Shooting photos in sports that have a lot of action and a lot of movement -- such as football -- can be a real challenge. It’s difficult to focus quickly enough and stop the action to create a successful football photo. And a football field is very large, so it can be tricky to position yourself in the right position to capture the images you want.
It also makes a big difference in the types of photos that you can shoot at a football game if you're at your son's little league game, where parents can line the fence surrounding the field, versus at a large NFL or college football stadium, where you will be limited in the areas from which you can shoot photos.
These tips can help you have better luck with your football photos.
- Shoot at a fast shutter speed when photographing football action. Stopping the action without blur requires a fast shutter.
- If it’s a night game or if you don’t have the shutter speed you need, consider shooting some non-action photos. Shoot some of the players along the bench or shoot some photos of the middle linebacker signaling to his teammates before the snap, trying to align them properly.
- Try to anticipate the action so you have the proper focus on the photo, especially if your camera’s autofocus isn’t fast enough to capture the action. For example, try to anticipate when the quarterback will be throwing a pass and focus on that area of the field where the quarterback will throw from before the play begins. Or, on a kick return, focus on the kick returner as he awaits the ball.
- If your camera has a continuous burst mode, shooting several photos in a row may help you capture the shot you want, especially if you’re having trouble timing the shot.
- Don’t forget about the aspect of the game that’s off the field. Shoot photos of the cheerleaders, mascots, the band, the vendors, and other fans to help round out your day at the game.
- For a youth football game, you likely are going to have a particular player or two on whom you want to focus. Use your camera's zoom lens to allow you to focus in on that player. Hold the shutter button down halfway to lock the focus onto that player, and then follow that player's movements with the shutter continuing to be pressed halfway. Press it fully to shoot the photo when you're ready. Shoot a lot of photos to make sure you end up with a good one.
- With the players wearing helmets and facemasks, it's very difficult to see their faces. Make sure that you don't zoom in so tight that you can't see the player's number, which will allow you to identify him later. However, if you have a situation where you can zoom in enough that you can see the player's eyes and face, that's where the focus should be the sharpest. The expression that football players have on their faces, showing the intensity, can make for very dramatic photos. Having a camera with a big zoom lens can be very helpful in this situation.
- At youth football, you should have plenty of opportunities to move around for images. For the most part, you'll want to shoot any close-up photos from ground level. If you want some overview types of photos, showing multiple players, move up high in the stands and shoot photos from there.
- As some youth football stadiums don't have very good lighting for night games, this situation can be a difficult one in which to have success. Try increasing the ISO setting for your camera to give you the best chance at still shooting at a shutter speed that can result in sharp images. A higher ISO setting allows the camera to shoot at faster shutter speeds in low light by making the image sensor more sensitive to light. A high ISO will result in more noise in the photo, but this is an acceptable trade-off versus having blurred images.
- With both youth football games and large stadium football games, consider arriving an hour or more before the game. This will give you the chance to perhaps shoot some photographs while the players are warming up, which serves two purposes. First, it may allow you to move a bit closer to the action than you could during game time, which should allow for some close-ups of your favorite players. Second, you can easily anticipate where the players will be moving during warm-up drills, which should make it easier to shoot the photos.
- If you’re traveling to a college or professional football game at a large stadium, be sure you know the rules about what type of photography equipment you’re allowed to bring. For example, some stadiums do not allow high-end equipment to be used, unless you’re media photographer, limiting fans to point and shoot-type cameras.
- If you’re forced to shoot from the stands at a large stadium, try moving around to give yourself a chance to shoot the photo you want. Shooting an NFL or college game from the upper deck probably won’t give you the results you want, unless you just want an overview photo of the field, as shown above. Try to find a concourse or aisle where you can be a little closer to the action ... without causing the security guards to kick you out of the stadium, of course.
- With all of the great features and architectural details that are found in the new large stadiums, you can shoot some photos that will be memorable by incorporating those items. Look for some interesting angles or dominant features for these types of images.