The Best Settings for Football Photography

So, you think those long exposures of nice, quiet sunsets are hard to get right? What about trying to freeze the fastest athletes, hardest hits, and most athletic moves to the point that you can see droplets of sweat?! Now, that’s tough! No matter what people tell you, sports photography is difficult.

Not only do you need some specific photo gear (read about that here), but you also need to be ready for some serious speed. So, let me share the best settings for football photography from my personal experience on the sidelines.

***Here’s a bonus tip to get you started in sports photography!***

Faster shutters freeze action!
Faster shutters freeze action!


Your shutter speed is probably the most important setting in sports photography. Nothing else is going to determine whether or not you can effectively capture action in a clear and concise photo. Obviously, you will need a very fast shutter.

Nothing under 1/500 sec will work unless you are shooting athletes standing around. If it’s possible, you should probably use 1/1,000 of a second. You need to get the shutter fast enough to freeze the image from the rotation of the ball to the movement of the feet.

It’s not necessary to go over 1/1,000 sec either because it will not improve the sharpness of motion within the photo. Basically, once you achieve the sharpness you want with the shutter, don’t make it faster. If you do, all you will be doing is decreasing the amount of light in the photo without improving the amount of motion that is tack sharp.

Wide apertures make the athletes the focal point of the photo


Aperture is always next, and you need to think about your composition when determining your aperture. What I mean is, you have to showcase the athletes. If your background is distracting from the athlete and the action on the field, you need a wider aperture to blur out the background.

I prefer to go as wide as possible with my aperture if I’m shooting action. Like I said before, if the action gets lost or busy, you need to blur the background.

Balance your shutter and aperture using the ISO
Balance your shutter and aperture using the ISO


The ISO setting you use is just to balance the lighting in the photo. So, the ISO is going to constantly change based on the time of day, shadows, and weather!

For example, your ISO is probably going to be very different during a night game than it would be during a game at noon under a sunny sky. Constantly watch the lighting and weather to determine how you need to be using your ISO to balance the available light.

I hope this gave you a great first step to figuring out your camera settings before you get on the sidelines! If you are confused by the shutter, aperture, and ISO, read this quick and easy tutorial! For more sports photography information, visit this page!