Grapple with the basics – try your hand at wrestling photography!

How to photograph wrestling
(Image credit: Alistair Campbell)

When you’re shooting any sports photography, the fundamentals tend to be quite similar. Using fast shutter speeds, helpful focusing techniques such as continuous or facial recognition, and other tools such as high speed burst modes will enable you to shoot enough frames to capture the winning moment. 

All these weapons add up to a powerful arsenal when trying to get 'the shot'. However, technology has become so far advanced that having these guarantees in place almost takes the fun out of it, and reduces the feeling of a proud moment when you've nailed a killer shot in one try. 

I headed to a local professional wrestling event, run by CSF Wrestling, armed with my older Canon EOS 5D MarK III (opens in new tab) and Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 lens to get back to basics by shooting with simple settings in a fast-paced environment. 

(Image credit: Alistair Campbell)

Wrestling is a slightly different beast to other sports. It’s usually happening in darker environments to create an atmosphere, you often have a lot of obstacles to shoot around – such as the ropes, corner posts and the referee – and the frays can unexpectedly spill out into the audience.

However, by concentrating on the action, keeping your shots simple and choosing the right time to fire off the shutter you’ll be creating some strong images in no time at all. 

If you’re lucky enough to find yourself at ringside, always be aware of your surroundings – there is a real chance if you lean into the ring at the wrong time that you or your camera could be hit by a flying elbow or wrestling boot!

How to photograph wrestling

(Image credit: Alistair Campbell)

01 Capture the entrances

This is a great chance to start getting some shots, as competitors will often enter accompanied by smoke, vibrant lights and dry ice. They’ll also be wearing more exciting costumes, so don’t miss this opportunity to capture something aside from the main in-ring action.

(Image credit: Alistair Campbell)

02 Get close to the action

Being right by the action will give you plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal. Shoot wide open to bring focus to the main subject and let the most light into your camera, as venues tend to be on the darker side.

(Image credit: Alistair Campbell)

03 Shoot wide for high flyers

Using a zoom lens will give you the most versatility, as you’ll be surprised how wide you need to shoot to get the entire scene in. It’s best to frame up wider than you think to avoid wrestlers going out of frame, particularly when they take to the sky.

• Best zoom lenses (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Alistair Campbell)

04 Put your viewer in the action

No matter what happens, stick with the action – literally anything can happen when adrenaline is running high. Follow the narrative of the match and imitate the field of view similar to your own eyes.

Read more:

Best cameras for sports photography
(opens in new tab)Best Canon wide-angle zoom lenses
(opens in new tab)Best Nikon wide-angle zoom lenses (opens in new tab)

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Alistair is the Features Editor of Digital Camera magazine, and has worked as a professional photographer and video producer.