How to give light to the darkness with volunteers working with NGOs

Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 400, ƒ/8, 1/100–Neewer TT850, Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel transmitter [Exposure Bias: -4/6 EV]

This morning I was shooting volunteers that were pulling nails out of 2’x4’s. We started early because is was actually sprinkling and a down pour was on it’s way. This was a nasty overcast day.

Now when people bend over and have on ball caps well this is the worst possible situation I can think of shooting where the natural light is actually working against you.

This morning I avoided getting this type of photo that I had at a football game. See how you cannot see their faces. The light is from above and when they are facing down you have total black under those helmets just like you have under the visor of a baseball cap.

My assistant took one of the Neewer TT850 flashes and I had the transmitter which controls the power on my camera. Sometimes I was at 1/8 power and other times only needed about 1/64 power to fill in those shadows of the people working.

My camera is pretty much on the ground so I can see their faces and so is the flash. I asked the assistant to try and stay 45º to 90º from me to create a triangle. I am one corner the subject is another and the flash is the 3rd corner of the triangle.

I am also slightly under exposing from 1/3 to 2/3 and even up to -1 stop under. The flash is kicking in and becomes the main light on the faces.

Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 180, ƒ/8, 1/100–Neewer TT850, Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel transmitter [Exposure Bias: -4/6 EV]

Had I used on camera flash I would have gotten much better results than without a flash, but by getting the flash off the camera I create more modeling of the skin and creating depth.

Just remember to always have a flash in case you need to do something similar to help the audience connect with the subject.

Protecting Camera from the Rain

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/11, 1/15

Tonight I got caught across town in NYC with the rain coming down. Tried to get a Taxi and couldn’t get one quick enough, so we took a Manhattan Rickshaw Taxi. It even had a plastic cover which really made for some cool pictures.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 8000, ƒ/11, 1/100

So riding in a Rickshaw through Times-Square was a lot of fun.

It was a bad weather moment and we were able to turn it into a fun moment. Our cameras all remained dry all the way to the hotel.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 1000, ƒ/4, 1/100

Now one thing I noticed was shooting a shallow depth-of-field wasn’t as good as stopping down from ƒ/4 to ƒ/11 gave me a better result for my taste.

I was also impressed with the driver. He got us in pretty quick time to our hotel passing many of the cabs. 

I am in the People Business

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1400, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

McDonald’s

Most people don’t realize it, but McDonald’s is not a burger-flipping restaurant chain; it is one of the world’s best real estate portfolios. Franchisees flip the burgers. McDonald’s simply owns the best commercial property all over the world.

Well through the years and more so lately it has struggled. At one point Ray Kroc said, “McDonald’s is a people business, and that smile on that counter girl’s face when she takes your order is a vital part of our image.” However, that wasn’t a consistent quote from their leader.

Another time Kroc said, “We’re not in the hamburger business. We’re in show business.” But the one I hear the most often when you are at business schools is “We are in the real estate business, not the hamburger business.”

Nikon D3, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 2000, ƒ/2.8, 1/400

Chick-fil-A

The founder of Chick-fil-A Truett Cathy said, “My business grew on my understanding that customers are always looking for somebody who is dependable and polite and will take care of them.”

Today Chick-fil-A has a corporate purpose that is in front of their company headquarters that everyone in their company if you ask them can pretty much quote this for memory.

To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.

I have been in countless meetings where I continue to hear “we have made a commitment to take care of the people who take care of our communities.”

Dan Cathy says,

At Chick-fil-A, we are convinced that Jesus had it right in Matthew 20:26 when He said, “Those who want to become great (leaders) must be willing to become servants.” WE built our leadership competency model around the word SERVE, because we believe that great leaders…

S ee the future
E ngage and develop others
R einvent continuously
V alue results and relationships
E mbody the values

In the lobby of Chick-fil-A Support Center is this statue of Jesus washing Peter’s feet. Here you can see a tour group in the background.

Nikon D3S, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 11400, ƒ/4.8, 1/100

Every manager goes through training on the SERVE model and when they complete the training they get a miniature replica of this statue to put on their desks and remind them of their role.

Communication Professionals

Are you in the people business or are you defining what you do a different way? I believe the core of what we do is all about people. When you ask the basic question of WHY? for all your work it will lead you to a group of people or a person.

Now many of you might think that Jesus was just a push over and a doormat based on the washing of his subordinate’s feet.

If you read John 2:13-22 you will see Jesus clearing the temple with a whip.

Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/320

Humanitarian Communication

Great communication with an audience requires the communicator to ask, “Why should the audience care?”

I think the key to great humanitarian photography is tapping into people’s compassion for one another.

Compassion literally means, “to suffer together.” Among emotion researchers, it is defined as the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering.

Compassion is not the same as empathy or altruism, though the concepts are related. While empathy refers more generally to our ability to take the perspective of and feel the emotions of another person, compassion is when those feelings and thoughts include the desire to help.

Sadly today to get the audiences attention on caring for those who are in need it takes a lot to move the human spirit. After covering those around the world who by no fault of their own are struggling to live and find audiences not responding it can cause the heart of the communicator to break.

Summary

You can define your business as Ray Kroc or as Truett Cathy did with their models.

In 2015, McDonald’s closed down more than 700 of their restaurants.

Nikon D4, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 3600, ƒ/8, 1/100

Chick-fil-A just celebrated their 2000th store opening in Springfield, IL. Here is the story. They have plans to open 95 stores this year.

You maybe thinking that this is nothing compared to all the McDonald’s worldwide, but the reputations of the two chains couldn’t be further apart.

Chick-fil-A is the highest ranking fast food restaurant in the U.S. for customer satisfaction, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index Restaurant Report 2015.

If you are in the people business then the most important thing is the customer satisfaction, because sales are always there with this model.

Three Simple Tips To Improve Your Photos

Nikon D4, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 1800, ƒ/4, 1/250

Why does this photo above work so much better than the one just below?

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED,  ISO 250, ƒ/2.8, 1/100

I got much closer. That is the biggest difference between the two photos. When I got closer I was also able to control the background more and clean it up.

Without touching the food that was laid out for the media to see at the most recent Chick-fil-A Grand Opening in Springfield, IL I took different pictures of the food closeup. Look at how great photos are from almost no work except getting the correct Custom White Balance and getting close.

Nikon D4, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 1600, ƒ/4, 1/250

Here I chose to single out the breakfast lineup of some of the chicken sandwiches that Chick-fil-A has on their breakfast menu.

Nikon D4, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2500, ƒ/4, 1/250

Here I moved around and isolated the grilled chicken that you can get at Chick-fil-A.

Nikon D4, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2000, ƒ/4, 1/250

I also took some shots of the new power food kale salad of Chick-fil-A’s. I was surprised to hear that the Kale salad from McDonald’s had more calories than the Big Mac. So much for healthy from McDonalds. Here is the nutrition information for the Kale Superside at Chick-fil-A:

Tips:

  1. Custom White Balance [earlier blog post for instructions on how I do it]
  2. Get Close
  3. Watch your background

What photojournalism has taught me

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 400, ƒ/11, 1/250 

Photojournalism is a particular form of journalism (the collecting, editing, and presenting of news material for publication or broadcast) that employs images in order to tell a news story. It is now usually understood to refer only to still images, but in some cases the term also refers to video used in broadcast journalism. Photojournalism is distinguished from other close branches of photography (e.g., documentary photography, social documentary photography, street photography or celebrity photography) by complying with a rigid ethical framework which demands that the work is both honest and impartial whilst telling the story in strictly journalistic terms. Photojournalists create pictures that contribute to the news media. ––Wikipedia

In photojournalism you are capturing moments rather than creating them. This is a great way to learn how to capture those moments that help convey the events of the day.

Since you cannot stage your coverage you learn how to go about capturing life. You are trained that you need to get those elements that you can later choose from to help construct a sequence of images that when accompanied with words will tell a story of the day.

The Establishing Shot

The photo above is a great example of an establishing shot. Well maybe not great as in call the pulitzer committee, but for covering the Fort Worth Stockyards it does help establish the place which your story takes place.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/320 

Stand Alone

When shooting for news the photojournalist is mindful of space of the publication. They are looking for the one shot that helps convey most of the story elements. Here is example from the morning I was at the Fort Worth Stockyards that might work as a stand alone shot. You can see the herd of cattle being moved as they do each day by the cowboy.

Detail Shots

Nikon D3, AF NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4D, ISO 2500, ƒ/1.4, 1/320

You may just go down the street to the world famous Billy Bobs and capture some boot scoot dancing for some detail shots.

Nikon D3, AF NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4D, ISO 2500, ƒ/1.4, 1/320

You may just capture some portraits of the patrons for some of your detail shots for the story.

Nikon D3, AF NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4D, ISO 6400, ƒ/1.4, 1/160

The challenge for the photojournalist is to capture those eye candy moments that are part of the story and not just graphically interesting.

Thinking larger package

Nikon D3, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 1000, ƒ/2.8, 1/125

My mentor Don Rutledge taught me there are times you really just don’t have an ending shot but rather just more examples of the flavor of the story. This here is the world famous Joe T. Garcia’s restaurant where you cannot make a reservation. Bridal parties will just come and wait to be seated on their wedding days.

Nikon D3, AF NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4D, ISO 6400, ƒ/1.4, 1/160

Every time I am at the Fort Worth Stockyards I feel like I am in a travel story for some western magazine.

Nikon D3S, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 200, ƒ/5.6, 1/320

What photojournalism taught me was that if you pay attention and are sensitive to the moment you can anticipate great moments that are more powerful for the most part over a well produced movie. I think this is true because of the authenticity of the moment always trumps something made up.

Create that triangle with your flash, camera and subject to improve your photos outside

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, Pocketwizard TTL system with Nikon SB-900 ISO 100, ƒ/ 2.8, 1/3200

Photographing this year at the Fort Worth Stockyards I encountered noon day sun combination with cowboy hats.

The hats are suppose to shade which means you don’t see their faces unless you add some flash. I added the off camera flash to fill under those hats as done here to make the faces pop out.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, Pocketwizard TTL system with Nikon SB-900, ISO 100, ƒ/ 2.8, 1/2000

Now to get an idea of how much light difference it is, just look at the cowboy in the background on the other horse. You cannot really see his face like the buy in front.

Here is an earlier post going over the technique. Get the camera, flash and the subject to form a triangle. Here the flash is held to the far left off the camera and zoomed to 200mm to create a shaft of light to just light the cowboy’s face.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, Pocketwizard TTL system with Nikon SB-900, ISO 100, ƒ/ 4, 1/1600

This is a great way to just improve the photo of the cowboys, because now I see their faces.

Expression is often the key element to great photos

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/1250
Key elements of the sports photo often include the ball and the competition. Here you can see the valiant effort of the receiver catching the ball and the expression of the player as well. He is fully extended and running full speed and keeping his eyes on the ball. Also you can see the defensive player seeing the catch and the concentration as well he has on the ball.
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
Here you can see the runner extending for all he can and also see a defensive player’s look of concern that he is still moving ahead.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 5000, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

The key to almost all good to great photos of people is EXPRESSION. In sports it can be the one thing that helps tell you more of the game.

The closer crop of the top photo shows how intense the defensive player is playing.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

In this photo on the left and right you can see the defensive players reacting to the quarterback starting to pass the ball.

Sometimes the tendency of sports photographers is to crop tight to be sure that is what you need to see. However sometimes by pulling back and including more of the action it helps to communicate more about the play. For example you miss the fact that two players faces are reacting and you miss how close the sack of the quarterback is on the play by being a little looser on the play.

Sports enthusiasts like to see the game being played whereas those who are just a photographer will tend to crop tight for impact.

I can tell you as one who played sports that we like to see more of the play. Seeing the player’s feet during basketball is how players decide which way to drive for example. It is why the crossover is such a big deal.

While this cropped version helps you see the player’s faces it is the looser shot that gives you the perspective of the play developing.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/400

When you have very little space to use a photo it is better to go tight, but this is why so many sports enthusiast loved getting Sports Illustrated. Those photos that filled two pages didn’t need to be tight as they photo in the sports section of the newspaper. They had the space which helped those who play sports get a better understanding of the play.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 4000, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

In a high school game the quarterback is more concentrated on the execution and it shows in the face. In the pros they are moving so much quicker that it must be instinct that kicks in for the quarterback to make the handoff.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 7200, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

Expression is more than just in the face. Here you see the bodies all twisting to adjust to the play that just went by them. You also are seeing that the ball carrier is looking more down field and missing the defensive player to his left.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 6400, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

This is the split second later where his forward advance is stopped.

Which photo here is the best photo? You will see photo editors really studying a photo for the nuances of the expression of the bodies in motion.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 6400, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

 This first one looks like the defensive player is just about to give up.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 6400, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

 In the second photo the defensive player looks like he is matching his stride and you wonder if he will catch him.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 6400, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

In the last photo you can see the offensive player is pulling away and the defensive player is giving his last diving effort to stop the touchdown.

Which photo is best? Well which one not only tells the outcome of the play, but it often needs to be the moment that communicates the game. Most media outlets do not have unlimited space and must choose the moments they use to communicate.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 5000, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

You really have to pick the right moment to capture the intensity of the play.

Going back to the photo above, compare it to the split second before.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/400

See how the defensive player’s head is down and you don’t see the eyes?

Now look at the photo again from the split second later of the same play.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/400

The largest difference between the two photos is being able to see the expression.

Order of importance:

  1. Expression
  2. Composition
  3. Exposure
Now the difference between the truly great photos and the rest is all three are well executed. But the sign of the technician photographer is often those who concentrate more on the last two elements of composition and exposure and not enough on expression.
Nikon D3, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 280, ƒ/7.1, 1/200
Expression can also be in the form of light which helps to create a mood.
Nikon D3, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 200, ƒ/7.1, 1/100

Same lens but different perspective can engage your audience

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 5600, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

Same lens and a different perspective can change a photo’s impact on a audience.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 5000, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

Here is a clue to your photos having more impact. Find a perspective that the audience either rarely will see or has access to seeing.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 400, ƒ/4, 1/100

How often does the audience ever get to see the coin used in the coin toss to start the football game? It is even more rare for them to see the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl coin.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 450, ƒ/4, 1/100

You are probably curious as to what is on the other side once you see the coin.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 9000, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

Using really long glass like this 600mm ƒ/5.6 allows you to help isolate the flute player in the pregame show. Even if you were at the game you most likely never will see this except if the television captures it and puts it on the jumbotron.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/1000

I had to share this photo because that is former player for East Carolina University Pirates Jeff Blake and the famous coach Lou Holtz who were both honored as inductees into the College Football Hall of Fame. My alma mater is ECU.

Now many of the other photos I shot from a kneeling position in the end zone. Here are some for you to see.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/1000

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/1600

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/1250

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/1000

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/1250

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

These are all from a perspective that even in the stands you cannot get to see. So even those in the stands would want to see these later and therefore giving these photos more value.

Now remember those first two photos in this post. What if I shot the same lens from a different perspective?

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/1250

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/1600

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/1000

Now if you were at the game and had binoculars you might could have seen this perspective. If you were at home watching the game on TV you might have seen this perspective. But many of the online galleries forget to show this perspective.

Tip

Look for a different perspective and then look for another one and so on until you have a more well rounded coverage of the event.

Use Light to help in compositions with Deep Depth-of-Field

Nikon D3s, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 3200, ƒ/10, 1/250–off camera Nikon SB-900 fired with Pocketwizard TTL system
When photographing in this plant I needed to see the background to give context to where the employee is working. For this reason I am shooting with an aperture of ƒ/10. I also wanted your eye to go to the worker predominately and not just wonder therefore I used the off camera flash to just hit the worker. 
The flash is zoomed to 200mm to give me more of a spotlight on the worker.
Nikon D3s, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 5600, ƒ/5, 1/250
You might prefer the photo without the flash. But how would you know without a comparison. This is key to keeping and getting clients. Clients love options even if they don’t need but one photo.
Nikon D3s, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 3200, ƒ/8, 1/20–off camera Nikon SB-900 fired with Pocketwizard TTL system
Had I not used the flash in this situation your eye would have gone to the background more than to the worker. 

Tips

  • Use Deep Depth-of-field to bring in the context around a subject
  • Keep the subject close to the camera to help with composition and communication
  • Use light to help direct the viewer, because the deep depth-of-field can compete with the subject
  • Give client options – Shoot situations with and without lights for example
Nikon D3s, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 3200, ƒ/7.1, 1/80–off camera Nikon SB-900 fired with Pocketwizard TTL system

Do your photos have Gibberish in them?

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 8000, ƒ/4, 1/100
How would this photo look as a sentence?

asdfaggsgggTEENAGE GIRLS, YOUNG MANadsfgalgalcln

What is all that gibberish around the subjects in the photo? 
All the area marked with green is that really needed? Did I compose the photo in such a way that it is a sentence rather than just a noun with gibberish around it?
Posed photos of people looking straight into the camera for the most part are not anything but a noun without a verb. Sure there are some exceptions, but many people use this same composition no matter what they are shooting. Just put the subject in the center and click.
Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/50
While here the people on the sides kind of balance the photo they really are more of a distraction than helping.
Nikon D4, Sigma 1.4X, Sigma 120-300 mm f/2.8 DG EX APO IF HSM, ISO 8000, ƒ/4.5, 1/2000
Here the edges cannot come in and crop much more without eliminating some of the sentence.
The ball is on the far right/top and the referees’ hand on the left  and not to crop out the foot and show how the athlete is flying I kept it in at the bottom. Notice the wide receiver also has room to go once he catches the ball. 
Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/60
While I could have moved the frame slightly to the right you can see here that I am using the bands name on banners to help compose the photo.
This helps to create leading lines as well and create depth into the photograph.
Here is a great rule to use for your compositions. 
First and foremost eliminate anything you can from the frame that doesn’t help compliment the subject. Think of it like a sentence. Do you have a noun, verb and maybe some descriptors?
Second decide on where to place the subject into the frame.
Third is there a way to create depth into the photograph. This helps pull the audience into the photo.
These three things are just what you can do by moving your camera around in the subject and framing in a way to create impact and help the photo move from a noun with gibberish to a sentence.
Another thing that can greatly improve all photos is the lighting. Sometimes adding light to a situation can help guide the audience as well if not better than using leading lines and S-curves.
But before taking on lighting, always first learn to just compose using the frame of the camera.
How do you know if you are doing a good job of framing your subjects. While looking at your photos on your computer or even on the LCD look around the edges. Do you see things other than the subject that you don’t need? A good way to think of this while shooting is identify your subject and then look at everything but the subject in the frame–can it be eliminated or do I keep it?
Nikon D3S, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 8000, ƒ/5 1/100
Remember to make the edges of the photo count as much as the subject you are focused on to make your photos stronger.
Nikon D2XS, Sigma 18-50mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/125
Take your time to compose. Once you have your composition then let the moment happen just like you do after you sit down to watch a play on broadway. The frame is the whole stage. Wait for the actors to move and hit those peak moments.
Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/420