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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Sports Talk
Thread started 09 Aug 2009 (Sunday) 17:27
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How to Photograph Football--14 Tips for Friday HS Football

 
Zivnuska
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Aug 09, 2009 17:27 |  #1

Fourteen Friday Football Photography Tips
(for first year shooters)

Here are fourteen tips that should help you make your Friday night high school football photography more rewarding and enjoyable for you and your audience. These are directed toward the novice through avid amateur photographer who is familiar with DSLR fundamentals but is relatively new to photographing football. High School football is great fun and there is simultaneous action in several places. Finding the peak action and attempting to capture it with darkness approaching is a worthy challenge for any photographer. The better your knowledge of the game, the more you will be able to anticipate where the action will be.

Tip #1. The Prime Directive--Remember that the game is about the student athletes on the field, not about you, not about your pictures. The hierarchy of courtesy has the student athletes, AD, coaches, officials, parents, and fans all above the photographer. Stay out of the way, blend into the background, be respectful, and if you are told to do something by an official/administrator etc., do it. If you disagree, discuss it later. Build cooperative relationships with those who have authority/responsibili​ty for conducting the game. Talk to the AD ahead of time and learn the local rules for access. Get permission well in advance of the event. Most fields have dashed lines indicating how far you will need to stay back from the field. Don’t push the limits. Did I mention building cooperative relationships with those who have authority/responsibili​ty for conducting the game?

Tip #2. Shoot Early, Early, Early. OK, it’s three tips.


Shoot Early [In the season]--Games early in the season have far more light than those late in the year. At the beginning of September, sunset is about 8 p.m. in my home town of Wichita, Kansas. At the end of October, the sun is down at 6:30. This difference is huge for the typical high school football game that starts at 7. Shoot the heck out of those early season games. Ambient light images are more compelling than flashed ones and you can use your fps capability. Make life easier for yourself.


Shoot Early [In the game]--Teams in this area will take the field for warm ups at about 5:30. Be ready ahead of time. This is a great opportunity to get individual shots of players up close and personal, and get images of the coaches interacting with players and refs in pre game. You will be able to shoot ambient at lower ISO for the first part of the game. The late afternoon light gives a warm golden glow to skin tones and colors look great too. Keep the sun at your back.

IMAGE: http://i137.photobucket.com/albums/q225/zivnuska/ISO6400F.jpg
Image 1A. Aug 29, 6:01pm, 420mm, f/4.0, 1/800, ISO 100 Back up QB in warmups . . 1B Give this guy a print. Keep him on your side. Sept 26, 6:34pm, 300, f/2.8 ISO 1600, 1/2500

IMAGE: http://i137.photobucket.com/albums/q225/zivnuska/LateSeasonKO.jpg
Image 2. Opening kickoff of the last game of the season. 10/31, 7:04pm flash. Huge light difference from early season. Compare light to images 5 and 8.

All images Canon 1D Mark III with Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 IS or Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8 IS. Image 1A is the 300mm + 1.4TC.

Shoot Early [the pre game]-- Some photogs shoot strictly game action. That is fine. At the high school level, many shooters want to capture the whole event for the yearbook, scrapbooks, etc. There is always a group of people who come early. This includes the booster club folks, the barbeque crew, tailgaters, concession stand workers, announcer, the AD, and color guard. These folks make the game an event and they enjoy pictures of themselves too. Often, they start working between by 5pm. BTW, those who can make your life easy or difficult (AD, coaches) are here now.

IMAGE: http://i137.photobucket.com/albums/q225/zivnuska/UpdatedComposite.jpg
Image 3. Activity off the field. An integral part of the event or a waste of time? That will depend on your audience/customer and you.




Tip #3.
Shoot from behind the end zone if/when you have the reach (long enough lens). Ball carriers will eventually head toward the end zone so you will have the opportunity to see their faces. Shooting from behind the goal post area will allow you to shoot both sides of the field. If you have a shorter length lens, you might want to position yourself near the corner of the end zone. That may mean that you are out of position for some plays but if you anticipate correctly, you might get a terrific shot of a player, end zone, and side line. Include a pylon in the image if you can. Remember this shot from the Super Bowl?
http://images.dailyrad​ar.com ...ed_steelers_superbo​wl.jpg (external link)
This is a situation where knowing the team and its tendencies may allow you to anticipate the play and position yourself accordingly.

Shoot through the action and get the “Jube” after a big play! If the defense has the offense backed up against its goal line, this is a great opportunity to shoot defensive players attacking. Can you get the eyes of the middle linebacker?

Having open space behind the subject will minimize background distractions and this is often possible when shooting from behind the end zone.



Tip #4. Shoot portrait orientation predominately unless you are so far away that landscape will still capture the full height of the players. Shoot faces. Capture the ball carrier making a cut. Capture the hit. Shoot Tight. Crop away players not involved in the action. Sharp focus of the main subject is essential. Have that subject fill the image as much as you can. Use long focal lengths to get ‘close.’

“If your pictures aren't good enough, you aren't close enough.”
Robert Capa



IMAGE: http://i137.photobucket.com/albums/q225/zivnuska/SplitR.jpg
Image 4. Behind the end zone. Portrait orientation. 300mm, subject fills the frame.



Tip #5. Shooting from the side line? Try 2 yards behind or 15 yards downfield from the line of scrimmage. Two yards behind the line and runners heading wide will run right at you for a good face shot and an official won’t be in your field of view. Good shots of the QB and linemen from here too. Fifteen yards downfield is a good place to capture runners breaking free and receivers catching the ball.

Tip #6. Get low. Shoot from a kneeling position to give the shot added drama. Got a punter backed up to the end line? Lay down on the ground beyond the end line (know how far back you must be) and shoot up. Great power and intensity in that image. It’s a wonderful opportunity to shoot the faces of the players attempting to block that punt.

IMAGE: http://i137.photobucket.com/albums/q225/zivnuska/RunToDaylight.jpg
Image 5. Low (kneeling), 15 yards + downfield, Landscape capturing full height of players. Sept. 19, 7:38pm, f/3.2, 300mm, ISO 1600, 1/2000.


Tip #7 The technical stuff:

Tip #7.1 Use Av (aperture priority) when the light is changing. That is usually the case up till the point when it is dark and you are shooting flash with manual exposure. If you have experience and the light is stable, you can shoot manual. Initially, keep it simple. Most of the time, I shoot Av with + 1/3 Exposure Compensation to compensate for the shadows inside helmets. People like to see faces.

Tip #7.2 Shoot jpeg, servo focus (your subjects are moving), back button focus, center focus point (because it is the most sensitive) and auto white balance. Large apertures, like f/2.8, give faster SS (shutter speed) and blur backgrounds. At night with flash, I’ll stop down to f/3.5 or f/4.0 to get more DOF (depth of field) since the backgrounds are black and therefore I don’t need to blur them. I'm shooting Manual at the maximum sync speed (often 1/250 sec) for flash.

Tip #7.3 Know your minimum shutter speed (SS) and maximum ISO you will use. My minimum acceptable SS (i.e. slowest SS) is 1/640. Any slower and I know it is time for me to boost ISO to get a quicker SS. Some will shoot as slow as 1/400 second but there will be a bit of ‘softness’ or ‘ghosting’ in action images. Do you know how far you can push the ISO in your camera before the image deteriorates to an unacceptable level for you? Find out. Friday night high school football photography is about managing the transition from sunlight to dark.

Tip #7.4 Night Flash Technique-- Brackets/Monopod Mounts--ETTL vs Manual--Flash above or below the camera--High Speed Sync? (hint: don’t)----That’s for another day. Sorry, that’s a big topic. Here is some advice from a pro.

http://photography-on-the.net/forum/showthre​ad.php?t=375847

Built in ‘pop-up’ flashes don’t have enough power to be helpful. Something similar to the Canon 580 EX II is needed.


Tip #7.5 The 400mm f/2.8 lens is the supreme field sport lens because of the long reach, sharp images, and large aperture to blur backgrounds and stop action. The 70-200 f/2.8 is commonly seen because of its versatility and lower cost in an f/2.8 lens. The Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Lens is also popular. Pros will often use a big lens on a monopod (300mm and longer) and a shorter lens (often the 70-200) on a second camera body, strapped over a shoulder. Not many amateur shooters can afford the 400 f/2.8 so do the best you can with what you have. Have something with f/2.8 if at all possible. Changing from an f/2.8 lens to an f/4.0 lens reduces light by half and that means slower shutter speeds, more difficulty in low light focusing, and the backgrounds will be more distracting due to less bokeh (background blur). All are undesirable changes for football photography.

Image stabilization (IS) is not as important at the fast shutter speeds used in sports. At least one of your lenses should be 200mm or longer.

BONUS TIP--BONUS TIP--BONUS TIP For you shooters with high ISO cameras!
The new generation of high ISO cameras ( ISO 6400; 12,800; 25,600) are wonderful but are not the total answer to night football. Flash photography is still required at most high school venues. Before you try shooting in extremely low light at these high ISOs, you must consider the quality of the light at your stadium.

In the middle of the field, it is possible to get good high ISO football action shots without flash at some high school football fields. At my home field, the light poles (two on each side) are at the 12 yard line (extended). Between the 20s, I will try shooting some shots without flash at ISO 6400. Because the players are getting light from all sides, the light will be relatively even, resulting in pleasing images.

Closer to the end zone, uneven lighting creates shadows that make images unacceptable, even with high ISOs. Image 6B is not good enough. Look at the leg of #87 and compare that to photo 6A. This is near the goal line. There is no light coming from the end zone side of the players. This shot (6B) needed flash.

IMAGE: http://i137.photobucket.com/albums/q225/zivnuska/Refined.jpg
6A. Midfield: ISO 6400 image between the light poles. 1/800 sec. 300mm . . 6B. Goal Line, heavy shadows, unacceptable. 1/640 sec, 105mm




Tip #8 Moving from one end of the field to the other? [Remember the team benches are between the 25s] Capture some sideline shots along the way. Get pics of coaches coaching or players with intense expressions. Look for emotion on the sideline.

IMAGE: http://i137.photobucket.com/albums/q225/zivnuska/TheBoys.jpg
Image 7. Moving past the bench area. These photos were taken 9 seconds apart. August 29, 7:35pm, f2.8, 300mm, ISO 1600, 1/2500. The parents loved these.

Tip #9. Photograph the linemen. Every play has action in the line. Most people have no idea how violent/intense/aggres​sive the play can be. Capture the pushing, holding, grabbing, choking. It will be a revelation for many and appreciated by the families of these players. It can be tough to get faces but it can be done. Don’t limit yourself to just shooting the ball.


Tip #10. Special teams often create big plays. You might shoot 10 punts that yield nothing and then you capture the block that changes the game. Shoot first, ask questions later. If you wait until you see someone block the punt, you are too late. Another idea: ask the coach or a player, “Who are are big hitters on kickoffs and punt coverage?” Track them heading downfield. This can be an opportunity to capture a crushing block in an area of open field or a big hit on a running back. Anticipate the action.

IMAGE: http://i137.photobucket.com/albums/q225/zivnuska/PuntBlock.jpg
Image 8. Shoot first, ask questions later. Sept 5, 7:35pm, 200mm, f/2.8, ISO 1600, 1/2500. How will you keep your camera from focusing on #53?


Tip #11 Stay Late. Get the last player walking off the field. Capture the Mom hugging her 6’4” 260 lb. son. Preserve the image of the happy/dejected coach talking to his players.

Tip #12. Support the Program. Ask the Coach: Is there anyone of whom you would like to have a picture? Do you need some prints? Any seniors who haven’t gotten recognition who I should shoot? What about a picture slide show for the awards banquet? How can I help? Be viewed as an asset to the program. This will help your photographer colleagues when we follow you and want access or cooperation. Every year, field access issues get more complicated. Building a reservoir of good will and professionalism helps you and all of us.

The Last Tip: Have a plan. During my first year of shooting football, I would develop a plan for each game. This was condensed to a few points listed on a 3 x 5 card kept in my pocket. Keep it simple. Example:


Pre game--New coach, lots of shots of him--Color guard = wounded Iraq vet/grad

Visitors #17, all state--Coach wants Offensive line pics--Parents of 7,23, 88, 89 want pics

Hitters: #33 punt team, #56 KO, #66 KO return

Flash: M, 1/250, ETTL + 1 1/3, ISO 800, f/3.5, 580 EX II




That’s enough for now. There wasn’t much talk about gear, flash, or post processing. Those are big topics in themselves. Nonetheless, I hope you’ve gotten several useful bits of information. Have fun and support the athletes.

Incidentally, after you master the ‘rules’ there will come a time to break the rules (except #1!). There will be situations where you will want to change the focus point, try an unusual (creative) angle, shoot Manual rather than Av, or RAW rather than jpeg. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Try new things, evaluate the results, and learn from your efforts. Have a mentor(s). Many experienced photographers are very kind in helping with advice. Internet forums, advanced photographer friends/acquaintances, and local newspaper photo journalists are sources for guidance.

Phil Zivnuska

www.zivnuska.zenfolio.​com/blog = My Blog
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bnorm27
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Aug 09, 2009 17:38 |  #2

Great stuff! Thanks for sharing!!


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Sports_Dude
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Aug 09, 2009 17:39 |  #3

Nice write up! Thanks.


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Mike ­ R
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Aug 09, 2009 18:45 |  #4

Great job! This should be required reading of all new shooters before going to their first game. Can't think of anything to add.


Mike R
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Kiddo
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Aug 09, 2009 19:31 |  #5

EXCELLENT thread!! Thanks for sharing!!!


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gotbob
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Aug 09, 2009 19:53 |  #6

SUPERB. Thanks for the education.


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Palladium
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Aug 09, 2009 19:58 as a reply to gotbob's post |  #7

Let's not forget about the New Pocketwizards - night time sports flash photography is about to change - TTL Off Camera Flash with SS higher than your camera flash sync is about to change.

IMHO - either get on the PW bus or get left behind :lol:




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xochi2
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Aug 09, 2009 20:34 |  #8

Wonderful guidelines/advice! Wish I had this reading when I first started (centuries ago)!


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Naturalist
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Aug 09, 2009 20:46 |  #9

Top notch job Phil! Your images along with the description is perfect.

This is one of those reasons I just love this site. Not to oooh and aaah over other's work but to gain insite into the strategy of the business.

Thank you.


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ChunkyDA
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Aug 09, 2009 22:38 |  #10

Very nice Phil. Every tip worth the money. **Sticky**
I shoot the water girls, student trainers icing down a knee, students in the rowdy section, everyone wants a picture of themselves.
I try to help the other photogs along the sideline when I am down there. One mom uses a flash with diffuser, another dad has no idea how to use anything other than the green running man. Keep it friendly and helpful at the middle and high school games for everyone's sake.


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davethejnz
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Aug 09, 2009 22:55 as a reply to ChunkyDA's post |  #11

Thank you for such an informative posting.

I shoot mainly soccer and rugby and all 14 points you make apply equally to those sports as well

THANK YOU


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Mike ­ R
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Aug 10, 2009 06:00 |  #12

ChunkyDA wrote in post #8430192external link
Very nice Phil. Every tip worth the money. **Sticky**
I shoot the water girls, student trainers icing down a knee, students in the rowdy section, everyone wants a picture of themselves.
I try to help the other photogs along the sideline when I am down there. One mom uses a flash with diffuser, another dad has no idea how to use anything other than the green running man. Keep it friendly and helpful at the middle and high school games for everyone's sake.

Another vote to make it a sticky.


Mike R
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Big ­ K
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Aug 10, 2009 12:20 as a reply to Mike R's post |  #13

Phil,

Excellent summary. Very well thought out, organized and written. Below are a couple of comments I would add to your thoughts.

Tip 1 - Make that last sentence bold and in about 200 point type. :-)

Tip 3 - You might expand on the importance of anticipating the next play in order to increase your chance of getting a great shot. Does the team tend to run or pass? Do they tend to go to the left or right? Does one player get the ball consistently or do they spread it around to multiple players? Keep track of what down it is and how far they have to go for a first down. 3rd and long increases the odds it will be a pass play 3 and 1 increases the odds of a run. Etc., Etc.

Tip 5 - This is also heavily influenced by which lens you are using. Someone with only a 70-200 will need to set up differently than someone with a 300 or 400. The 2 yard/15 yard setups you mentioned work well with a 300 but are too close in most cases if you are using a 400 unless you are shooting super tight, which I personally like to do.

Also if you are using a prime instead of a zoom, be sure and allow for the action moving toward or away from you after the play starts. This was the one of the challenges I battled when I first started shooting with a 400. I would set up to optimize the framing before the play and once the action started the players were closer to me and feet, tops of helmets, etc. began to get cropped off.

Tip 7.2 - I shoot everything in RAW mainly because it gives me more flexibility to adjust white balance once your main light is coming from the terribly inconsistent field lights. This is a personal preference and not meant to say jpeg is not the right way to go.

Tip 7.3 - Again, a personal preference, but I define my minimum SS as 1/800 for football. If I can't stay above this with ISO adjustments I will either drop way down to 1/200 or less and work on panning shots or spend more of my time shooting sidelines and non action type shots.

Tip 8 - I love the tight shots on the sidelines but find they turn out better shot at f/4 or even f/5.6 especially with a long lens. The DOF is so thin that it is hard to get sharp focus on the face/eyes especially if your AF picks up on the shoulder or side of the player. The more sweat, dirt, blood and emotion, the better.

Regarding 7.4, I have always been against HSS with sports but after seeing this, I am strongly reconsidering. Scroll down and read/see image 9 and 10. WOW!! Granted, he is doing this with about $4k worth of speedlights and an $8k camera, but again, WOW!!

http://www.daveblackph​otography.com/workshop​/07-2009.htmlexternal link

Again, great post and hope my comments help expand on your outstanding start. Football starts here on Friday and I CAN NOT WAIT!! I am as far west in the eastern time zone as possible so it does not get dark here now until about 9pm.


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Big ­ K
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Aug 10, 2009 12:20 |  #14

Oh, and +1 on the recommendation to make this a sticky.


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Zivnuska
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Aug 10, 2009 13:13 as a reply to Big K's post |  #15

Thanks everyone for the comments.

Kevin,

As usual, your comments are extremely helpful and insightful. Thanks for making the point about adjustments for using the 400 f/2.8 vs 200mm. Everyone will need to adapt my suggestions to accommodate lens length, ISO levels available, and zoom vs prime lens. Like you, I prefer faster shutter speeds if conditions permit.

Your comment about Tip #1 is right on. One characteristic of top shooters is that they cultivate positive relationships in their dealings with SIDs, ADs, coaches, and others. We photographers all need to cultivate a positive image in order to preserve and improve access to events. We a colleagues much more than competitors.

I'll probably tweak the presentation after hearing from other top shooters like Dennis and incorporate your advice and theirs. There is plenty to learn and mentoring via the internet helps me and others improve. With a little luck, this thread will ease the learning curve for others starting out.

Don't hesitate to add other ideas.

Thanks again Kevin.

Phil

PS---I'm also pumped and can't wait! Love that high school football.

PPS---Like you, I'm on the west side of the time zone. I considered mentioning that but thought no one would figure out the significance. I should have guessed that you would be aware and consciously use that fact in your shooting strategy. ;)


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How to Photograph Football--14 Tips for Friday HS Football
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