Photography Tips for Covering Football

Nikon D2X, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/1250

Action Shots

For this blog I am just focusing on what happens on the field and not the reactions to it by fans and the sidelines.

Three things I think you should strive to have in all your action shots on the field:

  1. The Ball
  2. Expression
  3. The competition
While not every great sports photo will have all three, the overwhelming majority of them will have all three elements.

Definition of Sport—an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.

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

I like capturing the expressions of football players. This shows the “physical exertion” being put forth to play the game. The key for me is to put myself in the place where I will see their faces more often.

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

I recommend when possible to cover one team. this way you can show their team’s faces on offense and defense without running up and down the field over and over to get in front of them.

I generally try to shoot way down the field in front of the teams and prefer standing in the endzones. If they are far away I just use longer glass like  600mm lens and when they are on the goal line I may switch to my 70-200mm lens.

Why the endzone? Well they are generally running in that direction and trying to cross the goal line. When you are on the sideline they may run slightly in your direction, but they could be running to the other sideline as well.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/1250

While my knees get sore from kneeling most of the time I think you get better “athletic” moments. When you are low you make the football players look like they are much higher off the ground when they jump than when you stand. We like our star running backs to look like Roman Gods that fly when necessary. Remember the purpose of the sport is entertainment. Them flying because I am down low is a lot more exciting than from above where they look like they are closer to the ground.

Nikon D3S, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 with 1.4 converter, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/2000

Some of the best defense shots of the game are behind the line of scrimmage. This is where the quarterback is sacked or the running back is caught in the backfield for a loss. You see the defense moves the ball forward for their team when they create a loss for the offense of the other team.

You can always rent long glass lenses rather than buying them. I recommend having between 300mm to 500mm lens coverage. This can be done with 1.4 & 2X converters.

Here is the list of gear I use in Football

  • (2) Nikon D4 Cameras
  • 14-24mm ƒ/2.8 Nikkor
  • 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 Nikkor
  • Sigma 70-200mm ƒ/2.8
  • 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S carried in the Thinktank Glass Taxi™ [not in photo]
  • Sigma 1.4 converter
  • Nikon SB-900
  • Manfrotto 294 Aluminum 4 Section Monopod
  • Manfrotto by Bogen Imaging 323 RC2 System Quick Release Adapter w/200PL-14
  • ExpoDisc
  • Shure FP15/83 Lavalier Wireless System
  • RØDE VideoMic Pro
  • Zacuto Z-Finder
  • AWP Knee Pads – Important to save your knees
  • ThinkTank System for lenses using belt and harness
  • ThinkTank Memory Card Holder
  • ThinkTank Airport Security™ V 2.0 Rolling Camera Bag
  • ThinkTank Credential Holder Tall V2.0
Nikon D3S, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 with 1.4 converter, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/2000

One last advantage of shooting from the end zones—BACKGROUNDS. Your background is easier to keep clean and improve impact.

Have fun shooting this fall.