Beginner’s Guide to Football Photography


We’ve all seen the press sitting behind the goal at Premier league, Champions league and international  games with their big white lenses and top of the range cameras but do you really need that level of equipment to take good quality images of your team down at the local playing fields?

Unless you’re competing with other photographers to get on the back page of the daily tabloids then the answer is NO! This article will provide you with a few basic tips that will help you capture some images you’re proud of – that do your team justice and help promote your team.

Whether it’s to use on facebook, team websites, and whether you’re looking to capture action, team or individual shots, then enjoy!




The Basics!

1.  Get Down Low!

The single biggest difference you can make to your football images is to get down low.  Don’t stand, sit on a small stool, or even on the grass.  This gives much more impact to your images by helping the players fill the frame and putting the viewer of the images at the same level as the players – putting them in the thick of the action.  This is something that anyone taking football photographs can do, whatever camera they are using.  This will make your images stand out from the normal images you’ll see.


2.  Use a fast shutter speed 

Which camera you’re using will determine how much control you have over your camera’s shutter speed.  If your camera’s shutter speed is too low, you’ll have blurred images.  To correctly expose your images, your camera takes into account a number of factors, the main one is how much light there is – light is your friend. The more light there is, the less time the shutter needs to be open in order to capture enough light to correctly expose your image.  If the shutter has to be open a long time to capture enough light, the greater motion blur you’ll get in your image.

Most cameras now have a sport mode – try starting with this.  This will tell the camera to adjust all its settings in order to get the fastest shutter speed possible.  The camera will increase the sensor’s sensitivity to light (known as ISO) and open up the camera’s aperture in order to let as much light in as possible.  There are trade off’s with these – a high ISO image will appear more grainy (known as Noise) and a wide open aperture will restrict the area of the image that is in focus (known as Depth of Field).  With SLR cameras you have more control on how the camera adjusts its settings to get the fastest shutter speed, allowing you to balance the Shutter Speed,  Noise and Depth of Field  to achieve the effect you want.


3.  Pick your location wisely

Before you even take your first photo, you’ll need to decide where to locate yourself.  The biggest mistake you can make here is to move around, trying to chase the game.  Pick a spot and stick with it, otherwise you’ll spend more time moving around than taking photos – it’ll also be more tiring that you would have thought!

The first consideration is the sun – you should be looking to shoot with the sun behind you or, at least, not facing directly into it.  Also, try to get clean backgrounds – images will look much better with hedges and trees in the background rather than different coloured cars in the car park!

There are three locations you should consider; 1) the half way line, 2) on the touch line level with the 18 yard box (avoid the side with the referee’s assistant running in front of you!), and 3) on the goal line – about 10 yards in from the corner flag.  I find a get a higher number of good shots at position 1) or 2) but the best shots from position 3).


4.  Anticipate the action

If you see the action you want to capture through your camera, you’ve probably missed the opportunity to capture it!

Even on ‘top of the range’ cameras there’s a gap between the time when you press the shutter button and when the image is captured (shutter lag) but the further down you go in the range, the longer this gap will be.

When you’re capturing an image of someone running towards you with the ball this isn’t so much of an issue but when you want to get that image of the ball compression as someone heads or kicks the ball then you’re going to need to get to know your camera’s shutter lag and anticipate the action early enough.

One way I do this is to look at the body language of the players through the viewfinder to judge when they are about to head or kick the ball.  It’s going to take a lot of practice and a little bit of luck but persevere to get that shot.

Some cameras also have a burst mode, this can help a little, capturing several shots as you press the shutter release or keep your finger on it – some of the top range cameras will capture over 10 images per second like this but you’d be surprised at how you can still miss that vital moment!


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