Sports photography or action photography has its set of challenges. Even a seasoned photographer may find difficulty in shooting action-packed performances like cheer shows under an indoor set up without the right camera and lenses. A lack of the right equipment to shoot such active performances in indoor lighting can get you very grainy and blurry shots. Undoubtedly, that can be a huge disappointment for the photographer.
This article covers all the nitty-gritty of cheerleading photography, however, if you are in a hurry, I would suggest you go directly to the best cameras section. Sony A9 II Mirrorless Camera is the best on the market right now but is surely a bit expensive. Canon EOS Rebel T7i would be a good fit for a tighter budget that will suit most of your basic needs.
Practice, timing, planning, and swiftness are needed, along with the suitable camera model and setting to capture the perfect snap in any cheerleading event. It is indeed possible to freeze the breath-taking choreography postures, somersaults, and toe touches before you miss the moments.
Here, in this comprehensive guide to cheerleading cameras, you shall get to know the requirements to shoot sports events, the best cameras, and lenses for covering a cheerleading competition, and the settings you need to follow.
Why Indoor Photography Is Difficult?
Since photography is all about capturing images in light, indoor photography is difficult because of improper and inadequate light settings. Photographs in bright daylight are naturally better in quality than those clicked indoors under artificial lighting.
Shortage of proper lighting setup leads to dark, shadowy pictures, grainy images, and blurred shots. Using the right camera or following the right tips and settings of indoor photography is vital in overcoming these challenges of improper lighting.
Cheerleading events are generally conducted in gymnasiums or indoor stadiums with artificial lighting. Even though the spaces appear brightly lit, they may still be inadequate for clear and detailed shots of the movements. They may appear grainy, blurred, or indistinct against the background.
Requirements For A Good Camera For Cheerleading
Continuous shooting rate, real-time eye, object tracking, and having a proper ISO sensitivity are the most important factors to take into consideration when choosing the camera for a cheerleading competition. Know more in detail in the section below.
Camera requirements depend on what kind of photography you want to focus on. For indoor photography and action photography purposes, such as to cover a cheerleading event successfully, you need to check a few specifications.
Continuous Shooting Rate
Choosing a camera with a fast continuous shooting rate is vital for sports photography. The faster the rate, the more photos the camera can capture in a given time. 10 – 30 fps is considered a proper rate for the best results in sports photography when you need to shoot people involved in fast action.
Real-Time Eye AF Tracking
Your camera must also have a good real-time eye AF tracking feature. It helps the camera to track the faces and eyes of fast-moving people and autofocus for clear, sharp, and detailed images.
It saves you from getting blurred and out-of-focus images while your subjects are constantly moving. It is also a vital feature for the camera to auto-adjust the exposure.
Accurate Subject Tracking
Quick and accurate subject tracking is essential in action photography because your subjects are constantly moving at a fast pace. The camera needs to track the subjects against the background and provide accurately focussed images.
ISO Sensitivity Range
Buying a camera with a good ISO sensitivity range is important. It is necessary because it determines how the camera would react to light. Lower ISO is needed for brighter conditions, especially daylight.
A higher ISO range is essential for low light conditions, or indoor photography. When you shoot indoor cheerleading events you must have a higher ISO range for better pictures.
Body Image Stabilization
Look for a camera with body image stabilization if you are keen to shoot cheerleading and other sports events. The camera’s sensor tries to stabilize the images in case the hand moves or the camera shakes while you shoot fast-moving subjects. This produces less blur and gets you clear images.
Action Camera Vs Normal Camera
The ease of handling is something that differentiates action cameras from normal cameras. The size and ease of use make them real game-changers in shooting fast-moving scenes with good clarity.
There isn’t much difference between an action camera and a regular digital camera, except for the purposes they are meant for. Each type of camera is made to function in a certain way according to requirements. An action camera is slightly different in form and function from regular digital cameras. Here are some of the areas in which they differ:
Action cameras are small and more compact than standard digital cameras. This makes them lightweight and portable. Regular DSLRs are bulky and quite fragile to be used in crowded places and in cases where you need to move constantly at high speed to get the best shots of your subjects.
They also come with various accessories and lenses, putting a great weight on your shoulders. Thus, action cameras are more convenient when you need to cover events in difficult locations amidst a vast crowd or move at high speed while shooting. It makes them a better choice for shooting in sports events.
Action cameras will win over digital cameras if you have to shoot while moving at high speed. Even if you face jolts, they can withstand unstable conditions and give you clear and steady pictures and videos.
These cameras can be mounted on any surface and can perfectly shoot even during mobility. The best action cameras offer you 4k videos and premium image quality and let you live the action as you experience it. They let you capture the action-packed events in stunning quality.
Most action cameras come with options for helmet mounting or chest mounting. Covering cheerleading performances or any sports event with an action camera from various positions in the crowd can offer more convenience than regular digital cameras.
You can enjoy what is in front of you by simply mounting the camera and capturing or recording without having to interfere with technicalities and settings each moment manually.
Overall, you must know that action cameras and DSLRs are not a replacement for each other. Each serves a different purpose and depends on what you need to shoot. Action cameras are generally a wise choice if you intend to shoot steady videos during high-paced actions like driving, running, cycling, walking, or moving through crowded places.
DSLRs are the better option if you are more focused on image quality, photography skills and want to have manual control. It’s all about priority and convenience. While some people prefer using manual skills and proper equipment to shoot sports and related activities, others love to experience what is in front of them and let the hassle-free action cameras do the job automatically.
Best Camera For Cheerleading
The best camera for cheerleading depends on a lot of factors which are highlighted below. If you are in a hurry and have a good budget (around $4000) for a professional camera, Sony A9 II Mirrorless Camera is the best on the market right now. However, if you have a tight budget (around $900), I would suggest Canon EOS Rebel T7i for a camera that will suit your basic needs.
Here I present a more detailed guide on the 4 best cameras for cheerleading after having prolonged discussions with professionals.
Another superb choice for sports photography is the Sony a9 II Mirrorless Camera. A favorite among photojournalists, this mirrorless camera from Sony lets you take the best shots in any cheerleading competition.
The incredible autofocus system accurately chooses the subject almost immediately to never let you miss capturing any shot. The 693 phase-detection and the 425 contrast-detection make the autofocus a standout feature.
Another outstanding part of this camera for the benefit of sports photography is the tracking system. Even when your subjects are constantly moving, the camera intelligently tracks eyes and faces and focuses to never let you have blurred shots.
View Sony a9 II Mirrorless Camera on Amazon.
The high shutter speed helps to capture fast action and dance movements without any chance of getting blurry images. It is also made possible so smoothly by the high-speed continuous burst shot that allows shooting a series of images of your subjects in action.
The 5-axis Image Stabilization feature further negates blurring and jerky shots. The high ISO range doesn’t let the images get grainy even in low light conditions of indoor sports photography.
- 3.68K dots Viewfinder
- 3-inch tilt-angle monitor with touchscreen
- 20 fps maximum frame rate
- Real-time Tracking
- Real-Time Eye AF
- Excellent autofocus
- Accurate eye and face tracking feature
- Stylish look
- Impeccable image quality
- Real-time wireless and LAN sharing
View Sony a9 II Mirrorless Camera on Amazon.
2. Nikon D5 DSLR – The best Cheerleading Camera from Nikon
One of the best cameras for sports photography from Nikon is the Nikon D5 DSLR. The high-end DSLR allows you to capture incredible images every time in varied lighting conditions.
The amazing autofocus of the camera provides you with the best subject tracking you can ask for. Even the fastest of subjects won’t fail to get captured with perfect focus. Thus, whether the cheerleader is twirling, tumbling, or flying, you can always get the best shot. Another plus point is that the battery life of the camera is outstanding.
View Nikon D5 DSLR on Amazon.
- 20.8MP CMOS Sensor
- EXPEED 5 Image Processor
- 3.2″ Touchscreen LCD Monitor
- 153-point Autofocus System
- 12 fps shooting
- Outstanding subject tracking
- Very fast autofocus
- Incredible battery life
- Robust construction
- High-speed continuous shooting
- Best image quality
- Beautiful low light performance
- Ideal for indoor and outdoor sports photography
View Nikon D5 DSLR on Amazon.
Irrespective of whether you are covering a basketball or baseball game or cheerleading competition, the Canon EOS Rebel T7i promises you a rewarding experience. It is truly the best fit as an entry-level sports photography camera for beginners which will fit right within your budget.
The compact design with a DiGIC 7 processor and 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor gives you perfect colors and details in the images. You can be sure to capture excellently sharp and crystal clear images throughout the event.
Moreover, the Dual Pixel autofocus helps you focus easily on subjects moving fast and track them accurately every time. The 5-axis In-Body Image Stabilization reduces camera shake and helps to negate the chances of blurred shots in low light conditions.
View Canon EOS Rebel T7i on Amazon.
- 3-inch 180-degree LCD screen
- 45-points autofocus
- Maximum frame rate of 6fps
- Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
- High-speed continuous shooting mode
- 5-axis In-Body Image Stabilization
- Best for entry-level photographers
- Image stabilization available
- Perfect autofocus
- Only one SD card slot
View Canon EOS Rebel T7i on Amazon.
Another decent choice for sports photography, within a tight budget, is once again from Canon. The Canon 7D Mark II with its APS-C image sensor and DIGIC 6 image processor promises you superb image quality and a rewarding shooting experience.
The ergonomically designed camera with a Dual Pixel autofocus system helps you achieve fast and unfailing subject tracking even in low light. Capture smoothly even the best of fast-paced actions and performances.
With the 10fps continuous shooting mode, you can shoot every moment you wish to frame, never having to lament missing out on the best shot.
View Canon EOS 7D Mark II on Amazon.
- APS-C sensor
- 3-inch monitor
- 65-points Autofocus
- 10fps maximum frame rate
- Continuous shooting mode
- Solid construction
- Ergonomic design
- Good buffer performance
- Accurate subject tracking
- Precise autofocus
- Fast performance
- No Wi-Fi
View Canon EOS 7D Mark II on Amazon.
Best Camera Settings For Indoor Cheerleading
Indoor sports events like cheerleading require you to follow vital camera settings even if you use the best cameras for indoor conditions or sports photography.
Here are some of the settings to follow while photographing indoor cheerleading competitions:
Choose high ISO
Indoor photography requires you to choose a high ISO setting, usually above 1000 or 1250. Opening the aperture fully may not be enough to cope with the lighting requirements under high shutter speed.
Thus, increasing your ISO is the only way to adjust the light settings to get clear pictures. However, grains start appearing after 1600, so you must choose the ISO wisely, considering these factors. A slightly noisy image is better any day than a blurred one.
Fast shutter speed
Shutter speed refers to the amount of time the shutter opens when you take a snap. Action photography needs a fast shutter speed to capture the moment before it ends. Without high shutter speed, you will be left with blurry shots.
A shutter speed of a minimum of 1/250 or 1/500 is necessary to capture indoor cheerleading events. A fast shutter speed helps to freeze the fast-paced movements of the performers.
High shutter speed and high ISO go hand-in-hand for shooting indoor sports events. The exact shutter speed depends on the subject you are shooting. 1/1000 is even better if the action you shoot is too fast.
Use wide aperture
A wide aperture means the intensity of light hitting your camera sensor increases. It uses the available light to the maximum extent to shoot in an indoor setup. Adjust your aperture setting to a low point to get the widest aperture.
Fast lenses such as f/2.8 and f/4 lenses used by sports photographers provide the best and maximum aperture. However, cameras with the highest aperture of around f/5.6 or less require you to open the lens wide to allow maximum light. This is most important for indoor sports photography, where lighting is limited.
Moreover, using a wide aperture also produces a brilliantly shallow depth of field to focus primarily on the cheerleaders and blur the background, creating more impact and clarity.
Choose autofocus mode instead of manual focussing while shooting fast action scenes. Autofocus mode helps the camera automatically detect and constantly follow your subjects while they are moving continuously.
Always shoot in burst mode while shooting indoor cheerleading events. Such high action-packed performances make it difficult for you to keep up with them. Using the burst mode or the continuous shooting mode lets you capture 4 to 6 snaps at once, letting you capture the best image and never miss a moment.
Thus, if you are unsure whether you can press the shutter in time to capture the moment when the cheerleader kicks her leg in the air, or does the toe-touch, use the burst mode to get the perfect shot in time.
Adjust the white balance
Automatic white balance helps the camera adjust to the light while you shoot outdoors. But shooting indoors may cause the photographs to look too whitish or produce a greenish tint. Adjust the white balance to Tungsten or Fluorescent as these are the best options for shooting indoors under artificial lighting.
Tungsten mode helps to cool down the colors to adjust the image while shooting under warm indoor lights. On the other hand, Fluorescent mode helps add a warm tinge to photos taken in cool, greenish, or bluish lights.
Shoot in RAW
If you are using a professional DSLR, it is best to shoot in RAW mode. Gym lighting does not let you achieve the perfect colors while shooting. Shooting in the RAW mode in low light lets you correct the colors while editing the pictures later.
However, if you are more focused on achieving more shots in burst mode and ready to compromise slightly with the image quality and colors, JPEG mode is what you must choose to shoot.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which are the vital features of a camera for cheer events?
A camera for shooting sports events or a cheerleading competition must have a good ISO range, accurate subject tracking feature, fast autofocus, and a high continuous shooting rate.
What is the best shutter speed for indoor sports photography?
Use the fastest shutter speed depending on your subject to capture sports events indoors. Balance the ISO and the shutter speed to capture sharp images without losing any fleeting moment. The shutter speed should at least be 1/250 for cheerleading events.
What is the perfect ISO range needed for indoor cheerleading photography?
Adjust the ISO between 1000 to 1600 to capture the best images in low light. Too low ISO can cause the shutter speed to lower and produce blurred images, while too high ISO can produce grainy shots.
What type of lens is best for cheerleading photography?
An image-stabilizing lens with a maximum wide aperture is best for cheerleading photography. F/2.8 or F/ 1.8 lenses are usually the standard recommended lenses for indoor cheerleading competitions.
Enviable shots from cheerleading events published in the media are possible for every sports photographer only if you have the right equipment and know the proper shooting techniques. Master the tips to shoot indoor cheer events like a pro and shoot frame-worthy pyramids, twirls, toe touches, and flying postures.
Get Ready with Your Basic Cheerleading Kit
A basic cheerleading kit consists of the minimum requirements that a beginner cheerleader needs for his/her practice and events. Proper uniform and comfortable shoes are a must and they help the cheerleader for his/her overall well-being and safety. This section will help you choose the uniform and shoes as per your requirements.
Cheerleading Uniform: Uniforms form an important part as you can well understand. Choose the proper uniform as per your school/event specifications. However, do take care to choose a fabric that is breathable and helps you stay comfortable during the performance. Relevant helpful resources:
1. What Fabric Is Used For Cheer Uniforms? A Common Question
2. Best Cheerleading Uniforms For Toddlers: Too Cute To Avoid – If you need an awesome cheerleading uniform for Halloween!
3. What Do Cheerleaders Wear Under Their Spankies? Demystified – Innerwear is important in this sport.
4. Check out Amazon’s Webpage for Cheerleading Uniforms – They have a good collection
Cheer Shoes: If you want to perform confidently as a cheerleader, you need comfortable shoes. Just as any other field sport, wearing proper shoes can make or break your performance. Choose the best fitting shoes as per your requirement. Some helpful resources for you:
1. Best Nike Cheerleading Shoes That Are Comfortable And Cheap – Comfortable and cheap cheerleading shoes from the best brand in this domain.
2. Best Cheer Shoes For Wide Feet That Fit The Way You Want – There are shoes specially designed for wide feet. This article helps you choose the proper one.
3. Check out Amazon’s Webpage for Cheerleading Shoes – They have shoes fitting everyone’s needs.
4. Check out the 7 Best Shoes For High School Cheer that are cheap yet comfortable.
Cheer Backpacks: Arranging things every time before your practice can be tedious. Keeping everything organized neatly in a backpack can be the key and help you save time and effort. I have made an exhaustive guide for you to choose the right cheer backpack for yourself at various price points. Do check it out if you need help.