Football Photography Series: Capturing the Emotion

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  By Jennifer Berube
Football Photography Series: Capturing the Emotion

Shooting football means finding plenty of opportunities to capture dynamic, action-packed images. But, some of the greatest sports photos aren’t even about the game. The excitement of scoring a touchdown or the disappointment of a hard loss can generate deeply touching photographs. The key is knowing where to look and being prepared to capture these fleeting moments.

Rather than heading out and just shooting blindly, these tips will help give you a solid idea of what to look for as you try capturing the emotion of a football game. You’ll feel more confident shooting at your next game. And, you’ll know what to look for to let viewers see what goes on behind the action.

1. Think Like a Portraitist

Think about the more emotional sports images you’ve seen and you’ll notice that instead of following the basic rules of sports photography, they are generally shot more like portraits. You’ll still need to use a long lens in order to see all the way into the stands or onto the field. But, now you should use a shallower depth of field to isolate your subject from the surrounding chaos of the game.

This will require a wider aperture, so if you’re shooting an afternoon game in the harsh sunlight, you may want to consider using a neutral density filter to avoid overexposure. Keep your shutter speed fast so you can freeze the action on the field, or capture the expressions of the cheering fans.

2. Know Where to Look

You can more accurately predict the emotional reactions of the players and the fans if you have a basic knowledge of football. Get familiar with the rules of the game and even some of the key players, so that you will always be one step ahead of each play.

Also, when those plays happen, point your camera away from the field. Watch the faces of the people on the sidelines – coaches, training staff, cheerleaders, and whoever else you can find. They’ll likely show some emotion as the play goes down, so if you’ve already got them in your viewfinder, you’ll be ready to capture it.

3. Focus on the People

A lot of the things that might frustrate you when you’re shooting the action on the field can make for some great emotional shots. Look for the hardcore fans who are likely to be loud and boisterous during the game, kids who seem enthralled by the action, or even family members of some of the athletes. These people will probably be more expressive than the average spectator, so you can create some stunning images with them as your subjects.

Whether you’re shooting a professional game or high school athletes, if you want to capture emotion, you’ll need to focus on the people.

4. Eliminate Distractions

Keep your compositions tight

and clean to allow your viewer to connect with the subject of your emotional shot. If you can create a shallower depth of field to isolate a particular player from the rest of the lineup, or one fan from the excited crowd, you’ll be able to draw the viewer into your image and identify with your subject.

Some of this can be done in post-production, but it’s always better to be aware of your compositions as you’re shooting to ensure the best possible results. Try to get in the habit of doing your cropping in-camera instead of relying on editing software to clean up your images after the fact.

5. Be Patient

As with most sports photography, you won’t be in control of the situation. You have to wait for the perfect shots to come to you. Football photography gives you tons of fantastic situations and unique emotional images to capture, but to get the best ones, you need a bit of patience.

Bring a big memory card and shoot constantly. The more images you take, the better your chances are of capturing a great moment. Keep in mind, though, that these emotional reactions will come and go quickly, so it’s important to be ready at all times.

Try not to be discouraged if a reaction happens and you miss it. The best thing about shooting football is that there will always be another opportunity to capture the emotion. Just stay focused on your subject and keep shooting.

With these suggestions in mind, head out to the field and capture a different side of your favorite sport. Football images don’t have to be full of dramatic action to be dynamic and interesting. Try focusing on some of the players, cheerleaders, and even spectators to showcase the range of emotions you’ll find at the game.

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Before I became Editor-in-Chief of PHLEARN Magazine, I spent over five years specializing in Photography Writing and contributed articles regularly to sites like PictureCorrect, Sleeklens, and PhotoWorkout. Photography has always been a huge passion of mine; I may not be professionally trained in the art, but the knowledge and experience I have gained writing about photography techniques, interviewing some of the biggest and most inspiring photographers out there, and covering industry events has been invaluable!

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