Great football action can be challenging to capture, but it's well worth the hard work.
Lehigh receiver Derek Knott (21) catches a pass despite being hit by Yale's Hayden Carlson (26) during Lehigh’s 63-35 win at the Yale Bowl.
Football is often one of the most difficult sports to photograph, since the action can be a pass or run, and takes place practically anywhere on the field. Thus, you have to either correctly anticipate the play or quickly react as it unfolds. While sports photography success doesn’t always require understanding the game, it is extremely valuable in football, when knowing the next likely play enables you to optimally position yourself and point your camera. Another essential element of successful football photography is a very fast shutter speed, 1/500 at a minimum or 1/100 ideally, to freeze the frequent, rapid action, even if this necessitates less depth of field from a larger aperture and reduced image quality from a higher ISO.
Pass plays usually provide the best football action shots, as players extend their bodies to make athletic catches. This game featured an offensive explosion, with 12 touchdowns scored by the two teams, and a school record 524 yards passing for Lehigh. Earlier in the game, one Lehigh receiver made several acrobatic moves and spectacular stretches, but I was not in position to capture those photos. As the game unfolded, I monitored him on likely Lehigh pass plays, and finally caught him in action as he leapt high for a catch, despite Yale’s defensive player draped all over him. It reminded me of the famous Super Bowl 42 helmet catch by New York Giants receiver David Tyree that beat the New England Patriots in 2008.
1. Understanding the game of football makes the game much easier to photograph.
2. Pass plays typically provide the strongest action photos.
3. Use a very fast shutter speed to freeze the motion, even if it requires a large f-stop and high ISO.