As most games are played either just as the sun sets or at night, light is a major concern with football photography. The distance spectators sit from the action also limits photography. As such, football game photography has traditionally been the domain of professionals with very expensive lenses that need very little light.
However, there are some simple ways to get the best football shot you can with the equipment you have.
- Get as close to the action as safely possible
Don't sit on the top row of the stands. Stand at the railing, or if possible, go to the sidelines. This will enlarge the players in your images and also make it easier for your camera to gather enough light for the image.
- Know Your Flash
A built-in flash on most cameras is useless past about 10 feet. If you do not have an add-on flash that is strong enough for distant shots, turn it off. Leaving an ineffective flash active only confuses your camera and leads to even darker (more underexposed) shots.
- Meter Off of the Darkest Uniform
When your camera focuses on a subject, it will "read," or "meter," the light. When you focus on a player, be sure to chose the darkest part of his uniform. This will convince the camera to allow in a bit more light for the image.
- Use High Speed Film
If you use a film camera, load it with 1600 ISO film or better. If you use digital, change the sensitivity to 1600 ISO or better. If your camera does not allow you to set the sensitivity of your sensor, turn your camera to the action setting. This will tell the camera to use the fastest sensitivity it has. This will help you achieve a higher shutter speed and reduce some of the blurriness in your images. However, when working with high film/sensor speeds, be prepared for some grain/noise in your images. Films and sensors are getting better all the time but currently most still have significant noise/grain at very high speeds.
- Anticipate the Action
Knowing what will happen next will make it much easier to compose your images. While you can't predict the future, you can make educated guesses as to where the player with the ball will go. If you know that a team is getting ready to try for the extra point kick, you can position yourself accordingly to get the shot.