Rugby Sports Photography

As I mentioned in my first post, I’ve had some experience with sports photography, especially with rugby. Being at a Welsh university it’s hard to not be involved in the sport one way or another albeit playing, spectating, refereeing, or taking photos. In this post, I’m going to talk about equipment I recommend and settings, positioning on the pitch, and composition.


For all my sports currently, I use a Canon 6D with an EF 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. Having this telephoto zoom is integral to getting the best-framed shots without losing out on quality. The wider aperture of f/2.8  is not essential as in most sports you’ll want to shoot around f/4.0 but it adds to shots and allows tacky backgrounds to be blurred out and create more focus on the play. I avoid shooting on a full manual, especially when shooting outdoors, instead, stay with Aperture or Shutter priority. You’ll want to have a fast shutter speed, nothing below 1/400 to get a non-blurry image.

This paired with continuous shooting mode and AI Servo has the perfect setup to capture running shots without having to worry about blur and focusing issues. Talking about focus, keep all sensors open so the camera can automatically focus on the subject. Shooting in JPEG/RAW is all down to personal preference, but if you are in a print-on-the-day environment, JPEG offers a faster buffer speed and still holds good quality.

Rugby 7s match where the ball carrier pushes off the defensive team.


There are many posts in forums debating on whether you should stay at certain lines and wait for the action to come to you, or stay in line with the plays and go to the action yourself. Staying at certain lines means that if there is an offensive break, you can capture it more aptly if you are down the end of the field away from the plays, but it can mean that you miss an important play and therefore an important shot.

Again this down to personal preference if you want to follow the plays up and down the pitch and get to the action that way, or wait for the action to come to you. This also boils down to the gear you use as well, if you have a zoom lens up to 400mm it’s better to find different positioning than follow the play as you have the zoom advantage. My personal preference is to follow the action mainly due to the 200mm limit of my lens as well as to follow plays better.

Rugby 7s match where the ball carrier has been tackled.


Like all sports photography, understanding the sport is essential to get the shots that people are looking for. If you haven’t watched a rugby match before, go out and find a match to spectate or look at recorded matches online. It also helps to read advice from others, look on forums, and blogs, and ask friends – anything that can give you more insight can and will help. Look for key plays such as passing, line-outs, tackles, rucks, and breakaways.

Never watch the game, shoot the game, anticipate the plays, and usually, the composition will come with following the action. If you can get lower to the ground, if you are tall like me standing to take photos can occasionally make the plays look small and not as exciting or miss out on the action. Another important aspect again is framing, getting the whole play in, or keeping the image tight to the center of the action.

Rugby 7s match where the ball carrier and tackle-e are on the ground

The editing process should highlight your good images and your bad images. Don’t be afraid to be critical of yourself, and always have a second opinion close by to help hone your skills. Ideally, you want to get the shot as you take it and not rely on software such as Photoshop and Lightroom, so take note of your good and what you can do to improve your bad.

And Remember: Have fun, laugh, smile, and enjoy yourself!

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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Published by Briony-Molly

Photographer & Designer. Horse Owner, Book Fanatic

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