I haven’t had a chance to really go through my shots from the 49ers/Giants game on Sunday quite yet, so instead, I thought I’d turn this into a teaching moment and share some tips on shooting football—the kind of tips  you’re not likely to find anywhere else. ;-)

TIP #1: What this shot needs is….more goal post (see photo above right).
Without the goal post clearly visible in the shot, how does the viewer really even know what sport they’re seeing? Is it ice hockey? The 100mm Men’s Freestyle? Doubles Tennis? Who knows without a strong visual cue like that icon of football, the venerable Goal Post. Seeing it lets you know in an instant that this is football, and a four-point touchback is just moments away.

“I’ve got a fever. And the only prescription…is More Goal Post.”
— Legendary football photographer Bruce Dickinson

“If Bruce Dickinson wants more goal posts, we should probably give him more goal posts. And maybe I am being selfish, but last time I checked, SI doesn’t have a lot of pictures that feature the goal post!”
— Legendary G+ commenter  Nicholas Boivin

 

Tip #2: Use the Ref as a Graphic Element Whenever Possible
Timing is everything when shooting football, and if you can time it to where a referee walks into the frame at the peak moment of action (as seen above right), it will add a level of depth that is missing in so many sports photos today. Look at the flat-looking, one dimensional image on the left. Now compare that with the one on the right. The ref adds the depth and dimension it needs to take this shot to the pro level. I call this technique “Reverse Shallow Depth of Field.” or RSDOF

Tip #3: Use assistant coaches and other random people on the sidelines to help “frame” your subject (as seen above right).
In the shot on the left, you don’t know where to look first, but in the shot on the right, your eyes are drawn right into the player carrying ball (someone you might otherwise overlook). This is a tried and true compositional technique that is usually applied to travel and landscape images, but if you’ve got team assistants, and video crew, and the guy holding that big blue parabolic mic right there beside you on the sidelines, why not use them to apply that same technique to football shots? You won’t see this type of framing on SI.com, and that’s precisely what will make your images stand out!

Well, there you have it folks, three solid tips designed to add the element of surprise and shallow depth of field to your foreground like never before. Now, it’s off to shoot the second period of play and take a few snaps of that running guard right before the buzzer! ;-)