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What is Better for Shooting Sports f2.8 or f.8 and Why?

by Luke


I have a question regarding sports photography for an assignment I'm doing.

The question is "What is better for shooting sports f2.8 or f.8 and why?

Some help with this would be greatly appreciated.

Kind regards



Thanks for your question. Normally for sports photography your larger aperture settings such as f2.8 are preferred for a number of reasons.

Using the larger aperture opening allows more light into the image sensor which means that a lower ISO can be used as well as a faster shutter speed. Maintaining a fast shutter speed is very important because it is needed to stop action in sports. Changing to a smaller aperture opening such as f8 means that for the same lighting conditions either your ISO will have to increase, which could result in increased amounts of digital noise or your shutter speed will need to be longer, which can result in motion blur from fast moving objects.

Using a faster shutter speed is important in sports photography when you want to “freeze” the action with little or no motion blur. It also important because often when photographing sports you are using a telephoto lens and with the longer focal lengths you need a faster shutter speed to avoid any small amount of camera shake from causing motion blur or a slightly out of focus image.

The reciprocal rule of photography should be kept in mind when using telephoto lenses. That rule states that the slowest shutter speed when hand holding a camera should be the reciprocal of the focal length of the lens. This simply means that if you are using a 300mm lens your shutter speed should be 1/300 of a second or faster. Of course this is just a “rule of thumb” and there are other factors such as image stabilization that come into play but the concept is still the same and that is you normally need a faster shutter speed when using a longer zoom lens.

Another reason that many photographers prefer a larger aperture such as f2.8 is because it helps blur the background and help the subject stand out more in the photo. Faster lenses with larger apertures such as f2.8 create a more pleasing “bokeh” where the background is out of focus and the subject is in focus. This helps create a more pleasing image than a “busy” in focus background does.

The only real advantage of using smaller apertures such as f8 is in order to try for the sharpest possible image. Most lenses tend to be their sharpest at the middle of the aperture range. Therefore in most cases a lens set to f8 would produce a slightly sharper image than the same lens set at either the largest or smallest aperture available. An aperture of f8 would also have a greater depth of field than f2.8 so more of the picture will be in focus and there is less chance of part of the subject being out of focus due to a limited depth of field.

Most sports photographers use aperture priority mode when shooting sports so they can control the aperture for depth of field reasons as well as to keep their shutter speeds as fast as possible for any given lighting condition.

I hope this helps answer your question and thanks for contacting us.


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