High School Football Shooting - Advice?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Keleko, Aug 5, 2011.

  1. Keleko macrumors 68000

    Mar 26, 2008
    My photography in the local scene has gotten me noticed by my local area Patch.com editor (lilburn.patch.com). You can see what I've done with a few local events on SmugMug. I've been hired as a freelance shooter for Patch.com to shoot a couple of local events tomorrow.

    I've also been asked to do action shots at high school football games for them.


    I've never done this before. I'm not afraid of trying (it is "only" HS football, after all). I'm mostly looking for advice from anyone who has done it on what I should look out for. I'm not totally ignorant of doing it, though. Here's what I've leared from reading Scott Kelby's blog when he talks about football shooting. I've also read a little about the subject in various photography books that have covered the subject.

    1) I need a long, fast lens. I have a potential for a used 70-200mm f/2.8L II IS USM purchase from a friend. It is at the top end of what I can afford right now, and trying to get longer is out of my budget for now. Even trying to rent a second body, monopod and 200-400mm is probably more than I'd be paid to do the work. So I'll have to make the best of 70-200mm. Plus, it is "just" high school.

    2) Get a monopod. Those long lenses are heavy, and a tripod is too cumbersome to move around quickly.

    3) Get an extra battery. I don't wanna run out of power in the middle of a game. I do think my camera could last an entire game (around 1k or more shots per game) without running out of power. I've shot about 3-400 frames since I charged it last Friday, and it still hasn't moved from the "full" meter on the camera. But, it is probably best to be safe on the battery issue.

    4) Shoot f/2.8 and try to get 1/1000 shutter speed - 1/500 bare minimum. It looks like aperture priority is the common mode to use. Maybe I can get away with a slower shutter if I get lucky or pan well, but that is risky Use whatever ISO it takes to get that (hopefully no worse than 1600). HS football games here are almost always on a Friday night here, so it will be lit by stadium lights, especially as it gets into the fall.

    5) Shoot in JPEG. I'm not sure if this is necessary for me, since the reason the "pros" do this is to make it faster for their wire editor to upload shots. That's not an issue with HS football. However, it does solve the problem of space on the cards for me. If I'm shooting 300-500 per quarter, I need room for a lot of shots during a game. Football action shots aren't going to be processed much after the game anyway, so not having them in RAW is not a major drawback. Auto white balance should be fine, too.

    6) Don't cut off limbs. Duh. :) That'll take practice on my part since I haven't done action photography much.

    7) Officials (and everyone else) are out to get you. You'll get a lot of rear-end shots because they deliberately get in the way. :)

    So is there anything else I should know about?
  2. ewlon macrumors newbie

    Aug 5, 2011
    High School Football Shooting

    At 2.8 F-stop you'll have such a thin field of focus that you'll never get focused in time to get a good shot, or if you focus first and the run's off tackle, the ball carrier will be out of focus at the end. I shot SEC college ball from the sidelines for 6 years with 3 Leica M3s: one 135mm, one 90mm, and one 50mm for sideline color of the bench. Film (and in the case today of SM cards) is cheap. I'd often shoot 50+ rolls in the course of a game. Always B&W TriX at ASA400, sometimes push to ASA1000 if it was overcast. Fall afternoon sun is bright. You need to shoot continuous on a play. I had a spring motor drive on the 135mm. At F 5.6 or better F 8, I would focus on the QB, start shooting when I thought the snap would start, pan with the action, and not stop shooting until the whistle. Tight shots are better. You can't really get the pass receiver if you're on the line of scrimmage and start with the QB. Take some time in the game to be down field and hope for the best. At the goal line, the shots get interesting with short passes you can shoot and FBs jumping over the center of the line, etc. Good stuff and fun. That's my experience, and it was with film; others would have different experiences.
  3. dukebound85 macrumors P6


    Jul 17, 2005
    5045 feet above sea level
  4. mackmgg macrumors 65816


    Nov 2, 2007
    With modern cameras and lenses, even at f/2.8 the continuous autofocus should be able to keep up with them. Even running at the lens, AF is usually fast enough that focusing isn't a problem
  5. RobLS macrumors member

    Aug 30, 2008
    The times I have trouble being at 2.8 and things being too quick for the lens is when I am shooting close up boxing.
  6. Keleko thread starter macrumors 68000

    Mar 26, 2008
    Yeah, I forgot to mention the focus will be in continuous mode. There's way too much movement to use a set focus.
  7. ashman70 macrumors 6502a

    Dec 20, 2010
    Your going to want to be shooting in shutter priority at 2.8 for as long as the light will permit you. Shoot vertical for most shots trying to isolate players. Try and get the ball in the shot as much as possible and when not shooting at 2.8 be aware of the backgrounds when taking a shot, otherwise they can be so distracting they can ruin a shot. Fast continuous shooting is good, so extra batteries are handy. You don't mention what equipment you are using but I'll assume its a crop body of the Nikon/Canon variety. Even at 200 you are going to be limited so your going to have to be really picky about what you shoot, it will likely take a few games before you know the limitations of your gear and figure out the right positions on the field.
  8. ewlon macrumors newbie

    Aug 5, 2011
    High school football

    I disagree with mackmgg. These guys run 40 yrs in 5 sec. I'll be convinced the motor and optics in the autofocus can keep up wit that when I see it.
  9. FX120 macrumors 65816


    May 18, 2007
    Have you ever seen a Sports Illustrated?
  10. mackmgg macrumors 65816


    Nov 2, 2007
    I've never tried it with a football player, but the continuous AF is usually fast enough to keep up with a car, so this shouldn't be too much of a problem
  11. Keleko thread starter macrumors 68000

    Mar 26, 2008
    Using continuous AF is what the pro photographers say they do when shooting college and NFL football. If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me.

    I have a Canon 60D, so it is a crop body.
  12. carlgo macrumors 68000

    Dec 29, 2006
    Monterey CA
    With my skill level I have found that it is best to use a slightly wide angle approach. Trying to zoom in tight just results in too many missed shots, half of a subject, etc.

    Of course, go for some tight shots, but generally rely on a wider view.

    Use more crop and less zoom. After all, these are going to be lo rez photos in a paper and not a pixel-peeping thing. JPEG would be more than good enough.
  13. The Mad Kiwi macrumors 6502

    Mar 15, 2006
    In Hell
    Don't try to shoot verticle and tight, it's too hard to follow the plays in the frame. Shoot landscape since the players move left and right and not up and down much, you'll be able to track them better. Crop the photos afterwards.
  14. Keleko thread starter macrumors 68000

    Mar 26, 2008
    Maybe what I'll do is just always shoot 18mm and just crop later... ;)
  15. runlsd macrumors 6502


    Mar 17, 2009
  16. jlewisdaville macrumors newbie

    Jul 4, 2010
    Louisville, Kentucky, USA
    "Two faces and a ball" is a common sports photography "rule". Rules are meant to be broken though, so remember you are capturing a moment that tells a story. If you understand the game, you will know which moments best tell the story as it relates to the game.
    As far as football is concerned, obviously you are looking for key offensive and defensive plays (1st downs, touchdowns, sacks, interceptions, etc). The secret is getting yourself in a position to be able to capture as many of those moments per play as possible. Your mileage may vary, but I've had luck on the sideline about 5-15 yards (depending on the QB's arm mostly) ahead of the offense. Just keep your lens on the ball, and don't get tackled.
  17. bruinsrme macrumors 603


    Oct 26, 2008
    So did I. All I could think is some pro football/basketball player gave some bad advice to a bunch of football players

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