I really dislike football helmets. I like faces better. Football helmets obscure the emotional moments in sports that only a face can tell. If you can find a moment like the one above to photograph a football player without his helmet, do it.
Football is an action sport to photograph. It has to be, because you normally can't see much emotion in faces due to the helmet. But I've learned one thing. Moms like faces - particularly faces of their little ones. Try to get as much of the face through the helmet in your football photography.
Below is an actual email I recently received about taking football photos at night. This is one of the most perplexing problems for parents. They've purchased a digital slr. They have a few lenses that reach the action. But when they attempt to get those sports photos in poor light conditions, it just doesn't work. In the note below, you even feel the frustration of this parent.
"I'm requesting some help. I am a pharmacist, not a photographer by my husband and I have 3 boys who are very active in sports. My oldest is 10 and plays soccer, baseball and football. A couple of years ago we invested in a Nikon D80 that came with a 70-300mm/f4-5.6 lense. I recently purchased an additional lense, 18-200mm/f3.5-6.3. I have been able to get some really good shots during the day. My problem is my son's football games this year are being played at night. WOW what a difference. I have discovered that I know much less than I thought. I understand lower shutter speed allows more light but all my pictures are blurred. I have only used the 70-300mm lense so far. My other lense is faster but with less reach. It also has optical stabilizer, should I leave that on or off? I use a pole to help stabilize. I have began to experiment with more manual functions but still need a lot of help. Please advise! I am a parent who loves to take pictures for the team but so far will be to embarrassed to show what I have taken. I need a lot of help. I have 2 more son's following this one who will be playing soon. I need to figure this out before it's to late."
And here's my answer to Ms. Frustrated....
reaching out to me about your problem.
The issue you're having with night photography is one that troubles many
sports-picture-taking parents. The
problem is with the lenses you're attempting to use for these nighttime (under
stadium lights) shots. The F-stop
of these lenses is just too slow to allow you to attain a fast enough shutter
speed to stop the actions without the photos looking blurred (f/4-5.6 for the
70-300 lens, and f/3.5-6.3 for the 18-200 lens). The shutter speed that the camera is probably automatically
setting is just too slow (thus the blurry shots). The camera is attempting to set a shutter speed that also
properly exposes the photos (photos that are not too dark). Your lens won't allow the camera to do this
AND maintain proper exposure. Even
if you attempted to manually set the parameters on your camera (shutter speed,
aperture and ISO), you probably won't get good photos that a properly exposed
and not blurry with either of those lenses. You have one good option that will
cost you some money, and one free option that probably won't work.
First, check our a recent post on my blog about this problem. This describes the option that will
require you to invest in a lens that will solve the problem. This is the best solution. Any lens with an f-stop of at least
F/2.8 or better (lower number) will do the trick. Of course lenses with these f-stops and enough reach to
capture action far away as in football are very expensive.
other option that you can try is to adjust the ISO setting of your D80 to it's
highest setting. For the D80, the maximum ISO is 3200 (or H1.0 in Nikon
language). How to do this can be
Raising the ISO allows you to shoot at higher shutter speeds at a given
aperture setting, and also have a better opportunity to attain proper
exposure. Your photos will be very
grainy. However, a grainy photos
is better than no photo or a blurry one.
Even with this adjustment, your lenses may not allow your camera to
attain the shutter speed fast enough to stop the night action.
No, I was not on the field as a photographer during this weekend's Notre Dame at University of Michigan college football game in Ann Arbor. However, I think I captured the spirit of college football without any photos of the actual football action.
Several years ago I got the opportunity to photograph a Detroit Lions football game at Ford Field. I learned many valuable lessons from the professional photographers as they captured the action for their various publications. I also discovered a few things on my own, however. Some of the best action , wasn't the football action. Never forget to take photos of fans, parents, coaches, players on the bench, and other interesting non-action that's related to the action.
And oh, there WAS a football game going on as well.