How to take better photos at triathlons

Todays cameras are packed full of incredible technology to help you take better photos, yet many of us still struggle to get the shot we are after when we need it.

As a triathlon supporter, you tend to have a camera in hand as you run around the race course over the day, hoping to grab a great shot as the triathletes race out of the water, whizz past on the bike and then pound the pavements to the finish line – but it’s not easy!

We asked professional photographer Dean Richter, for a few pointers that should increase your chances of getting a great shot at the right moment:

  1. Position yourself so you will have a plain background behind your subject, preferably a darker background so they stand out. If there are too many distractions in the photo, it has the effect of drawing the viewer’s eye away from the subject, so the cleaner the background the better.

  1. Use a fast shutter speed, unless you are going for a special effect. The faster your shutter speed, the more you will be able to freeze the action. Try to set your camera to 1/250th of a second or faster on TV mode (shutter priority). This will set your cameras shutter speed to the value you choose, but also automatically set the camera’s other values to give you a correctly exposed photo. Sports mode (available on some cameras) does a similar thing but you have less control.

  1. Taking an action shot in focus is just a matter of preparation. Choose a point at which the competitor is going to cross over (running or biking or even emerging from the water), and use that point to set your focus beforehand. Most cameras have an autofocus mechanism that is activated when you partially depress the shutter button. When you see them coming, set your focus by aiming the camera at that focus point, then depressing the shutter button part the way and keeping your finger on it. You can now aim the camera at the competitor, and pan the camera with them. When they reach the focus point you chose, press the shutter the rest of the way to take the photo. With a bit of practise, you should be able to nail this every time.

  1. Direct sunlight is terrible in most cases for portraits. For really appealing portraits before and after the race, move your subject out of direct sunlight, either in edge of the shade of a building or tree’d area. Face them towards the brighter area and you will have a nice, really soft light hitting them. Don’t forget your non distracting background. You will have a keeper for sure.

  1. Use flash during daylight! A lot of your shots will be taken when the sun is very high and harsh shadows fall on faces and bodies ruining what could be great shots. A great way to minimise this super contrasty look is to use your flash to fill light into the shadow areas. You will be amazed at the difference.


Dean recommends that you practise these tips at home beforehand so you are familiar with each of them when you get to the race. Also get more familiar with your camera menus and settings so you are not fumbling around at the last moment and miss the shot.

Good luck and happy shooting!

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