What makes you excited in life?

 “I love it when a plan comes together”-  Hannibal (A-Team)

To experience that incredible moment when everything works out in sports photography – the lighting needs to be perfect, the background clean, your placement correct and your focus spot on. As a photographer, I live for moments like this.

What is it about sports photography that draws you in?

The action, the atmosphere, and the unpredictability of sport. When you are on the field with 50 000 people singing the national anthem, or the All Blacks performing the haka, it can only be described as magical.

Every game is unique, which means I never experience a dull moment on the field. I constantly challenge myself to capture unique images, which means I need to stay focused the entire game. Achieving that one-in-a-million shot gives you so much pride and happiness that you can’t help but come back for more. It’s also wonderful to get to know fellow photographers next to the field. I’ve been fortunate enough to form close friendships from hours spent together.

Sports photography through the lens of Frans Lombard

What is similar or different when photographing different sports genres (rugby, cricket or netball etc.)?

The fundamentals regarding light will always stay the same at any sports event. You must, however, know the basics of each sport to be able to get the best shots. Take time to study the sport you’re going to photograph. You can also Google photos from that sport to see what has been done. The more experience you have, the more you learn about picture perfect moments in the games. 

In Basketball for example the original jumping shot is usually photographed and then most photographers stop shooting, while the rebound photo is often better. Knowing how the sport flows helps pinpoint where the best photo can be taken. With any sport, I try to place myself where I can get the players’ head-on to capture their facial expressions.

What tips do you have regarding camera settings?

My camera speed will never go below 1/1000 except when I want to do panning for sports like motorsport. With the aperture, I set it as wide as my lens allows to separate my subject from the background to make it more prominent. The ISO is always set as low as the light allows to avoid noise. I use the single point focus to have more control over the precise place where the camera must focus, and I also use “continuous focus”.

Sports photography through the lens of Frans Lombard
Sports photography through the lens of Frans Lombard

How do you ensure you get your timing right?

Practice, practice and more practice. You should study the sport to anticipate when the action will happen. If sports photography was easy then everybody would do it. These days you’re competing with a lot of photographers next to you on the field which means your photos need to stand out.

Which do you prefer, monopod or tripod? And why?

In sports photography, it’s important to move the camera quickly, either to catch the action or to duck away from a stray ball. I definitely prefer a monopod for its functionality, especially when adding larger lenses. When I shoot with my 70-200mm lens, I’d rather shoot handheld.

Sports photography through the lens of Frans Lombard

What type of camera and lens do you need to be able to take professional sports photos and why?

You don’t need expensive gear to get photos of your child on the sports field, but you have to be realistic about what type of photos you can expect with your gear. You won’t be able to get close to the action if you only have an 18-55mm lens. If you don’t have an f/2.8 lens, you’ll shoot with a high ISO at night. The focus on an entry-level camera won’t be as fast as a pro-spec camera. All these factors limit your ability to take professional sports photographs.

Frans Lombard’s gear:

Sports photography through the lens of Frans Lombard

What is your editing process and which tools do you use?

I use a MacBook Pro and Photoshop. When I started I was taught the basics of Photoshop. I try to shoot as precise as possible to only do minor adjustments in Camera Raw and do cropping in Photoshop. A big part of editing is choosing the best photos to edit. In sports photography, only 1 out of 10 photos are usually a keeper.

Please share an inspiring story where you learned a valuable lesson regarding photography and sport.

A sports photo is something that you can’t recreate. When you miss a shot, you can’t get it back, there is no replay or do-overs. 

It’s also exciting to follow a player’s progress from school level to Provincial level to Springbok level. I remember photographing Embrose Papier at Garsfontein High School and now I am honoured to photograph him in the green and gold. Photographers in general don’t always realise the importance and impact of their work. Unfortunately I’ve been in the situation where a parent lost a child and come to me for photos I took of them in order for the family to have that special memory of him.

Do you have anything else you would like to add?

Sport and wildlife photography has a lot in common, they complement each other and use the same principles. For instance, you can’t choose your background or tell your subject what to do. You just need to be ready for when the action happens.

Sports photography through the lens of Frans Lombard
Sports photography through the lens of Frans Lombard

If you would like to follow Frans Lombard’s journey, you can visit his personal or Actionpic’s Facebook page.