Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics wearing a protective face mask against the Washington Wizards

The best sports photos of 2023: Great images and the stories behind them

If the sport was amazing in 2023, the photography was just as good.

Getty Images’ award-winning team of photographers cover more than 50,000 sporting events each year, so narrowing it down to the best images was no easy task.

BBC Sport brings you 23 amazing photos from 2023 – and the photographers who captured them take you behind the lens to explain just how they did it.

Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics wearing a protective face mask against the Washington WizardsJaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics

Patrick Smith: NBA player Jaylen Brown sustained a facial fracture and was forced to wear a protective face mask. For a sport that requires no equipment other than shoes, the nature of the photograph was made by tying the storytelling and compelling graphics together – from the way his hairstyle leads your eye one way and then his eyes another. It makes for a mysterious, superhero mask-style image that makes viewers pause, wonder and ask questions.

Elisa Longo Borghini crashes on stage five of the Giro d'Italia DonneElisa Longo Borghini crashes on stage five of the Giro d’Italia Donne

Dario Belingheri: I was really surprised and sad at the same time taking this picture. I was following with the viewfinder the leader’s pink jersey of the Giro d’Italia Donne and out of my corner of my eye I saw Elisa going straight and not able to make the corner because she was riding too fast. In a split second I changed the focus on her and captured her whole crash. It was a thrilling moment because I knew I took a good picture, but I did not know if she was alive because she fell in a ravine 10ft deep at 60km/h. In the end she was fine and when I saw her walking to get back on the bike, I thought she was a very strong woman.

Danielle Collins serves against Caroline Garcia in the quarter-finals of the San Diego OpenDanielle Collins serves against Caroline Garcia in the quarter-finals of the San Diego Open

Sean M Haffey: Generally at tennis tournaments, busy backgrounds detract from the action on the court. Logos and wording many times take your eye away from the action you are trying to convey in pictures. I noticed this logo on the back wall lined up well with the athletes and, after a few serves, I realised this was something I could use to enhance the image instead of detracting from it. I spent a while getting into the right position to line a sponsor’s logo with a serving player to make a dynamic photo of what would otherwise have been average.

Ronaldo is introduced to Al-Nassr fans at Mrsool Park Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi ArabiaRonaldo is introduced to Al-Nassr fans at Mrsool Park Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Photo by Anadolu. Cristiano Ronaldo’s arrival in Saudi Arabia to play for Al-Nassr was like an earthquake in the world of football and sport. It was undoubtedly one of the biggest stories of the year, opening the door for world-class players to join the Saudi Pro League. His arrival was a huge event, and this picture from behind Ronaldo, with his iconic number seven on his back, shows the scale of the spectacle. David Ramos, Getty chief photographer.

Kong Man Wai Vivian competes against Lee Hyein in the women's epee team gold medal match at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, ChinaKong Man Wai Vivian competes against Lee Hyein in the women’s epee team gold medal match at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China

Shi Tang: Covering fencing for the first time at the Asian Games, I wanted to bring in the style I usually adopt for badminton. I created this image by taking advantage of the clean black background contrasting well with the all-white gear of the athletes and their explosive movements.

A giraffe photobombs the captains' selfie before the Cricket World Cup Qualifier in ZimbabweA giraffe photobombs the captains’ selfie before the Cricket World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe

Alex Davidson: Now and again, light, event and place merge in an unexpected way. African skies, the captains’ photocall for the World Cup Qualifier in Harare, Zimbabwe, and a giraffe. What could go wrong? The light was perfect, the captains relaxed as they concentrated on their own selfie and the giraffe behaved impeccably. The shot captured the spirit of fun and place which was to characterise the tournament.

Juan Postigo tees off at the G4D Open in WoburnJuan Postigo tees off at the G4D Open in Woburn

Luke Walker: The wonder of sport is that it has no limits. Juan Postigo is a true example of this despite his disability. In this image his precision and athleticism are perfect. The top of a backswing makes some of the nicest shapes in golf photography.

Donna Vekic serves in the fourth round against Linda Fruhvirtova at the Australian OpenDonna Vekic serves in the fourth round against Linda Fruhvirtova at the Australian Open

Zhang Lintao: The Rod Laver Arena is used as an open-air arena for much of the day. In the afternoon I was searching on the roof for the best light to appear and found the perfect light in a crack. When Donna Vekic served, I captured this moment, using a symmetrical angle of light to showcase the most beautiful moment of a tennis player.

England's Mary Earps dives in vain to keep out Sam Kerr's shot for Australia in the Women's World Cup semi-final in Sydney, AustraliaEngland’s Mary Earps dives in vain to keep out Sam Kerr’s shot for Australia in the Women’s World Cup semi-final in Sydney

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Cameron Spencer: This image was created using a remote camera installed high in the corner of the goal during the Women’s World Cup semi-final. I love it as it shows England goalkeeper Mary Earps in full flight diving in an attempt to save one of the goals of the tournament, scored by Australia captain Sam Kerr. Earps is twisted in mid-air, looking back in desperation towards the ball in the direction of the camera, capturing a dramatic moment during the match.

Evangelia Platanioti competes in the artistic swimming solo free final at the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, JapanEvangelia Platanioti competes in the artistic swimming solo free final at the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan

Adam Pretty: There were only a few degrees of angle where the background was nice and clean in the whole swimming pool. I set up with a 600mm lens on the floor of the pool deck and hoped and waited for something to happen in the perfect place. Fortunately, Evangelia’s routine took her through the perfect area and I was able to capture this image. For me, a good sports picture is when several different elements all come together – lighting and background, aesthetic beauty, graphics and shape when combined with action or emotion can result in something special.

David Rinaldo competes at the X Games California in VenturaDavid Rinaldo competes at the X Games California in Ventura

Sean M Haffey: The X Games never disappoint for strong imagery, but a saturated sunset really made for a great image of David Rinaldo of France as he jumps 40ft in the air while letting go of his motorcycle. Little elements like the reflection off his goggles as he looks away from the motorcycle, and the fact that his body language conveys total confidence with such a difficult trick, really make me feel like this is a great photograph.

Ryan Blaney races in the Nascar Cup Series 600 in North CarolinaRyan Blaney races in the Nascar Cup Series 600 in North Carolina

Jared C Tilton: I have always had a passion for the feel of speed in motorsports photography. Bringing this sense of speed with the use of colour and lines is what makes this image stand out to me, as well as appreciating how the light shaft beams through the opening in the grandstands to highlight the car.

The Indigenous All Stars and the Maori All Stars face off before the NRL All Stars match in Rotorua, New ZealandThe Indigenous All Stars and the Maori All Stars face off before the NRL All Stars match in Rotorua, New Zealand

Hannah Peters: Photographing the New Zealand Maori haka is always special to me as you never know what might happen. In this image the two teams kept moving forward with the challenge until almost touching. It is a powerful sign of respect when they get this close and creates an amazing atmosphere right from the beginning of the match.

A diver practises before the women's high diving preliminaries at the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, JapanA diver practises before the women’s high diving preliminaries at the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan

Adam Pretty: The high diving venue was pretty tough to work because there were not many picture opportunities. However, I walked around and scouted the whole venue from every angle I could find and decided on this location, as it could work if the sun came out. Fortunately, the sun popped at just the right moment and hit the roof of the stadium for a few seconds when a high diver was mid-dive, and I was able to capture the image. It was maybe a little risky as, if the sun never appeared, it would be a rather flat and lifeless image. But, with the right light, it all came together.

Jonas Vingegaard and the peloton on stage eight of the Tour de France from Libourne to LimogesJonas Vingegaard and the peloton on stage eight of the Tour de France from Libourne to Limoges

David Ramos: If you ask a photographer covering the Tour de France, ‘what photograph do you want in your pocket at the end of the Tour?’, a field of sunflowers like this would be in the top three wishes. It was a perfect landscape to wait for the peloton. Road cycling is tricky to plan, because the race and the landscape are constantly changing. You can decide to stop in place to take a photo that looks good and risk losing this amazing field of sunflowers because you are stuck behind the peloton.

Olivia Ottaway dives under a wave in Teahupo'o, French Polynesia, which will host the surfing event for the Paris 2024 OlympicsOlivia Ottaway dives under a wave in Teahupo’o, French Polynesia, which will host the surfing event for the Paris 2024 Olympics

Ryan Pierse: The surf break in the small Tahitian village of Teahupo’o is a thing of beauty but also demands a high level of respect. I love how this underwater image of Australian surfer Olivia Ottaway shows both the power of the wave and the proximity to the sharp coral reef sitting just feet below. To get below the surfer, I had to time my dive down to a few metres below the surface, turn around and capture the duck dive under the wave. While not ideal lighting conditions for an underwater shot, the clarity of the water in Tahiti ensures you can see clearly under the surface on most occasions. This frame was also taken in the last 10 minutes of a 10-day feature shoot at Teahupo’o, which also makes it extra special. I’m glad I went for one last swim before my flight home.

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Saracens Mavericks v Severn Stars in the Netball Super League in NottinghamSaracens Mavericks v Severn Stars in the Netball Super League in Nottingham

Naomi Baker: I knew the image I wanted to create going into this netball event. It took a while to get the exact shape and pause in motion that really draws your eye in to the action. Netball is one of the hardest sports to photograph so I am really proud to come away with this.

Andre Jackson Jr hangs on to the rim after scoring for the Connecticut Huskies against the Miami Hurricanes in the NCAA Final Four semi-final in HoustonAndre Jackson Jr hangs on to the rim after scoring for the Connecticut Huskies against the Miami Hurricanes in the NCAA Final Four semi-final in Houston

Carmen Mandato: I see it as part of my job to showcase the athleticism and beauty of sport to the viewer not in attendance. We set up multiple remote cameras to ensure we can have the best angle as moments unfold. This image being wide, almost a scene-setter, reinforces that these heroics are being performed in a packed arena in front of thousands of fans.

Samuel Mindra at the US Figure Skating Championships in San Jose, CaliforniaSamuel Mindra at the US Figure Skating Championships in San Jose, California

Ezra Shaw: This photograph came during the gala on the last day of the US Figure Skating Championships. This is an exhibition and it usually makes for good pictures because they use more dramatic lighting compared to the rest of the event. This event was in my local area and I know the man who runs the arena. I contacted him and asked if he would allow me up in the ‘catwalk’. He escorted me up and showed me a perfect position to get a unique angle of the skaters. Then I just had to be ready for the right skater performing the right move. Luckily for me, I was able to come away with this picture of Samuel Mindra spinning with his foot over his head.

Riders in the Hawkstone International MX race in ShrewsburyRiders in the Hawkstone International MX race in Shrewsbury

Cameron Smith: This drone image was something I had been trying to create for a while. Looking for an opportunity within sports photography to explore this unique angle was especially new and exciting for me and it worked perfectly on this day. The symmetry, leading lines and pops of colour really make this image stand out.

The men's keirin final at the Track Champions League in Montigny le Bretonneux, FranceThe men’s keirin final at the Track Champions League in Montigny le Bretonneux, France

Alex Pantling: The UCI track cycling is great for photographers – the sport really puts on a show and gives the audience a spectacle by changing the lighting set-up in the venue. Because of this it helps us create unique imagery like this pan shot of the cyclists in the keirin final, perfectly illustrating the energy, speed and excitement from the race.

Kimberley Min Lim and Rui Qi Cecilia Low of Singapore compete at the Paris 2024 sailing test event in MarseilleKimberley Min Lim and Rui Qi Cecilia Low of Singapore compete at the Paris 2024 sailing test event in Marseille

Clive Mason: We had had a pretty average day on the water and the light had not been very good all day so, collectively, we decided to come ashore and hope for better the following day. A quick glimpse once ashore, however, showed the sun poking out between the clouds, so a couple of us, and a very willing photo boat driver, hurriedly headed back out just in time to capture this frame. I wanted a low angle but, as we had rushed out, I did not have my waterproof camera housing, so I had to lower my camera over the side of the boat as close as I dared to the surface of the water to capture this frame.

A general view of fireworks at the podium celebrations after the Saudi Arabian GP in JeddahFireworks and a drone show after the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah

Clive Mason: My photo position for the race was from what I think is an unsold apartment, which the race organisers arrange for the official photographers. You can shoot a variety of images from this apartment as it has three sides, all offering different views of the track. I knew that at the conclusion of the race there would be a huge drone show and firework display over the track and part of my brief was to capture it. It is not as easy as one would imagine, because to get this view (the window only opens 20cm for safety reasons) I had to awkwardly hold the camera, wedged in the gap with my widest lens to capture both the fireworks and the drones while using the camera’s flip-out viewfinder screen to compose the image.

All photographs subject to copyright.