Figure skating is a beautiful sport that exemplifies elegance and beauty. It is no surprise that people love to watch figure skating. It isn’t easy to photograph the sport. There is one focal point: the skater. There will also be fast bursts and low-light situations.

The Action Can Be Freezed

Figure skater performing at Stars on ice show

Figure skaters weave their bodies in ballet-like moves, which presents many opportunities for photographers. To adequately fill the frame with your subject, use a fast shutter speed of 1/500th second and a zoom lens. Close-up opportunities depend on where you’re sitting. You should capture the moment when the figure skater balances and holds a pose. You can set your lens to the widest aperture, but don’t forget to increase the ISO to 800. An IS lens (image stabilizing) is very helpful for blurring in low light conditions.

Zoom in Close

Professional figure skaters

A zoom lens is the best option. However, they can be expensive and heavy, which may mean that you will need additional support. A telephoto zoom lens with a 70-400mm focal length and the aperture set at the widest setting (smallest number), should be sufficient if you’re sitting far away from the action. Make sure you fill the frame with your subject. To automatically refocus the lens on the skater, set the focus mode to AF (Autofocus).

Use a Large Aperture

Professional woman figure skater

In indoor or low-light environments, you will need to use the largest aperture (f/2.8-f/4) in order to get sharp and well-exposed images. Photographing figure skaters will result in a sharp image with a narrow aperture (f/2.8-f/4). However, a smaller aperture such as f/16 will allow you to focus on the skater and blur the background. Camera shake can be avoided by using a monopod or a chair to rest your camera. You can also increase the ISO to 400 or higher if needed.

Capture the Face of the Subject

Female figure skater

Figure skaters, in their costumes, look amazing so why not use your zoom lens to take some portraits? It’s a great time to photograph figure skaters on the podiums. Flash would not be permitted at this time. You want a cropped image with even lighting. For blurred backgrounds, change the mode dial to AV mode (Aperture Priority). If the indoor lighting is dim, you can increase the ISO. Focus on the eyes of the skater and place a meter in front of their faces.

Blur is a great way to show motion

Figure skating with motion blur

You can create motion blur in low-light situations or indoors by using a slow shutter speed (1/10-1/60s) and placing your camera on a monopod. This will prevent camera shake. The skater will appear blurred, while the rest of your photo will remain sharp. Another option is to use the panning technique. Pre-focus on your skater, then follow her horizontally with your lens while pressing the shutter key. The result should show a sharp skater against a blurred background. This is it!


There may be times when the lights are turned off for figure skating. Flash can be used as long as it is separate and powerful. Most flashes on camera are only able to reach 10-15 feet, creating a strange half-lit image. Flash can be distracting for skaters and not all venues will allow it. If this is the case you can use a wide-angle lens to open the aperture to its widest setting. You can raise the ISO to 800 by using a monopod or tripod.


If you need to get a faster shutter speed in low light conditions, an ISO of 800 is recommended. Wide-angle lenses are best, so you don’t need flash. A telephoto lens will require more light than a wider-angle lens so you might need to increase the ISO to 1600 or 3200.

Equipment we recommend

When possible, use fast lenses. Telephoto lenses with a focal length of 300-400mm are useful for stadiums. They allow you to zoom in on your subjects. Since flash is unlikely to be an option, a monopod or bean bag can provide support.


Figure skating is one of the most beautiful forms of sport. Unfortunately, not many people have the chance to see it. Even though a skater might only be able to dance for a few seconds, it is worth taking a lot of photos. You can plan ahead by watching videos to see how film crews select their angles and images. This knowledge will help you make the most of your situation.