Time-lapse photography for sporting events

Above: capturing the ATP Champions Tour tennis event at the Royal Albert Hall.

There are many aspects of sport that can be represented visually; time-lapse is instrumental to providing an alternative to the more traditional sporting narratives we are used to seeing.

Popular sporting events such as Wimbledon and the football World Cup dominate all forms of entertainment schedule for weeks at a time.

Rolling footage and imagery of replays, scoreboards and news bulletins flood our TV screens especially, in the hopes of amassing viewers for the duration of such tournaments.

But time-lapse photography provides a truly bespoke way of capturing and relaying sporting action than is typically found on television.

A different view of the action

Time-lapse is generally used as a method for documenting long-term progress in all manner of sectors.

Sporting events and particular matches do not necessarily take up as much time, with action unfolding at a much faster pace – but this is not to say that time-lapse is not useful for recording these things.

A time-lapse camera system can allow for a quicker pace by varying the interval rate of capture, allowing images to be taken more frequently.

Of course, the pace of play for each sport is slightly different but time-lapse is adaptable to the individual circumstances of its subject. As such, events which unfold over a much shorter timeframe are still visually engaging.

This video, for example, enables a different perspective from the birds eye view that you are used to seeing as part of live TV coverage of tennis. Instead, here we get a sense of the atmosphere surrounding the sport. Wimbledon – the most prestigious of tennis championships – is represented as dramatic, exciting and incredibly popular.

This time-lapse video also captures some of the action on the courts from Wimbledon 2012. Notably, the tilt-shift effect adds an unusual depth of field to the players and their game.

As well as the action itself, the hive of activity surrounding stadiums, sporting grounds and city streets is an element worth time-lapsing.

Taking this video of the 2018 World Cup public screening of Korea v Mexico as an example, the collective energy and movements of the crowd are exaggerated and more clearly discernible with rapid capture time-lapse.

For more examples of ways in which to time-lapse the World Cup, check out our recent blog on this topic. In previous blogs, we have also considered how time-lapse is used to document all aspects of prestigious national tournaments, such as the Olympic games.

Home improvements

Time-lapse is also a useful tool to document the added extras of sport and take a look at what goes on behind-the-scenes at particular events.

Our own work provides a useful illustration of this given that we have been involved with many projects relating to the construction, improvement and redevelopment of stadia.

Time-lapse photography on construction projects is incredibly beneficial, as we have detailed elsewhere. But improvements to stadia and grounds are particularly popular among fans because they can keep track of how their home turf is progressing.

We were commissioned to capture a 36-week period of construction at Vicarage Road, home to Watford FC,  tracking the build of the then-new Sir Elton John Stand. Additionally, our site monitoring services facilitated live access to the demolition & construction developments as they were in progress.

Old Main Stand being demolished with the new Sir Elton John stand under construction
Above: the old Main Stand being demolished to be replaced with the new Sir Elton John stand under construction.

As is evident from projects such as these, an incredible amount of work is undertaken behind-the-scenes of a sporting event of any kind.

Elsewhere in football, we provided time-lapse for UEFA at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium for their clash with AC Milan as part of the Champions League. Over four days we time-lapsed the entire event from start to finish, including:

  • the UEFA signage vehicles unloading and loading

    Inside the Emirates Stadium for UEFA
    Above: dressing the Emirates Stadium before a key Champions League game in 2012.
  • the signage teams at work in numerous locations to dress the stadium
  • the match itself
  • hospitality areas
  • press rooms
  • and the crowd filling and emptying the stadium.

So not only does time-lapse serve an archival functionality for fans, but it can be a visually engaging way of adding a narrative that will preserve the memory of such special events.

Perhaps more importantly, time-lapse shines a light on the important work that goes into producing such events, which would otherwise have gone undocumented.


Although not the first method of capture considered when documenting a sporting event, time-lapse is certainly becoming more of a popular way of rendering mass crowds, high stakes, and fast-paced action – but also those all important behind-the-scenes elements.

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