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. Continue reading “10 Tips For Better College Football Photos”


My Sixteen Favorite Football Photos of 2016

This past football season went by far too quickly. Football is the only sport that I cover that I really played at an organized level. This year it seems as if something was always coming in between me and the sport that I love. I was able to photograph a couple of awesome games, and next year I have a road trip to Knoxville planned that I am really looking forward to. There were some great moments this past season though, and I have picked sixteen of them to post here. As I write this I realize that I compiled the list about a week and a half ago, and I have already changed my mind about the placement of some of the photos. In all reality the numbers do not matter here. These are sixteen photos that I really liked from this season, and for the sake of a countdown I have assigned numbers to them. Here are my favorite sixteen photos in numerical, but no particular order.

16. As I compiled this list I realized that many of the images came from the Indiana State game at Minnesota. I think that the access I was given made it a special game for me. It was real fun finding ways to show the gameday experience. When you are with a team your job is to show the audience something that they cannot see. I took my job at that time to show the people looking at the photos a lot of what they could not see behind the scenes. This is what makes photography fun for me. Indiana State gives me a great opportunity to do that.

15. Here in West Lafayette we have a lot of good football teams very close by. The closest to me the West Lafayette Red Devils. I usually try to make my way down the street a few times to see them play during the season, but this year the only game that I could make was half of an early season game. That is too bad as it is fun to watch football under the Friday night lights. This coming season Purdue will have an early game on Friday night under the lights.

14. This year I was able to meet an online friend who like me went from shooting from the stands to shooting on the field. It was cool to catch up with him in person. While we were doing that the team he was covering, Iowa, scored right in front of us. I made this photo of the celebration after the touchdown. I love these types of photos, and even if it was for the wrong team at the time I made it.

13. This was a moment that was a lucky one for me to capture. I was switching ends of the field with my 300mm when a big play happened. I was out of my normal position, but right in position to make this photo. This was a lucky capture, but when the moment happened I made the most of it.

12. This story has a funny ending to it. I made the photo of the coin toss as ISU took on Minnesota. As the team photographer that is my right. Into the first quarter I had someone with a security jacket on tap my shoulder and ask me to walk with them. Play was going on, and my team was driving toward me so I asked them what was going on. They explained that I had to leave for making this photo. I explained that I was the ISU team photographer, and everything was okay. I like this moment though. The day was made better by the blue skies that seemed to match the colors of the Indiana State uniforms.  Continue reading “Top 16 Football Photos of 2016”

Relaxing In Minnesota

One of the fun things about traveling with Indiana State last weekend was having a little time to craft a few photos. This photo is one of those. It started with a very up close photo of the athlete hanging out on his phone. My background was the area where I am actually standing in the above photo. I realized that I had a pretty cool room here so why not use it? I found a spot where I could get most of the room in my frame, and hide most of the people in the background. It did not take long to make this photo, but a little extra thought left me with one of my favorite images from the trip. When I get in these type of situations I always want to run around and get as much as I can. On this trip I tried to slow down a bit and make sure what I got was worth my time. I might have missed some shots somewhere doing this, but in the end it was worth it.

The Week In Photos

In case you couldn’t tell I had a fun week last week making pictures. Some of my favorites from the past week can be found here. I also put together an Exposure page from the Indiana State football game in Minnesota that I shot here. That is one of my most viewed Exposure posts of all time. It would take a big event to top the views from the Colt World Series this past year, but this one is getting there. It is not always about views, but it is nice for people to see your work as well. I loved being behind the scenes for a little while. It is funny how that works. When I was in the stands all I wanted to do was to get down onto the field to shoot. Once I got on the field I just wanted better gear to capture the action there. Once I got that I wanted to get into the locker room to capture what was back there. I think that comes with time. You want to tell the entire story. I have tried to get this kind of access on road trips in the past, but for whatever reason it has just never happened. I loved having one cohesive story to show. I don’t know when I will get to do this again, but I look forward to the opportunity.

Tagging Along With the Indiana State Football Team on Their Trip to Minnesota

This past weekend I had a very fun assignment. I was tasked with documenting the Sycamores road trip to Minnesota to take on the Gophers. Due to a Big Ten rule change this would be the last time that Indiana State faces a Big Ten team. I have wanted to see a game in TCF Bank Stadium since we drove by it during a baseball road trip in 2009. Back then I never had any idea that I would be photographing a game in the stadium. You really could not have asked for better day to shoot a football game. It was a nice 70 degree day with just a few clouds in a beautiful blue sky. That combined with the orientation of the stadium made for some beautiful photos. This year I have been able to make some great pictures with the people at Indiana State. They have been very good to me, and each job has gone even better than I expected it to. I can’t wait to see what the next adventure with the Sycamores will be.

The First Football Game of the Year

This was essentially my first football of the year. I was able to shoot about two quarters of a high school game a couple of weeks ago, but this was the first game of the year that I was able to cover. I think that I did alright for the first game out of the gate, but I have a lot that I can improve on. Shooting some soccer this year helped as many of the camera switching techniques are very similar. The positions that I like are similar so you have to have very similar moves as the players come near you. Next weekend is all about covering volleyball, but finally in two weeks I will be able to see my Boilers play. I love Saturdays at Ross Ade Stadium, and it will be good to get back there. Football is really just cranking up, and I have a lot of games left this year. It was nice to finally get out and shoot one though. It was nice to be shooting football for something other than the blog as well. It is nice to shoot for the blog, but the knowledge that the school would be behind pushing my football photos was reason enough to go out and make something really interesting.

Why Travel?

I get asked a lot why I travel so much for my photography. I think that compared to a lot of shooters I don’t travel that much. When I do travel I do so because that is where the photos are. If a major college football game happened in my backyard I would shoot it there, but the backyard is not big enough so I have to go elsewhere to shoot. I really enjoy doing what I do. There is nothing better than looking at the back of your camera and seeing that you nailed the moment. One of the photographers that I look up to Joel Sartore talks about having to leave to make photos. It is not an easy thing to do, but you get pulled into doing it. I have been trying to take a trip like this one for a couple of years now. Something has always gotten in the way so that it did not happen. I was glad to finally get to do this. Now that I have done it I want to do it again. I have a couple of ideas of stadiums that I want to visit, and with a little luck I can get that done.

Indiana State vs. Minnesota Photo Gallery

On the bus ride from the stadium to the airport I put together an Exposure page documenting the two day trip from Terre Haute to Minneapolis that you can find here. This is a project that I have been trying to do for a while now, and I have run into a lot of roadblocks of many forms in getting to do it. I loved seeing the prep work that Indiana State did for this game. The best moment of all though might have been Coach Sanford talking to his team after the game. It was a great speech that made me want to put a helmet on at Southeast Missouri State next weekend. I really would love to do this again if the schedules would allow it.

The Week in Photos

Once again I have compiled my favorite photos of the week into one Exposure post that you can find here. This week was supposed to have three sports in the gallery, but a last minute audible erased my Sunday shoot. I like the photos this week though, and I will have a hard time topping them next week.

Honoring All of the Heroes on 9/11

It is hard to believe that it has been fifteen years since that horrible Tuesday in September. I remember sitting at the table eating breakfast that day watching the events unfolding. I never finished that breakfast, but I did not leave that seat for quite some time. It was not easy to comprehend at the time just what was going on. Initially they thought that this was the beginning of something much bigger. It seemed like for a moment everything just stopped that morning. Now here we are fifteen years later, and the list of heroes that have passed has grown larger. The building took a tool on those that made it out as well. I just wanted to take a minute to say thank you to all of those who run into a building while everyone else is running out of it.

About the Photo

Yesterday on my trip to Minnesota I had a couple of items that I wanted to check off. One of those was to get a shot of the team running out of the tunnel. I knew that after I made the shot I would have to hustle back across the field to be able to follow the captains out onto the field. I only made it to a few steps away from where this photo was made before the National Anthem started to play. I paused while it was playing. I saw this shot though, and I moved over in order to make it. As I photographer I always struggle with making photos during the anthem. I know that I am not facing the flag when I am doing it, but I look at it like I am preserving that moment forever. This ended up being one of my favorite photos from yesterday.

Indiana State vs. Minnesota Photo Gallery

On the bus ride from the stadium to the airport I put together an Exposure page documenting the two day trip from Terre Haute to Minneapolis that you can find here. This is a project that I have been trying to do for a while now, and I have run into a lot of roadblocks of many forms in getting to do it. I loved seeing the prep work that Indiana State did for this game. The best moment of all though might have been Coach Sanford talking to his team after the game. It was a great speech that made me want to put a helmet on at Southeast Missouri State next weekend. I really would love to do this again if the schedules would allow it.

Flying With Indiana State to Minneapolis

This weekend I am in Minneapolis to photograph the Indiana State football team take on Minnesota. Actually by the time this posts I will be in the stadium a few hours into my day. I like the idea of following a team on the road, and documenting the trip. So far this has been a fun journey. Above is one of the photos that I made during the flight. Today will be filled with both action and behind the scenes photos. Later tonight I will have an Exposure post with all of my photos up for you to see.

ohio state pitcher

Throwback Photo

Tomorrow I will be at Alexander Field for Opening Day…maybe. This stadium just does not want to open, but I think that finally I will be there tomorrow. I don’t have any throwback pictures featuring Purdue Baseball, but I do have this one of their opponent tomorrow Ohio State. I have seen Ohio State play many times in baseball, but the first time was in 2004. I have already posted a couple of pictures from the two days that I spent in Minneapolis. I attended five sporting events in two days in three venues. This is the only venue that has not made the blog so far. This picture was taken at Siebert Field during one of two games that was played that morning. I loved the form of this pitcher, and I tried to capture that with my point and shoot. Looking back now it is funny how ever since this day I have done the same no matter what camera and lens is in my hands. Some pitching forms just cry out to be photographed. I have always liked this picture so it is fitting that it finally makes the blog.

Technical Data

As with most of these throwback pictures I do not have a lot of pixels to play with. With that in mind I simply imported the photo to Lightroom and processed it with Matt Kloskowski’s light sports preset. A couple of tweaks with the sliders later, and the photo was ready to export. With these older photos the process is very quick.

big hurt vs. johan

Throwback Photo

I took this photo on the same day as the Throwback Photo from last week. While playing around with images that I could use the tilt shift technique on I came across this one of Frank Thomas at bat against Johan Santana. I have always liked this image because if showed two giants squaring off. On this day Frank Thomas (the Big Hurt) would win out as Johan was knocked from the game in the fourth after giving up seven runs. Johan did not let that get him down though as he would go on to have one of the best second halves in baseball history on his way to the 2004 Cy Young Award. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I think that this was the last game he lost until 2005. At any rate he had an incredible streak that put him at the top as one of the greats in the game at the time. Frank Thomas as we all know ended up with 521 home runs, and should be a first ballot Hall of Famer next year. This was fun to watch for me because my team was getting the best of the Twins for once. They did not do that a lot back then. Ozzie Guillen was putting the pieces in place for a World Series run the following year. As I said last week this was the fourth baseball game in two days that I watched, and I loved every minute of it.

Technical Data

Once again I used Lightroom to get this shot where I wanted it to be, and then I sent a copy of the picture over to On One Software’s Focal Point 2.1 to mimic the look of a tilt shift lens. I love how this effect makes the scene appear to be one inside of a toy box. For this photo I also felt that it heightened the pitcher vs. batter matchup as well. I think that it makes this photo a little better than it was straight out of the point and shoot that took it. I always had trouble making pictures with a point and shoot in low light situations such as this, but I got lucky here. Lucky enough to preserve a great matchup on the diamond.

twolves tilt shift

Throwback Photo

This is an interesting photo for a couple of reasons. The first is that this capped off a great sports weekend in Minneapolis in 2004. It was May and in the span of two days I saw five sporting events. I saw two baseball games between the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Ohio State Buckeyes Saturday morning. From there I went to the Metrodome to watch the Twins play my White Sox. The next afternoon I saw the White Sox whip the Twins to cap the baseball off. From there I ate in town before going to see game two of the Western Conference Finals between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Los Angeles Lakers. At a time when I was not getting out too much it was a great weekend away from work and my apartment. The second great thing about this game is the fact that several future NBA Hall of Famers were playing in it. Minnesota had Kevin Garnett who has since left for Boston. The Lakers were loaded with two stars ending their careers in Gary Payton and Karl Malone, and two in their primes in Shaquille O’Neil and Kobe Bryant. This was a lot of talent on the floor, and a great reason to pay to get into the Target Center that night. The T’Wolves won the game which was nice to see the home fans get what they want. I had no real dog in the fight so I rooted for the home squad. I felt that I had to because of the noisemakers anyway. I couldn’t beat them together if I was rooting for L.A. You can see them all over the arena in the picture. This was a nice way to cap off a great weekend.

Technical Data

I picked this photo out specifically so that I could use Focal Point 2.1 which is part of the On One Photo Suite 7. I bought this program shortly before heading to Colorado, and I really have not gotten too much into it yet. I was part of a webinar on it Monday morning though so I picked a few things up. I really like the fake tilt shift look that Focal Point allows you to do so I wanted to try it out on something. This shot seemed to be a perfect candidate. Before sending the photo to Focal Point I made all of my adjustments in Lightroom. Then I made a copy of the photo to send over. This was the second image that I played around with in Focal Point. It took some getting used to the controls, called ‘the bug’, but in the end the program is very simple to use. I just picked where I wanted the focus to be, and then the program does the rest. I did use the brush in the program to ‘paint in’ focus on the scoreboard. I think that it gives the arena a little more of a toy feel that way. This program has some promise, and I think that I will try and get some shots in the future with it in mind.