Where to Stand for the Best Football Photos

footballI’m going to let you in on a vulnerable moment I had during the first football game I was photographing. I was on the sidelines of Neyland Stadium at the University of Tennessee. During the game, I kept looking at the photos I took and they just weren’t great. I was a little disappointed.

I couldn’t figure out what the problem was until I started watching the other photographers. I began to notice that they were constantly moving around the sidelines. I had been standing still, waiting for the action to come to me! That’s a big no-no. #Protip: Never wait for the action to come to you, go and seek the action. Here’s where to stand for the best football photos…

Taken from behind the defense
Taken from behind the defense

Sidelines

If you find yourself scheduled to photograph a football game (by the way, here’s a really good tip for how to get on the sidelines), the majority of your time is going to be spent on the sidelines. You can easily get close to the action with a telephoto or super-telephoto lens from any sideline position.

Always be moving. The best sports photographers deliver a variety of angles.

Taken from behind the offense
Taken from behind the offense

Follow the team down the sidelines for one possession, then switch to the other sideline the next time they have the ball. Your photos will show that you switched positions by the backgrounds, lighting, and angles.

You also need to move 10-20 feet between each play. For first down, line yourself up to see directly down the line of scrimmage. Take creative shots using a wide aperture and focus on the ball or a helmet logo. For second down, get behind the defense and wait for the quarterback to make changes to the play. For third down, get behind the offense and prepareĀ for a sack. For fourth down, get low to the ground to get a shot of the punter in action (give the punters some love, they aren’t always featured in photos).

On any sideline, move, move, move, and then move again.

Taken from the end zone
Taken from the end zone

End Zones

From my experience, the end zone photos are the best. And the best place to stand for epic touchdown photos isn’t behind the end zone, but on the side. When you position yourself on the side of the end zone you are able to get close to the action with a telephoto lens when the running back is stretching for the goal line. Also, you are in position and ready with your wide angle lens when the quarterback throws a fade route to a receiver.

You probably won’t move very much when a team is close to the goal line. The strategy when teams are close to the end zone is to position yourself where you can take multiple types of photos from one location.

Post-game celebration!
Post-game celebration!

Post-Game

Photographers should still be working when the clock hits double-zeros. When the game is over, it’s time to get post-game shots. Celebrations, hand shakes, and the agony of defeat show how much emotion went into the game and provides closure to the story of the game through your photos.

For post-game shots, you are allowed to push your boundaries a little bit. Go where you might not necessarily be allowed to go. Run to the middle of the field for the coach’s handshake. You should always try to get on the field where the majority of the action is. If you find yourself in the middle of the football team, you’re in the right place.

Before you hit the field, be sure and check out this post for essential football photography gear!