Gracie Jiu Jitsu Knoxville, Spreading Jiu-Jitsu to the World: Tips to Take Great Jiu-Jitsu Photos

Spreading Jiu-Jitsu to the World: Tips to Take Great Jiu-Jitsu Photos

Getting into Sports Photography is Great!

Sports photography is one of the most exciting types of photography. It’s action packed, emotional, and eye-catching. Jiu-Jitsu is no different from this as well. Being in Gracie Barra, you will have near-limitless number subjects during training sessions and even in competitions.

You have seen great Gracie Barra photos, but you just can’t put your finger on what makes it good. In Gracie Barra, we believe in sharing knowledge to all of our members. Photography is no different from it. It may be completely unrelated to Jiu-Jitsu, but we’d like to have everyone learn something different from Gracie Barra once in a while. After all, every photo you upload, tag, and hare to your friends will help everyone in Gracie Barra make “Jiu-Jitsu for Everyone” a reality.

Let’s Start With the Basics.


Know Your Gear

Cameras out in the market today function differently. You have myriads of choices to go with. You may go for entry-level cameras, professional cameras, or even your nifty camera phone. It really depends, but knowing your gear can spell the difference between missing that great Jiu-Jitsu moment and getting it right between the eyes.

My suggestion: the digital single lens reflex or DSLR.

The DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex. USually bulky and has interchangeable lenses to boot.

I am not about to discriminate smartphones, but DSLRs works best in low light conditions. It is a bit pricey, but it will be worth your money. DSLRs works best since you will have the best choice in lenses for different shooting conditions. A well-prepared photographer will have 3 basic lenses, but, I’d like to add one more to the list, which is a prime lens.

The Price

Camera bodies range from 400 USD, to 1,500 USD depending on the brand and how good the sensors are. The lenses can be as cheap as 50 USDs to a whopping 5,000 USD. Again, it all depends on the make and the quality of those.

3 Great Lenses are known as the Trinity. These lenses costs between 1,000 USDs to 1,500 USDs. They perform best even in difficult shooting conditions, thus the price.

  • Ultra wide angle lenses ranging from 10-20mm in its focal length – this is great for group shots and landscape photography, but can be the most trickiest lens to use.

    The “Trinity,” It may cost an arm and a leg, but it’s worth it.

  • Medium Telephoto Lenses – Ranging from 24-70mm – great for portraits.
  • Telephoto lens, ranging from 70-200mm (to even 500m) – great for far subjects.
  • Prime lenses – characterized by its single focal length. Always great to have one around. Typically, prime lenses are the fastest types of lenses.



Composition is a broad subject in photography. There are rules in composition. However, these rules are not absolute, but these rules do work. Composing your photos properly will help you convey the message . Here are some of my favorite composition rules that have worked for me in my years of being a professional photographer.

Rule of Thirds.

This is placing your subject, or point of interest not in the middle of the frame. Imagine that you dividing your frame into 9 even sections. Place your subject either on the 1st column of the imaginary frame, or on the 3rd imaginary column. Here’s a great sample:

The Rule of Thirds

Do you think that this follows the rule of thirds?

Remember that placing your subject in the middle may not always work. But placing them anywhere in the imaginary grid can do wonders in your photos. Also take note that by using the rule of thirds, you are also letting your viewers know about the environment your subject is in.



Imagining shapes can get you great results in photography. This coincides with patterns as well. A triangle works best when it comes to taking shapes, because it follows along the clockwise path of the eyes’ gaze. Here’s a great sample:

Notice the Triangle Pattern Between the head of the fighters and the leg of the one standing up

Imagine a choke hold. What pattern does it have? Go take a photo of a choke hold now and post it in Facebook!



Patterns are basically repetitive elements in a photo that follows an imaginary line. This connotes a certain feel of wholeness in a photo with the message being conveyed by the repeating shapes and sizes. Here’s my favorite Gracie Barra Photo that does exactly that. In this photo, you’ll see a pattern of while black belts and the Gracie Barra Logo in a file.

This is a very strong example of what patterns can do.



  • If it’s not good enough, you’re not close enough – get closer to your subject by taking another step forward.
  • Mind the lighting – nothing ruins a great photo than bad lighting. Compensate by increasing the sensitivity of your camera (ISO) for different lighting conditions. Also avoid taking photos against the lighting (unless you’re gunning for a dramatic silhouette).
  • Tone down on the retouch – this is common among new photographers. Heavily retouched photos may appeal to some, but for those who can appreciate photos, heavily retouched photos are unappealing.
  • Crop properly – when cropping photos and portraits, avoid cropping limbs from the joints. It appears that the subject is has lost their limbs. I’ve seen potentially great Gracie Barra photos that were improperly cropped. A good trick would be taking the photo with the entire subject in it. Deal with the cropping of the Photo during post process instead
  • Candid shots (or what some would call ‘stolen’) tell more stories than posed photos. The principle goes back to street and journalistic photography. Wait for the right moment in taking candid shots. Use lenses with long focal lengths.
  • Tone down on the watermarks. Keep your watermarks at a minimum size of less than 5% of the photo.
  • In sports photography, use fast shutter speeds. This will help you capture that great Jiu-Jitsu moment such as the take down, or the sweep.
  • Use a caption. Tell a great story. Say something about the photo. You cannot expect your viewers to understand what happened in the photo.
  • For Indoor photography, set your ISO to 400-800. This is a standard for most.
  • Hold still by using a tripod. In dimly lit environments, having a tripod handy will work. Nothing is worse than blurred action shots (in special cases, there is aesthetics added into it).
  • Do some test shots before the event. Make sure that your shutter speed, your ISO setting, is perfect for the event.

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