Boxing combines two challenging components for a photographer: bad lighting and high speed. Challenging task, indeed. Impossible? Not! Here are a few tips on how to step up your boxing photography game!

The basics of boxing photography

Who hasn’t seen an amazing shot where someone gets a punch straight in the face – with sweat and blood all over the place? Yeah, this is the ultimate action shot everybody is looking for at a boxing event. It’s those kinds of when-preparation-meets-opportunity, you know, “lucky” shots. This instant lasts for such a brief moment, a fraction of second too late and it’s simply missed. Here’s some very simple advice you can use right now to improve your boxing photography.

How to Step Up Your Boxing Photography Game
Like in boxing, the smallest opening can be all we need to get a good hit.

Know your stuff

The more you know the sport and the athletes, the more likely you will get successful shots: you will have better timing for the punches.

Go fast

In boxing, you want at least 1/1000sec to freeze action. You can go up to 1/4000 and 1/8000 is your camera body allows it – you will make sure no droplet of anything blurs in your frame.

Go wide

Wide as in wide aperture: f/2.8 is very pretty much the rule for most photographers. Because the lighting is so bad and the action is so fast, there’s no choice really to get that good high shutter speed exposure without reaching ISO 1,000,000. (And yeah, you can go wild if you want too.)

Go high

Yep, you guessed it, while we don’t want ISO 1,000,000 but we do want a fast shutter speed. Crank that ISO up high to get the shutter speed that’s needed. (And to let you know, just in case you didn’t already, no flashes are allowed while shooting boxing.)

How to Step Up Your Boxing Photography Game
This picture, made with a Nikon D750, 50mm lens, f/1.8, 1/4000sec, ISO 3200. As you can see, the high shutter speed perfectly froze the action.

Shooting ringside

When shooting ringside, you will be confined in a very narrow space next to a bunch of your fellow photographers. This is the price to pay to have the best spot to shoot the fights. You will either have to shoot above the ropes or – if you are 5’4 and less like me – under them. Both give you a great angle of view. Depending on the ring setup, if you are at a really low angle, you might be able to get the ceiling’s lights in your frame. You can also choose to include the ropes or not in your shots. I personally like to include some of them. I feel like it adds a little more depth to my images and creates a frame around the athletes.

How to Step Up Your Boxing Photography Game
This shot from the stands shows the ringside photographers at the bottom of the image. Working ringside you literally get sweat and blood on your face, lens, and camera. This is amazing.


90% of photographers I meet at boxing events have the widest aperture zoom combo available: 24-70mm f/2.8 and a 70-200mm f/2.8. Shooting ringside is REALLY close to the action so a wide to normal angle is what you’ll need most of the time. A telephoto lens is useful to shoot in corners of when fighters are making their entrance in the ring. Zooms are popular and versatile. I personally face a challenge in those situations. I chose to buy primes (I explain why right here). Shooting ringside is very cool but also quite restrictive. The “zooming with my feet technique” doesn’t make it in this situation. I have to choose the right lens for each situation. Sometimes I am a little too close, sometimes I am a little too far. That’s the price I pay for using primes. It’s also why zooms come really handy for photographing boxing matches.

Photographing from the stands or in the balcony, requires a very long telephoto lens, something between 400mm-600mm. There are many advantages to being further away: you won’t get blocked (by the ref, the ropes or the athletes themselves), you won’t have to constantly change from lens to lens and you won’t fear to inhale or swallowing someone else’s DNA.

Shooting under the rope provides a really low angle that shows the row of lights on the top of the frame. My chest and elbows were leaning directly on the ring’s mat. 20mm lens, f/1.8, 1/2500sec, ISO 2000.

Last tips for the ride

Go continuous

Even if the good shot is usually the very first one, choose continuous shooting. Because we never know what can happen while the shutter button is pressed.

Play with speed

Freezing the action is great. But it’s also fun to play with a lower shutter speed. (Don’t do that if you don’t have any good shots yet, but if you have some spare time, why not!)

Boxing photography
Nothings beats a good win in front of the crowd.

I’ve edited all the images from this article with the new Skylum’s Luminar 2018 software. I absolutely love the look it brings to my action shots and I highly recommend it to any sports photographer enthusiast!

Have fun, try new things and be ready for some seriously fast-paced action!

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