My Favorite Football Shots of The Season

Man, it sure felt like more, but as it turned out,I only shot 10 football games this entire season (I’m not complaining on any level—I just sure thought it was more). They were:

  1. Notre Dame vs. Michigan State
  2. Tampa Bay Bucs vs. Indianapolis Colts
  3. San Francisco 49ers vs. NY Giants
  4. USF Bulls vs. Miami Hurricanes
  5. New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons
  6. Marshall Thundering Herd vs. FIU Golden Panthers
  7. Tennessee Titans vs. the Cincinnati Bengals
  8. Atlanta Falcons vs. Minnesota Vikings
  9. Countryside Cougars (High School Football)
  10. Georgia vs. Michigan State

And as we’re kicking off this New Year, I thought I’d take a look back at some of my favorite shots from this past season. All of them pretty much shot with the same set-up: 2 camera bodies: Nikon D3s and D3. Main lens: 400mm f/2.8. Secondary lenses: 70-200 f/2.8, 24-70mm f.2/8, and 10.5mm fisheye.  NOTE:  These look much better larger, so please click on them to see a larger size). Here they are (in no particular order).


There ya have it, folks—-my favorite shots from this season. Thanks to everybody who tolerated all my football posts here this season and to everybody who supported me throughout the year with your kind comments. I love sharing what I pick up from these games (good and bad), and it’s been really fun having you all along with me for the ride. :)

  1. Hey, Scott!
    Totally enjoyed watching over these (even though I’m not a football fan and I’ve seen most of these with detailed comments in your Google Plus posts).
    Bit of a technical question, if you don’t mind.
    On the third photo you’re using a fisheye lens. From what I’ve seen in you G+ posts, you say you use the 10.5mm one (BTW, that’s the second lens I’ve gotten for myself after 18-200 and totally love it). How do you work with it on the FX sensor of your D3? Do you use the DX crop mode? Doesn’t that drop the MP count to a fairly unusable size for your purposes? I’m not sure where you use these or who you sell them to, but why not use the 16mm FX lens?

    1. Hi PegaS: It does crop the image, which makes it not nearly as distorted at the edges (which I love), but you wind up with a 6-megapixel image (instead of 12 megapixels), which means I can only make a print that’s about 20″ x 30″. :-)

  2. I stopped shooting extra point shots because they all looked like every other extra point shot. I love the one you posted here (9th one down for the Football novice) . I may just start shooting them again. Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. Hi Mitch: I’m the same way—-extra point and field goal shots get no love for the reason you pointed out—-but it’s the light that made me like this one, (I think I only posted two kicker shots in the last two years for that very reason).

    1. Hi Brandt: It was from their mid-season meeting. The credit for tightness in the shot goes to my buddy Dave Black, who told me I should try shooting the few series with a 1.4 tele-extender on my 400mm lens, and leave it on until I get really tight close-ups of each QB. I actually think my shot of 49ers QB Alex Smith from that same game is a better shot…..but he’s not Eli Manning (and he’s not in the SuperBowl). :)

  3. Tolerated? You kidding? I looked forward to your football shots. It is great that you are humble but take credit when it is due. You are a really good sports photographer and your hard work shows off in your images. Thanks for sharing every one that you do (even your worst of since it makes the rest of us feel better when we have them too).
    Look forward to future images.

  4. Wow… Sports Illustrated hasn’t called yet?

    Scott, I can’t pick a favorite out of this bunch. Thanks for sharing with us and I look forward to more football photos in the fall.

    So, where are those hockey photos you teased us with a few weeks ago? 8)


  5. Scott, I’ve heard the new D4 will give you an extra stop and works great with a teleconverter. This should help with those times of bad lighting. Love the Marshall shot…

  6. Hi Scott,

    I’d consider it a heck of a successful year were I able to put together a “best of” group like that. My favourite game action shot: Photo #1 (Fantastic stop action and drama). Favourite non-action shot: Photo #16… Titans WR Damian Williams getting distracted by a passing seagull. :-)

    Nice, nice work!

    Trev J.

  7. Those are some really inspiring pictures, I love that not only do they look great but have such stories and character in them.

    I have really enjoyed the posts and has helped inspire me to start taking some amateur soccer pictures over here in the UK.

    1. Hi Kevin: Thank you so much. This year I consciously tried not to just focus on the action plays, but to also work on capturing the emotion and moments of the players and “telling the story” so it really makes me happy that you saw that in my shots. :)

  8. Scott,

    That’s a great series. I have to say, I didn’t just tolerate these posts, I looked forward to them as I am sure most readers did. You shared some great moments and some not so great moments, all while imparting a little knowledge and keeping things light and entertaining. For that, my thanks goes out to you!


  9. I’m glad you were able to “sneak” another football post in this season since I love seeing the football shots too. What caught my attention the most was seeing a high school game on your list. You never posted about shooting that game here did you? I absolutely love seeing your NFL shots, but I’d also love to see what kind of shots you get at a typical high school stadium since that’s where I (and I’m sure most of your other fans that shoot football) are typically shooting at. Was that a game you shot for personal reasons because you knew someone there, or was it perhaps a game you shot alongside Dave Black for an upcoming Kelby Training class? (I hope!) :) I’m taking the plunge and getting a 400mm, so I’m really looking forward to the next season of high school football.

  10. Fascinating that by about a 2 to 1 ratio, your favorites are shots taken outside the action on the field (player intros, post-play reactions, post-game, sideline shots). It really drives home the point that the “action” doesn’t stop when the whistle blows.

    I am looking to step up to the next level of lens for shooting sports (primarily baseball and football). You shoot with a 400mm f/2.8. I am considering either that lens or the 200-400mm f/4.0 lens. If you had neither and were looking to get one, would you stick with the fixed length?

  11. That’s a great moment you captured of the two Bucs kneeling while the ref waits for them. It’s such a contradiction to the rest of the three hours of madness that goes on during a game.

    Oh yeah, nice hat too. ;)

  12. Awesome work, Scott! I was reintroduced to shooting live sports this fall and had forgotten just how difficult it can be to get satisfying results. When you do, it sure is a rush!!


    1. Since Nicholas is asking about print sales, that brings up a good question for you Scott. If someone shoots an NFL game for a wire service or for a newspaper, etc., are they allowed to sell prints of those photos on their own, or does the NFL have rules against it? The wire service or newspaper may have rules against it as well, but for the sake of this question, let’s assume that they don’t.

      1. That’s a good question. I thought about wire service issues but didn’t think about NFL rules or even “model releases” since it would be “sold”.

        I’m from New Orleans and just think it would be awesome to have a shot of Drew Brees during his record breaking game framed on my wall taken by a photographer who I actual follow rather then some random photo on or something. It means alot more you know…

      2. Absolutely Nicholas, and I hope you are able to get a print. A Scott Kelby print of my favorite team would mean more to me than a random print from someone I didn’t know. I’m only asking because I hope to shoot NFL myself someday. One possible route for me is that I do stringer work for my local newspaper, and there’s a chance that they may be willing to get me into an NFL game someday. My contract with them allows me to retain ownership of my photos and do what I want with them, but I didn’t know if the NFL would have a problem with me selling prints on my own website.

  13. Hey Scott,
    I love the images and wish I could go to shoot games like that!

    I am attending the seminar tomorrow with Ben Willmore. I can’t wait. One thing I want to say about what you guys are doing now. The email I got Monday with the subject line “Great, You’re Attending! NOW WHAT?” is excellent for those who have never attended one of your seminars. I think this will be my 7th or 8th, I’m not sure, but the first one was with Ben in Arlington, Tx. That’s when I joined NAPP and never looked back. I always come away with something. The first few I went to were full of such “New” material for me, I would come away with my head spinning. Lately they are more of a review on some things, but again I always learn something new. Anything new is worth the price of admission to me!

    Thanks for putting on a great show! :)

  14. Great shots. I like simple poster type layout I’ve seen you use before. I only wish I could figure out a way to do that in Lightroom, and add three separate text blocks. I’ve not found a way to do it with the single identity plate.

    1. Build all the text in Photoshop as one graphic, and then bring that entire graphic into Lightroom. It’ll take you a time or two to get everything lined up exactly right, but you’ll get it. :)

  15. Wow! Great photos… Wish I could get shots like these. The colors are just incredible. Not to mention the way your manage to capture the motion so crisply, pretty amazing.

    I guess that sometimes it’s all about being at the right place at the right time… and taking the shot at the right time, haha.

    I will definitely have to keep up with this blog!

  16. You know, everywhere I go online to look at photos, everyone’s telling me to please click to view larger, and it’s a common enough refrain that there’s got to be more to it than just “see my pretty picture BIGGER!”. Does clicking a photo to view larger have an impact on SEO or traffic stats or something?

    1. Hi Michael: The real reason we want you to see the images larger is (wait for it…wait for it…) they look better. It’s one of those cases where bigger is better. I know you want their to be some kind of conspiracy tied to a kickback or traffic or something, but it’s just not. However, the moon landing was faked. ;-)

  17. I don’t even like football and I am awe struck at the power of these images. You capture the physicality of the game and of the players while showing the emotional peaks that come with victory or defeat. Rock on, Scott!

  18. Hey Scott. Quickie question – what font have you used for your ID plate at the bottom of each image (“scott kelby photography”)? Really clean.

    PS. Please consider a typography class for photographers over at Kelby Training!

  19. Cool to see your favorites. I´ve seen these here on your blog during the year and i have to say that there are a lot of very strong good images here.
    But one of my favorites, actually one of your best images ever from my point of view, is number four.
    I think that image shows the essence of football in kind of a subtle way, it tells a lot and at the same time it´s a sence of calm in it. Perhaps the calm before the storm to use an old saying. :)

  20. Hey Scott

    Comment didn’t seem to register (unless it’s in for moderation). Was wondering which font you used for your “scott kelby photography” logo. Also hoping you can do a typography for photographers course on Kelby Training.

    Take care. Love the shots.

  21. Thanks for showing some love to the Florida teams. My son is a USF grad now attending “The U” so my obvious pick is your second shot.
    But I keep going back to look at your sideline shot of the tattooed arm. It’s beautiful.

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