10 Tips For Better College Football Photos

Ten Tips To Help You Make Better College Football Photos

One question that I get from time to time is how to make better football photos. I am far from an expert. There are plenty of those out there. I have from time to time put together these ten tips posts to help you make better photos. They are just little things that took me way too long to learn, and I hope that I can share some of that info with you. In the past I made a post about high school football here that covers quite a bit of the same ground. Once you get to the college game though some things change. Most of those involve access in some form. Here are ten tips to help you make better college football photos.

10. Get to the Game Early, Stay Late – One piece of advice that I give any photographer that asks me is to get to the game early and stay late. Before the game starts you have a chance to warm up along with the players. Sometimes you get something that you would never have expected by getting to the game early. The photo directly above was made well before the game started as the team was getting ready to stretch. It was one of my favorite photos from last year, and one that I would not have gotten had I not gotten to the game early. Unless you are on deadline for the wire hanging out on the field after the game can yield good results as well.

9. Plan Ahead – One huge difference from the high school to the college sidelines is the amount of people that you run into. You are not allowed in between the 30 yard lines, and the rest of the field can get crowded when the play gets there. Knowing when to move to get to a spot you want is essential. I wanted to be in the end zone as Penn State came towards me, and shortly after I moved there I was rewarded with a long touchdown run right at me. Had I waited to move I may not have had this spot, or I would have missed the action. The same can be said for switch at the quarter as well. The egress behind the benches is not optimal so if you can move a fraction quicker at the end of the quarter than everyone else you can get to your spot just a little faster.

8. Get The Jube – When I first started shooting games the first thing that I would do after a big play was to chimp and look at my LCD screen to see if I got the big play. As I did that I missed the celebration that would ensue. I still chimp a lot. Tagging photos on the fly is a great way to knock down your editing time. There is a time to do that. Right after the play is not that time. As I move on as a photographer I find that the photos that I like the most from the game are usually the photos of the jubilation after the play. The jube is usually different each time, and it is real emotion. If you follow this blog then you see a lot of my favorite photos from each game end up being some form of jube. Follow the player that makes the big play until the jube is over or they are off the field. Often you can make a good shot of a coach congratulating the players as well.

7. Shoot Wide…or Tight – It sounds crazy, but during a game change up what you are using. When on the road with the team I will sometimes sacrifice a tight action shot for one like the above shot that shows a sense of place. It breaks up the look of the photo gallery a bit, and it helps you tell the story. When you are in tight on the action though get tight. Fill your frame as much as you can. If that means moving with the play because you don’t have a long lens then do it.

6. Get As Low As You Can….Or Really High – The moral of the story here is to give your viewer something they cannot see normally. If you are shooting from their perspective it is something that they can get. Getting as low as you can makes the players look larger than life. In the shot above I was laying on the ground because the down and distance told me that Purdue would run. I was rewarded with a nice shot from a low angle. Of course the opposite of this is to get high. Most of us will never shoot from the rafters of a stadium as they do in the Super Bowl and other big games. That is a unique angle that can wow your viewers. With your pass you do have access to the TV deck though which usually with long enough glass can produce a few different photos from a game.

5. Stay Focused – This one has a double meaning. Staying focused on the game helps you anticipate the action. Football is a sport where the focus on your camera is equally important though. I shoot alongside a few people who still do not use back button focus. When I moved the focus button on my camera off of the shutter button to the button on the back it was a game changer. My keeper rate went up. Dialing in your focusing modes to fit your style is also important. In the photo above I was using a single point of focus which allowed me to get into the pile through the players to make the shot. If I had a wider set of focus points it could have grabbed any of the players in the foreground and ruined the photo.

4. Be Alert – This may go along with the point above a bit. The college game moves much faster than high school which is much faster than pop warner. In the photo above the play moved right over to where I was on the sideline. When I am shooting on the sideline I always have an exit plan, and I have one foot ready to head that way. That will help you avoid being that photographer on TV that is run over on the sideline. It can still happen, but being ready with a plan helps you avoid it most of the time.

3. Find A Different Angle – If you are a freelancer it does you no good to make the same photos that everyone else is making. Get out and try and find a new way to cover the action. One great way is to get behind a passing team when they are near you. You can get these great shots of the players fighting for the ball. If you were in front of the play you would not have such a dynamic shot. Try and think of ways to make your photos stand out.

2. Know the Players and the Teams – You can make good images at a game without knowing anything about either team. Just moving off of your reflexes you can do just fine. If you have a little knowledge about both teams though you can start making educated guesses on where you need to be and what play will be run. The more you know about your teams the more you can anticipate and be there before the action is. With most games being on some form of TV now you have it easier than ever when it comes to being able to watch teams. I find myself watching old games on ESPN3 all of the time scouting opponents. That little edge can be the difference in getting the shot or just missing it. If you can’t scout the team at least know if they are a run or pass team. What formations do they run out of? These little things can help you more than you can imagine.

1.Capture the Pageantry That Makes College Football So Great – The thing that makes college football stand out from all other forms to me is the pageantry. The band, the cheerleaders, and the mascots really make the game great. When you are making a story of the day don’t forget to add some of these elements off of the field to your story. These shots are a great way to fill downtime as well keeping you busy.

So those are ten tips for better college football photos. That is not everything of course. I am sure that you can come up with a few more on your own. If you have any to add leave them in the comments. One thing that I left out above was access. You can’t just walk up to a college football game on shoot it most of the time. You have to prove that you can shoot the game to get a credential. Building up a portfolio at the high school and pop warner level is a bit easier as the game is slower, and it gives you something to show the people in charge when applying for a credential. At most higher level schools you have to be shooting for an outlet of some sort to get in. I may do an entire post later on how to get into a game by finding someone who needs your photos.

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