American Football is fast paced team sport with lots of different possible actions – the players will run, throw, kick, pass and so on. This means there are lots of photography possibilities but that the photographer also has to be very alert and aware to get the best shots. Here are some tips to tell you how.
1. Use a fast lens – you could be shooting on a local pitch or in major stadium but either way, a long telephoto lens is essential, and a fast one is even better. By fast, we mean that you should get a lens that has the ability to produce a small aperture (around f.2/8) and IS, or image stabilisation is even better. Don’t forget that with telephoto lenses, some may need their own tripod or somewhere sturdy to rest it to avoid blur.
2. Freeze Action – don’t be afraid to use fast shutter speeds and flash in order to freeze action. The best time to do this is when there is something worth freezing, people mid air or the ball in the sky. Most cameras will have sports mode, or you can push up the shutter speed and ISO in necessary.
3. Zoom Motion & Blur – Although you may want to freeze action you may also want to capture movement. Capturing movement in sports photography is a great way to get some drama into the photo. Try a burst effect - zooming in on your subject with a show shutter speed to get a sense of the subject moving. Lock the focus onto your subject and with your zoom lens as wide as possible (i.e. 50mm); manually zoom in very quickly at the subject. Use a slow shutter speed starting at around 1/30th and see what effect you get. There should be blur around the subject but then a focused centre.
4. Track action – as well as the burst type effect, remember that you can apply the same technique but move in a different way. Choose a slow shutter speed again and this time follow your subject as they do something, like run. You should get movement trails behind the person. These kinds of shots look fantastic when successful but also remember if the image is too blurry, just put the shutter speed up.
5. Learn to follow action – It can be hard to track football action because you need to be able to predict which way the player will go and you might not be able to see the stadium clearly if you are sat far back.
Practise by specifically following one player and get used to how they move. Get used to how the game moves and when the pace picks up. If you spot a great shot (like when a player scores) look out for it again. Keep the concentration up to get the best shots.
Get involved, have fun, feel the atmosphere and get some great shots!