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Photographer's tip: How to take great sports photographs

Serena Williams of the United States celebrates a point against Samantha Stosur of Australia during Rogers Cup Final at the Rexall Centre at York University in Toronto.

Kevin Van Paassen/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

Here is the tip for this week's Photo Desk assignment.

Sports photography isn't easy.

Once you get past the heavy and expensive equipment, low lighting conditions and often difficult access to playing surfaces, it all comes down to two things: timing and anticipation.

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Timing is something that comes mostly with practice. Even the top sports photographers in the world will become rusty over the off-season and have to sharpen their skills in order to capture those "peak action" moments.

But having said that, most DSLR cameras now come packed with some wonderful tools to help you get that perfect sports picture.

For instance, most cameras are now equipped with excellent auto-focus systems, which in most cases you'll want to set to "continuous mode." This should allow you to follow the action and keep your subject sharp. Also be sure to set the camera's motor drive to highest frame rate. Most cameras will now allow for 5 frames per second while the top models will capture up to 11 fps.

Anticipation is another skill that comes with practice, but also knowing the ins and outs of the particular sport you are photographing can help here.

Especially knowing a player's tendencies will help keep you a step ahead of the play. For example, every golf photographer knows Tiger Woods's signature fist pump and will anticipate that moment to happen on the 18th hole.

Likewise, every hockey shooter knows that when the Dion Phaneuf is on the ice for the Toronto Maple Leafs, there is the possibility of a big open ice hit.

Capturing good sports photography is always challenging whether you are shooting you children's soccer match or the Stanley Cup Final. But by working on these two critical skills you will improve your chances of getting the perfect shot.

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Good luck!

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About the Author

Born in Calgary, Kevin Van Paassen graduated from the Journalism Arts program at the Southern Alberta Institue of Technology in 1997. He moved to Toronto in 1999 and joined The Globe and Mail as a staff photographer in 2004. More

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