How To Take The Perfect Triathlon Photo

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  • Published Feb 16, 2012
  • Updated Oct 31, 2014 at 4:37 PM UTC
Photo: Paul Phillips/Competitive Image

Photo: Paul Phillips/Competitive Image

Hey spectators! Instead of snapping unflattering race shots, capture your athletes at their best with these tips from award-winning photographer Paul Phillips, who teaches a sports photography class at Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

The basics:

Scope out your shooting locations in advance (see below)
Shoot with the sun at your back or side
Make sure your athlete knows which side of the road you will be on
Only shoot when the athlete is coming toward you

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Get the most from your equipment (advice for DSLR cameras with a telephoto lens):

As soon as you see your athlete, hold the shutter down halfway to focus, but wait until he or she is closer to shoot
Shoot in bursts of three to five so you can pick your best shot
Do not use the Program, Auto or Sport settings—use Shutter Priority mode to get a good, clean shot
If you want to stop the action (no blur), use a high shutter speed, such as 1/1000 or faster
If you want a panned shot with a blurred background, shoot at 1/160

Plot a good shot location:

Swim and transition exits
Riding up a hill standing
Profile in an aero position
Low angles of your triathlete riding or running toward you
Running through aid stations
Right before the finishing chute

For more tips, visit

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