flexibility and balance. That lead to a range of unique images which aren’t present in other sports. You’ll see examples in the images on this post.

Lesson 2 – Lighting can be Challenging

Like in any indoor sport relying on artificial light, the level of lighting can be problematic for a photographer. I was fortunate that this venue is a world class venue with good lighting. That said, because the action was fast moving, I was still shooting with ISO between 1000 and 2000 to keep shutter speeds at 1/1600s or faster.

Lesson 3 – Warm Up Provides Additional Photo Opportunities

I was fortunate to be guided by one of the athlete’s families about gymnastics images. These athletes have typically competed in a range of state and national championships most of which have photographers covering the event. Those photographers typically focus on the actual competition.

Gymnastics beam routine

This warm up session on the beam provided a unique opportunity to shoot against a black background

Lesson 3 from my 5 lessons from photographing gymnastics was not to overlook the warm up. It is a key part of the event for gymnasts and is rarely covered by photographers. Look for opportunities to shoot the warm up as well as the competition.

Lesson 4 – Prepare your Equipment for Fast Moving Action

Lesson 4 is obvious to gymnastics experts! The action is very fast moving. I have shot a lot of basketball in poorly lit stadiums, but I hadn’t appreciated that the action in gymnastics would be much faster than a typical basketball game. While a basketball game might have fast and slow elements to the game, there really aren’t any slower tempo parts to gymnastics. There is plenty of time preparing, but once the athlete is going it is very quick.

To freeze that action you need equipment which will let you focus quickly and shoot at fast shutter speeds. I mainly shot at f2.8 to keep shutter speeds above 1/1600s. Prepare your equipment with the fast speed in mind.

Lesson 5 – Floor Routine is Where Gymnasts Really Express Their Individuality

I was covering the women’s artistic gymnastics competition. That involves 4 different apparatus – the vault, parallel bars, beam, and floor routine. Within all of those, a gymnast has the opportunity to both execute the skills and express their personality. That said, it is the floor routine where they have the greatest opportunity to express themselves.

Gymnast floor routine

The gymnasts can really express their personality in the floor routine

How does this impact images you’ll shoot? Extensive planning has gone into all elements of the floor routine, so gymnasts are just as interested in the expressive poses as they are in the spectacular leaps. Don’t overlook these moments to capture images which are unique to that gymnast.

Thanks for reading 5 lessons from photographing gymnastics. I’ll follow up with 5 more tips in a separate post. Just before I wrap up this post, if you are a photographer in Australia look out for the national championships dates and venue on the Gymnastics Australia website. It was an excellent event which I would recommend to other photographers. Thanks again for reading 5 lessons from photographing gymnastics. Happy shooting!