So, you’ve been asked by a local organization to shoot a speed skating event, but have no idea where to start? Come along with me as I take you through the important and key parts of nailing speed skating photography?

What is Speed Skating? 

The first key to mastering speed skating photography is by knowing the sport. Speed Skating is a high-speed racing sport on ice with long blades (some blades can be up to 19 inches long) which allow skaters to lean so far into the corners. It’s important to have some basic understanding of the sport prior to shooting your first competition as it will give you an extra advantage of shooting the sport. 

What Gear is recommended? 

Cameras 

As a speed skating photographer, it’s important to have gear that will handle the fast shutter speed, high ISO & high buffer count. Your camera should be capable of a shutter speed of at least 1/1000 to ‘freeze’ the action, ISO (how sensitive your camera’s sensor should constantly be at 6400) an f-stop or aperture of f/4 is a recommended, I’d go lower if your lens is capable of it. Some areas can be poorly lit over the spectator’s area and others can be well lit. Now it’s all about personal preference on this next bit; which camera to buy. No need to go out and buy one, if your current camera can handle all the settings above keep using your camera. 

Memory Cards & Batteries 

You’ll be taking a lot of photos, no joke about it. In one 8-hour event I took well over 2000 images, so you’ll need a memory card that can handle well over that. If you’re shooting RAW you’ll need even larger. You will want to make sure you have a couple extra’s in case you shoot way more than your card holds. 

When using batteries make sure you have them fully charges as you don’t want to be completely out of juice in the middle of the day and lose all that precious time charging your batteries. A habit I have is charging them when I go to bed the night before and putting them back in your camera in the morning, make sure to set a reminder on your phone so you don’t forget to put them back in. There’s nothing worse than showing up at an event all prepared only to realize that you forgot to put your batteries back into your camera. 

speed skating photography

Lenses 

If you have a lens on your camera, use it! I used the basic kit lens (18-55mm) for my first event before I got my 75-300mm lens. Since then I’ve used this lens and have gotten awesome results. If you happen to have a more advanced lens such as the 70-200mm, then go ahead and use that. Any lens that you may have will work fine.

Prepare Ahead of the Event 

Know the Venue 

So, you’ve nailed down your gear that you’re going to use. The next step is to get to know the venue the competition is being held at. If you’re able to take a trip and visit the venue, know where the off-ice officials (e.g. Clerk of the Course/Marshalling area) are going to be stationed as that area may not be able to be used, how scuffed up is the glass as this may cause problems with autofocusing on the skaters. Do you need to leave the spectator’s area just to get to the other side of the ice? These are some important things to keep in mind when preparing for a shoot. 

Travel Time 

Are you a photographer traveling out of town to shoot this event? Make sure you leave enough time to travel between your home and the venue to leave enough time to prepare for the day. If you’re able to and it’s a longer distance, leave the day before and stay in a hotel and scope out the venue upon arrival using some of the ideas touched upon earlier in knowing the venue.

speed skating photography

Referee Approval 

Often photographers want to be right near the action (in the marshaling box, or inside of the oval during the event. Once you arrive at the event for the day be sure to ask for the Chief Referee if they have a moment. When you meet with the Referee be sure to mention that you’re a photographer and you’d like to capture the action. Often, they will approve if you’re not distracting the skaters from the events in any way. I often enjoy being right close as you may be able to assist the skaters in some form. 

During the Event 

Changing Angles/ POV 

Changing your angles and point of view will create a wide variety of angles, which will benefit if you’re the only photographer which is very rare. Photographers often shoot in only one spot or angle. Changing angles will give you a wide variety of pictures to choose after the event. Some other ideas for photos include; skaters not only on the ice but warming up and getting marshaled. Other ideas include spectators, coaches, and officials in action.

speed skating photography

Breaks & Floods 

During Flood breaks and lunch break the officials will exit the ice and rest, the photographer may join them or capture some off-ice images of skaters warming up, skaters getting ready to race, competitors in the marshaling area getting organized by the Clerk. 

Parent/Guardian Interaction 

This is something very common in speed skating and any sport as a matter of the fact. Parents/Guardians and family members will come up to you and ask how they will obtain images from the event. I totally understand that everyone has a different system. I simply explain how I do it; images are available after the event at which you’ll be able to purchase images for x amount per image. 

Important Tips & Tricks 

Editing & Post Event 

You may want to edit a couple of images for a sneak peek and post those to your social media which will get attendees excited to see the rest of the images. Once you’ve decided you’re going to begin editing it’s now all your choice on how many you want to edit. In my last event, I spent about 1.5 hours culling through the images and selecting the best ones and another hour editing those images.

speed skating photography

RAW vs. JPEG 

The never-ending debate among photographers; RAW vs. JPEG. It’s all about personal preference here and capacity of your memory card. A 64GB memory card can only hold about 1400 RAW files, whereas it can hold about 5000 high-quality JPEG images which is why I personally select JPEG for speed skating. Plus, it quickens my post-event editing process by a whole bunch of time. 

Off to the Arena 

Now that I’ve told you what goes on behind the scenes, here’s what I check and recheck in my camera backpack before I leave the house to head to an event:

  • Canon 77D body with at least 1 spare battery 
  • Canon T3 body with at least 1 spare battery 
  • 75-300mm lens; cleaned 
  • 18-55mm lens; cleaned 
  • At least 2 extra memory cards 
  • Monopod 

I certainly hope this guide helps you out! Remember there are a few things to keep in mind while shooting speed skating photography. Using this guide, you’ll nail your next speed skating event!