Photography Tips #9: American Football

Being an unconventionally British sport, American Football is steadily growing in popularity in the U.K. Mainly based at universities and community teams, the sport combines the best bits of speed, hard hits and strategy.

Taking photos of this sport is no different to other pitch sports, but note that it is more a of stop start game so there is more opportunity to follow the game along the sidelines and get alongside the action.

With the turning of the season and the sun setting earlier and earlier, most games end with the sun starting to set. For this you need to have a camera with a good ISO capability so not to compromise the shutter speed which is the priority setting in this type of photography. Personally I avoid using flash in any sport situations, but some places allow flash set ups to help in night coverage but try and work around not having a flash.

This week I made a sound investment in the form of a monopod. Mainly due to having tendinitis in my elbow currently and my camera gear weighing over 2kg, having it constantly raised on my arm was not going to be a sensible option. Having a monopod not only saves the arms but also makes it easily to get to a consistent level and angle on the pitch as well as having a smooth rotation to follow plays. The only downside is the limitation of movement when the plays come very close to the sidelines.


To really get good football photos you will need to be aware of the following:

  • The game itself, the rules, the plays, this is so you can anticipate them and then from there, get the best shots.
  • Watch the game while taking photos as usually the plays are repeated – making it easier for you to follow.
  • The atmosphere – know your sidelines, speak to the players if you’re in their box, speak to the spectators, get a feel of the game.
  • Watch for key plays like kicks, punts, and throws – prefocus on the player with the ball.
  • Remember there is a lot of players on the team.


Settings to remember on your camera when approaching this sport:

  • ISO as low as you can unless it is dark (check your camera’s capabilities) set up an auto ISO
  • Shutter – nothing lower than 1/500 to avoid blur
  • Aperture, ideally you want something around f/5.0 but its nice to have shots with a very wide aperture as well – (especially if you have a 70-200m f/2.8 lens)
  • AI Servo setting (This is a personal preference but if you have a good autofocus system on your camera, you should really know whats best for your equipment… if not google is a great friend.)
  • Trial and error always try out before the game!


As always, thanks for reading and have another fantastic day and night!

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