Photographing a Cheer and Dance Competition #CanonL

By now you should know that I have a passion for photography and capturing all those precious memories that fill our days. This is why I started my Month in Photos series, in which I make an easy photo collage of my favourite photos for each month. The goal was to stop leaving precious photos in files and on drives – and to actually ‘do’ more with my photos. To collect and have something tangible to share.

In collecting these photo favourites each month, I’ve been able to clearly see where I need to improve. For instance, my kids are in so many activities and these times do take up the bulk of our days. Yet, getting pictures of those especially chaotic times isn’t that simple.

As much as I’ve wanted to include action shots of cheer and dance in my favourites each month, the ones I’ve taken have been constantly blurry and way too grainy. So at months end, I’d feel a little loss that one big event wasn’t clearly captured.

how to photograph a cheer and dance competition

So, one of the biggest obstacles that I have been wanting to overcome, is Photographing a Cheer and Dance Competition. I’ve been to countless competitions and haven’t before been able to capture the true essence of the sport and the passion in my own athlete’s eyes.

If you aren’t familiar, cheerleading competitions are usually held in gymnasiums or facilities where the lighting and colours are very stubborn. When you have dark surroundings, clashing colours with the uniforms and backdrop, plus so much motion – getting photos that aren’t horribly grainy to downright blurry-beyond-recognition, is very hard.

This I know, since I’ve tried at each and every competition for two years and could not get a close-up photo that was crisp and clear. Talk about frustration!

But then I got the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM lens, a luxury series lens from Canon, and it’s literally expanded what I am able to capture in our everyday lives. This lens was the key to overcoming that main obstacle.

It’s like the lens actually said – brace yourself, I got this.

how to photograph a cheer competiton canon

And did it ever. WOW!

The photos I’ve been able to capture at the last couple of cheerleading events has been beyond what I could ever snap. The best part is that in the chaos of getting these captures in the short few minutes you have {so much pressure}, what you see here is the sport/action setting on my Canon.

photograph a cheer competiton canonl

I have shot other teams in manual {as practice} yet it would be a change in lighting, a spotlight movement, an unexpected flip or toss of the hair – and it would really affect the shot. Truth is, I’m just not ‘there’ quite yet, to be a manual setting pro under that much pressure. So, while I did hesitate to move that dial to an auto setting, and guilt did set in when I did so, it was ok!

This confession of mine only proves that while the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM lens is a luxury and professional lens, anyone can use it. From the professional sports photographers in the sidelines to the parents that support their children from the stands – this is a lens that will give absolutely anyone amazing photos, even when on the auto settings.

how to photograph a cheer and dance competition canonl review

Now that I’ve overcome one huge hurdle of getting that great Cheer and Dance Competition photo – my next step is to move to manual when taking those action shots of my kids. The great thing is, I don’t have to be right in my kids faces telling them to hold that pose while I try to master the settings.

taking photos of cheer and dance competitions

I see myself on the deck this summer, cool drink and camera in hand – practicing manual while my kids play in the yard. Since the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM is one boss of a telephoto lens, I can sit back and let my kids do their natural thing {away from Mom, ’cause thats what kids do}, and still capture those memories even from afar.

Through these magnificent cheerleading photos with the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM lens, I’m able to re-live each proud moment day after day. Versus the admittingly horrible photos I took at previous competitions, these ones make me feel just like that day I was actually there. I’m so pleased to finally have captured some amazing cheer photos!

how to photograph a cheer and dance competition canon luxury lens review canadian blogger

Would you love to get more Photog tips? Check out the creative photography tips on, it’s there to help you with capturing your baby’s most precious moments.


All images shot SOTC with the exception of re-sizing and the addition of a watermark.

Disclosure: I was provided with product to facilitate this review, all opinions are my own.




  1. Wow, those photos are amazing. I need to get a camera and lens like that for my son’s karate.

  2. I know you’re not a professional photographer but those are some professional style photos, such a great testament to this lens! I think I have a new item for my Amazon wishlist….

    1. Thanks Jenna. And so true, I am most certainly not a professional, but Canon makes it easy for me to love my photos like I am one! 😉

  3. What an amazing lens. I am in the market and I think you convinced me. I am forever taking pictures and after what seems like hours fixing them I’m at my wits end. Just look how clear your are. Definitely Want!!

  4. Those photos are amazing! They turned out so good. I need to get a better camera like this one. I have a Canon camera now as well, but I need an upgrade to an even better Canon.

    1. I have a few Canon bodies, so I know the feeling. That being said, having a L series lens has made the world of difference. I’d love to have a couple more now, after seeing what one can do!

  5. Awesome, awesome photos. They look like you’re standing right in front of the action, and they are super crisp.

  6. I LOVE this pictures. I need a lens like this for getting action shots of my puppies. They are so adorable, but I generally can’t get good shots of them on the move. =(

  7. I would love to see a live Cheer contest! So much energy and fun! Your pictures look amazing!

  8. You are obviously great at photography and have the right equipment. These shots are amazing!!! I tried to get some actions shots of my son’s b-ball team and they were not good like these… I have to get the right Canon gear!

  9. I love to take action shots with my Canon. Your photos are amazing. I felt as if I was there!

  10. You did an excellent job getting these girls in action! They all look so pretty too! Great job!

  11. This is an amazing set up! You’ve captured awesome action shots- AND you didn’t need to pay for the professional photos!

  12. Oh my goodness, this could not have come at a better time. Just the other day, I missed so many great shots at my 4 year old’s cheer recital. 🙁 I totally need to check this out. Thanks for sharing.

  13. I used to love going to my daughter’s cheer competitions. I wish I was able to take photos as clear as these back then!

  14. You captured some great shots! I could have used some tips taking photos of my daughter’s competition two years ago! 😀

  15. I love photographing sporting events. My daughter started dance this year and she is 4, so I absolutely must capture every single memory and moment. I love my Canon too, we just got it this past Black Friday. It’s made capturing shots so much easier.

  16. You got amazing photos of the competition they look like professional shots. Looks like a fun competition for her!

  17. What an awesome camera! I have to have one. All of my action pictures are blurry. You shots are so clear and perfect!

  18. Funny story, I married my high school cheer partner! These pictures are incredible and brought back so many happy memories for me!

  19. Those photos are great! I need a camera like that! My daughter may be too young for sports, but she never sits still longer enough for a good picture.

    1. Thank you! It’s so hard when they start moving, sports or just active. This is where a good telephoto comes in handy!

  20. Wow! Amazing pictures, she has grown up so much since your blog first started, hard to believe! Must seem unreal to you, she is a gorgeous girl and sure looks like you. These will be perfect when she gets married and put on a collage that people now have in the hall for people to see! Brace yourself it’s flying by and it will be here sooner than you think 🙂

  21. Holy smokes your pictures are AMAZING! What a difference a great camera and lens can make.

  22. These photos turned out amazing. The colors are so crisp and clear. My daughter was in Cheer. It was hard to get good pictures of the routine.

  23. Great pictures,they really captured the moment. The young ladies all look so enthusiastic. They all are so pretty,too.
    Marilyn and Marion

  24. What amazing shots! While the camera is incredible, it also takes an amazing photographer to get the shots. Great job

  25. Hi Tammi!

    I just got a F2.8 70-22mm lens and am trying to figure out how to use it at the cheer comps too! It’s hard when you are practically up on the stage with them in the parent viewing area. How did you get that ones of the team stunt without cutting someone off? Also, what were all your settings as I struggle with that too!

    1. It’s very difficult to get shots with this lens when that close for sure, most of our comps don’t have a parent viewing area but rather we shoot from the stands. If you can go back to the the back of the parent viewing area without other people in between, that would be ideal as to not cut athletes out. As for settings it’s hard for me to say because I find that lighting and background colour makes a huge difference, and I’ve had to use different settings each time depending on this. Trial and error for sure. If you can, go to the viewing area when another team is on, and practice with different settings so you can find the right one before the team you want to shoot comes on so you are ready. Good luck!!

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