My Camera Settings For Shooting Football

NFL 2014 -- Buccaneers vs. Packers

Hi Gang: I get asked this question enough that I thought I’d do a quick blog post on it. Here goes:

Shooting Mode: Aperture Priority

F-stop: f/2.8
Note: I shoot wide open (using the lowest numbered f/stop) on whichever lens I’m using at the time, and I don’t change my f/stop the entire day.

Shutter Speed: 1/1000 of a second or faster
Note: For late afternoon or night games, I turn on Auto ISO and I set my MINIMUM shutter speed to 1/1000 of a second, so no matter what, I’ll also have at least 1/1000 of a second to freeze the action.

ISO: Bright Sunny Day Games: 100 ISO. Cloudy Days: 200 ISO. Night games: Auto ISO (see Shutter Speed above).

White Balance: Auto for day and night games, but I adjust it if it looks funky at night or if I’m shooting in a dome. A lot depends on the lighting in the stadium.

Focus Mode: AI Servo (Continuous Focus Mode on Canon bodies)

Auto Focus (AF) Area Selection Mode: AF point expansion (up, down, left, and right)

Focus Control: Back Button Focus

Shooting Mode: High-Speed Continuous (burst mode)

File Mode: JPEG high (here’s why)

Auto Focus Configuration Tool Preset: Case 4 (on Canon cameras), but sometimes I switch back to Case 1 if I feel like I’m having a bad focus day and I want to blame it on the equipment instead of the real problem.

Highlight Warning: On


Main camera: Day game: 200-400mm f/4
Main camera: Night game: 400mm f/2.8 (to keep ISO lower)
2nd Body: 70-200mm f/2.8 and/or 24-70mm f/2.8

IS (Image Stabilization): Off
Note: If you’re shooting at fast shutter speeds, this should be turned off.

Main body: Canon EOS 1Dx
2nd Body: Canon EOS 1Dx
Note: I don’t have the Canon 1Dx Mark II yet. Canon gave me a loaner for a weekend to review, but I haven’t bought one yet. I don’t have a 7D Mark II either – again, another weekend loaner.

Memory Cards: Lexar Professional 1066x Compact Flash Cards
I generally use a 64GB or 128GB, but both are overkill because I shoot in JPEG, so I only use about 12GB on my main camera, and 6 or 7GB on my 2nd body.


I hope you found that helpful. :)

If you’re into sports photography (or even just getting into it)…
…we have a bunch of full-length online classes at KelbyOne, but I’d maybe start with these:

  1. I teach a class on “Beginner Sports Photography” (link) Catch it if you’re brand new to sports.
  2. I co-host a class featuring sports photography legend, Peter Read Miller, called “What Makes a Great Sports Photo” (it’s a really eye-opening class – he’s amazing!). Heres the link.
  3. Another great class is from renowned sports photographer, Dave Black, and it’s on “Shooting High School Football.” Such a great class! (link)

OK, I’m off to Iceland today with my buddy Terry White – my first time ever and I’m really excited. :)

Have a great Monday, and we’ll see you back here tomorrow when I’ve got a cool tip for what to do when you have a damaged JPEG image.



P.S. A big thanks to everybody who came out to my seminar in Indianapolis last Thursday. Such a great group of photographers (and thanks for the awesome turnout). Next step: Minneapolis on September 21, 2016. Tickets here. 


  1. Scott, Interesting to see you shoot on Aperture Priority and Auto WB at night. I’ve found the light in the Australian stadiums to be quite even across the field and thus I use Manual Exposure – helps with the consistently changing electronic advertisement boards in the background that mess with Aperture Priority. Even though the camera AWB is getting very good, I find using an Expodisc to set WB and shooting on Manual Exposure reduces the editing so much. Looking forward to seeing your season’s pics.

  2. I’ve got the 1DX2 and shoot sports in raw mode. I just finished 7 days of shooting US Open series tennis in raw and never came close to filling the buffer on a CFast card. I never had a problem with my 1DX either, but I’m not one to machine-gun shoot 20+ images at one time. I don’t know many who do.

  3. hi .. sorry if i may ask y aperture priority and y not manual with ISO to Auto and setting Aperture and shutter at 2.8 and 1000s resp. regards

  4. Scott, quick question. I’m shooting with the 1DX as well and i was trying the auto ISO (in manual mode) yesterday at the Vikings game. I was having trouble with all the shots being under exposed by 1/3- 2/3 stop. There isn’t an exposure compensation in manual mode so I was wondering if you experience the same.

    Thanks Scott. Glad football season is back.

  5. Great post, Scott. It’s always good to see the thought process involved in setting up your camera for certain events.
    Slightly off topic, but I clicked on your link on why you shoot Jpeg instead of Raw, and saw that I had commented (twice!) on that six year old blog post. Funny thing is, I don’t remember typing all that! I really am getting old…… :-)

    We’ll be patiently waiting for your demotivational posters and numerous ref butt shots this upcoming season!


  6. Thanks for posting this! I’m shooting football on Friday and couldn’t figure out why I kept having focus issues on my camera… your focus tip encouraged me to research the issue and find that my settings were wrong.

  7. His is great Scott – thanks. Would you please think about creating a series of these to focus on other genres – e.g. travel and landscapes? Thanks!

  8. If shooting aperture priority, what metering mode do you use? I understand the advantage of shooting AV, especially if the lighting varies in different directions, but sometimes I feel that I get very inconsistent results. I’m wondering if I would get better results using a different metering mode. TIA!

  9. Hi Scott,

    Wow! This was great information! I’ve been struggling to capturing moving objects with my new Canon 7D MKII. I will try your settings and see how that goes … it’s possible it could be me! :-) Question, you mentioned to shut off IS when shooting in High Speed (burst mode) why is that? Could that be why I’m getting blurred photos sometimes when shooting fast moving objects? I am using AI Servo mode.

    Thanks again for this post!


    1. I’d also add – *why* turn off IS? So far as I can tell, IS doesn’t have any negative effects when handheld, and even at high shutter speeds having the IS stabilize the view through the viewfinder is a hard advantage to give up.

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