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Winter Sports Photography: Ice Skating

Figure skating is a spectacular discipline. And also speed, choreography, and nice figures are beautiful to photograph! Taking advantage of some particulars in the lighting of the ice palace stadium, you can achieve amazing effects on your photographs. Read on to see the results.

Figure skating is a classic winter sport that’s always nice to photograph. Generally, we need to take care about exposure setting, the choice of the camera and film. In this article I will show you some tricks to get spectacular photos!

Photo by sirio174

1. The best camera to use would be an SLR with telephoto lens between 135 and 300mm. I used a 135 and a 200mm manual focus lens. Longer focal lengths are difficult to focus when used at full aperture in manual mode so for a 300 mm lens is better to use an autofocus lens).

Photo by sirio174

2. Use a high ISO film — from 800 to 1600 for color photography and even to 3200 for black and white. The amount of light in an ice stadium is almost always insufficient for medium and low speed films. In this case I used a Fuji Superia 800.

Photo by sirio174

3. After you have measured the exposure, open the diaphragm to 1.5 or 2 stop, or chose a two stop lower time. Don’t shoot without this correction or else the ice will appear like a medium grey tone. Also, don’t overexpose more than 2 stops because in the even of heavy overexposure, the ice will appear like a smooth white surface without tracks of the skate. Athletes will seem to compete on an unreal surface, like glass.

Photo by sirio174

4. Take some shots with some strong backlight, you can obtain great silhouettes!

5. If there is a mix of natural and artificial light, like in this ice stadium in Como, Italy, the dominant color of the ice will vary during the time of the day. Some photos were taken some hours before sunset when the warm winter sunlight compensates for the cold light of the lamps. Others were taken just after sunset or in a dusk or night condition when the cold tones prevail!

6. Use a “heavy” skylight filter (1B) if you prefer warm tones (like me)! The normal (1A) skylight is insufficient to compensate for the cold tones of the artificial light, If you have a set of corrector filters, you can try to obtain different colors of the ice.

7. Use a shutter speed of at least 1/250s up to 1/1000s — the movement of the athletes will be very fast so be prepared. Very often you need to work at maximum aperture (F2,8 in my case) even with high speed film.

Photo by sirio174

8. If you need to use a slower time, use a tripod or a monopod (this is ideal if you are sitting between other people) to reduce blurred photos due to the movement of the camera.

Photo by sirio174

These photos were taken during the juniores Italian championship in Como with my trusty Praktica camera.

written by sirio174


  1. mnella


    Excellent tips! I'll be trying these out this winter.

    about 1 year ago · report as spam
  2. asharnanae


    the colours and shapes within the silhouette photos are particularly lovely :)

    about 1 year ago · report as spam

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This is the original article written in: English. It is also available in: Italiano, Deutsch & Русский.