Well, it is that time of year everyone. Football (American Football to all of you Internationals) season is upon us, both College and High School competitions kicked off across the country this weekend. So in the spirit of things I thought it would be nice to share some quick tips and tricks to help you get the best shots possible.

  • Get Sideline Access – This one may not seem like a reality for all of you, and truth be told it is not, but the simple fact is that you will not get the top quality high school football images that you want without it. Try contacting the head coach or athletic director of the school that you wish to take pictures of. It never hurts to ask. 
  • Buy or Rent a 70-200 F2.8 – This is just as important, if not more so, than having sideline access. High School football is a a game played at night. It may still be light out at the beginning of games at the start of the season, but that will not last long. A 70-200 gives you flexibility to better frame your shots and the 2.8 is REQUIRED so you can properly expose your shots.
  • Shoot at 1/500th of a Sec or Faster – Sports photography – for the most part – is all about freezing action. It is no different in Football, and in order to do so in Football you need to be around 500th of a second. You can get away with 3-400th of a sec, but if you want to truly stop all motion, then 1/500th is essential (1/1000th is even better, but is much harder to achieve even at F2.8 at night).
  • Shoot as tight as you can without isolating the subject – Obviously this is a bit more related to your personal taste. But take a look at any professional football image and more times than not they are pretty tight on the subject. The key is to get it as tight as possible without losing the action or a sense of what is happening in the game. If a QB is scrambling and running away from a defender, don’t shoot so tight as to crop out the defender (if possible, obviously this will not always be possible with the angle you are shooting from).  If you cut out the defender then you lose the story of the image, and it just looks like a QB running. If you shoot wide enough to get the defender chasing him, then it paints a much clearer picture and will be a stronger image more times than not.
  • Pay attention, and be aware of what is happening around you – This one may seem like common sense, but it is really easy to get caught up looking through your viewfinder. It is imperative that you pay attention, believe me, nothing is more embarrassing than being somewhere you are not supposed to be or getting taken out by an out of control player. Keep yourself and your gear safe, pick your head up and look around now and again.

I was asked by my aunt to come down and shoot my cousin’s first football game as a senior on Friday. It was nice to shake off the rust before my local team has a home game. Here are some of the shots that I was able to get, all using a Canon 300mm f/2.8 and my Canon 7D.

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What are your thoughts on the tips? Do you have any to share yourself? Let us know in a comment below.