NFL Sideline Shoot: Titans vs Colts (and how I got kicked off the sidelines)

It was an awesome game. An awesome night! For the Colts, this was a must-win final game of the season to make it to the playoffs. For the Titans, the role of “spoiler” if they beat the Colts in their house. What an incredible atmosphere to shoot in.

[Above: I got this shot of Colts Defensive End Robert Mathis as the players were getting introduced right before kickoff [CLICK ON IT FOR A LARGER VIEW].

They run out through a large inflatable tunnel at the corner of the field, and I was in the tunnel, down on one knee—with my 24-70mm lens aiming up, catching the players the moment before their name is announced in the stadium. It’s pretty dark in the tunnel, but as each player moves forward, the lights from the stadium partially hit them from the front, and that’s when I captured that image above.

I love it in black & white [converted using Silver Efex Pro]. With the bright blue colors of the tunnel and the jerseys gone, you can feel his concentration and focus before he rushes out onto the field and 70,000 screaming fans, on their feet, cheering them on).

I was at the game as a guest of the Titans, and team photographer Donn Jones (a terrific guy by the way) and what a night to be there. Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Colts, is an incredible stadium—one of the best in the league. It has a movable roof, so it can become a dome stadium in cold or rainy weather, and it was 20° outside [11° with the wind chill factor], so I was glad the roof was closed, and it was a perfect 72° inside all game.

The game came down to the final seconds, but you don’t want to let Peyton Manning have the ball with less than a minute to go, and sure enough he drove the Colts down within field goal range, and with just a few seconds left, kicker Adam Vinatieri took the Colts to the playoffs (it’s up…it’s good!).

Getting Kicked Off The Sidelines
During each game I like to change my shooting position on the field quite a bit, so my shots don’t all have the same look and direction. In a day game, I’ll also be taking the sun and it’s position into account, but in a Dome like this, it’s fairly evenly lit, so it’s really more about me just mixing it up. I shoot from both end zones and both sidelines at some point during each game.

It’s near the end of the first quarter, and I’m shooting from the Colts 15 yard line, and a security guard comes over to me while I’m shooting and asks to see my photo credential. Now, as you can see in the iPhone photo above (photo by Donn Jones) I’m wearing the official red NFL photographer’s vest you’re required to wear on the field, and I’m toting a 400mm lens and a second body, so I didn’t just slip in here off the street, so I give him a puzzled look.

He pointed down to my credential, and it had turned around backward so he couldn’t see the front. He said, “I need to see the front.” I just shrugged, turned it around and showed it to him (Hey, he’s just making sure I’m legit. No sweat, right?). Then he says, “You’re with the Titans. You can’t shoot on this side of the field. You have to shoot over there…” and he points to the Titans bench across the field. I laugh and said “You’re kidding right?” (I thought he was just goofing with me, because all the staff, police, and everybody was really friendly at the stadium). He gave me a stern look and said “No sir. You can’t shoot here. You need to leave now.”

Now, I’m smiling and being very friendly, because at this point, I think he’s still kidding me. I said, “Come on, really?” He just stared at me for a moment and pointed to the other side of the field. Finally he said, “You need to go, sir.” I didn’t want to make a scene (after all, I’m a guest of the Titans, and I have zero juice in the Colt’s stadium” so I moved down to the end zone, and didn’t shoot from the Colt’s side again.

When I saw Donn (The Titan’s team photographer) a few minutes later, I told him my story, and he was as surprised as I was. We’re both aware that’s it’s generally a no-no to shoot from behind a team’s bench area (you can walk behind it, but you shouldn’t take any photos while you’re back there), but neither of us had been banned from a sideline. Oh well, I still had two end zones and a 100 yard line sideline, so I just rolled with it for the rest of the game, but I’m still a bit surprised (and I wonder if it’s really a Colt’s policy, or that of an overzealous security guard).

Despite getting banned from the Colts sideline, I had a great experience up in Indy. They treat the photographers really well, and they have a nice photo work room set up, with a buffet for the photographers, a drink cooler, a salad bar—even snacks on the tables (that’s the first time I’d seen that).

Above: That’s Colt’s Quarterback Peyton Manning (I know you know that, I just included that tidbit for Glyn Dewis and Dave Clayton). I was close enough to where I could hear what Peyton was saying. He pointed right at me and yelled, “Hey…get that photographer off the Colt’s sideline!” ;-)

Camera Specs
Pretty much the same gear as usual. Two camera bodies: A D3s with my 400mm f/2.8, and my second body was a D3, but this time I went with a 24-70mm instead of my usual 70-200mm. I was hoping to get some wide shots as they came out onto the field, and after, and with any luck a wide end zone shot (which didn’t pan out). I shot all game at f/2.8 on both lenses, in Aperture Priority mode, at 1250 ISO on both cameras, which gave me over 1/1000 of a second shutter speed.

(Above: Touchdown Titans!)

(Above: Even though I was there covering the Titans, you can’t help but snag a gratuitous shot or two of future Hall of Famer, and a man with a whole string of mind-boggling NFL records, Peyton Manning, seen above).

A big thanks to Donn “Double-n” Jones, and the Titans organization for having me there. I had just a fantastic time, and outside of a Titan’s win, I had about as good a time as you can have. Plus, as a special bonus, my iPhone alarm did go off the following day, and I made my 8:05 am flight, and I was back at work right after lunch. Not a bad way to start the New Year! :)

P.S.: I’ll be posting more shots over on my Facebook page, including some taken at center field moments after the game. When you visit my page, click the “Like” button up top to keep up with my Facebook posts and photos.

  1. Scott, I think we talked about this not long ago, give a guy a security badge and….awesome shots by the way! Wait, I mean kick-buttish! The one of Peyton could be another wall sticker (whatever they are called). Glad you didn’t miss your plane!

  2. Nice shots, Scott! The tunnel photo is really special. Great lighting and a great expression.

    You made it to ESPN SportsCenter again! Caught you on the highlights about 5 yards from Randy Moss catching a ball (that was challenged). Don’t know if you got that shot, as you had the 400mm out and you looked like you were shooting the players coming toward you. Moss might have been too close.

    Can’t believe that the security guard kicked you off the Colts sideline! He obviously did not know who he was speaking to!! Maybe you should have brought Matt along to practice his martial arts move on the guard… :D

    I noticed you’re wearing a Black Rapid strap in Donn’s photo of you. What model is it? Maybe you could do a quick segment on these on D-Town? I’ve heard nothing but good things about these straps and wanted to get your opinion. Maybe you’ve mentioned them in a earlier blog.


  3. Wow. I love them all, but my favorite is the TD reception shot. I dream of getting an action shot like that. It has lots of cool elements – ball in the air just before it’s caught, both feet in the air, receiver’s eyes are visible, a defender in the shot, fans looking on with some of their mouths wide open, and it’s clearly going to be a TD if the catch is made.

    I’m guessing the security guard was an overzealous Colts fan, thinking that he was protecting the Colts’ territory from someone that was working for the enemy, ha ha.

  4. Scott…
    Okay…where to start…::sigh::

    1) I can’t believe you were in Indy and I didn’t get to take you out for a steak dinner…or another meal of your choice…I mean living here my whole life…I know the hot spots…

    2) Even though we are known for our “Hoosier Hospitality” yes…they are really that strict w/ the Colts Sideline, I have no clue as to WHY…

    3) I want a Print of that Robert Mathis shot please?? Just a name a figure.

    4) Maybe I can extend an invite back to Indy to shoot a Pacers game…I have a couple shoots coming up w/ them! I’m just sayin’


  5. Scott,

    Being Brazilian I’m not familiar at all with the NFL, however I’ve watched the Colts quite a bit, and sports photography is always great, no matter which sport you’re shooting.

    I also want a print of the Mathis shot, I don’t know who he is, and that makes it even more interesting to me, it’s just plain good photography, one of the best player shots I’ve seen, comparable to this shot

    It is from the Brazilian (ex) football (soccer) player Falcão, after he scored in the 1982 World Cup Finals, agains Italy. We ended up loosing that game, but this shot expresses beautyfully the feeling of joy after a goal.


  6. Scott, I’m not a football fan anymore (too many broken heart years being from Vikings country), but your shots are awesome. Thanks for sharing all of the back story details. It helps me pick up some tips for shooting the gkids and also have a little vicarious thrill on the sidelines.

    1. Dianne,
      I am a big Vikings fan as well! Don’t loose hope. I think Leslie Frazier is a high character head coach and will do a terrific job. I think there will be a lot to cheer for next year!

  7. I honestly wish that the local stadiums/arenas had such an amazing lighting!!! I’m from Leon, Guanajuato in Mexico by the way. No need to mention your ability to capture great images, I know it, you know it, we all know it…I personally admire your sports shots…all of them…hahahaha!!! Cheers!!

  8. Scott: We used to have problems like the security guard all the time on the PGA Tour. Since they biggest offenders were usually locals who missed the Tour’s briefing, we would always take their photo (somehow) and send it to the tournament director afterward with loads of praise for his or her zealous attention to duty. The TD always “got it” and we’d seldom have future problems. BTW, not to be obnoxious, but it always helps to keep a copy of the access guidelines at hand.

  9. Hey Scott,

    Just a little tech question here hope its ok :)

    You write that you use AP mode and use shoot wide open. Does the D3 cameras not allow for auto iso in manuel mode ?

    If they do would it not be a good choice to use manuel 1/1000 – F2.8 and then let iso be on auto. Should secure shake free shots with always the lowest iso.

    Beeing EU i have no experience shooting games like these, it was just a thought.

    Best regards

    1. I have been wanting to ask the exact same question. If you are not going to shoot in full manual at 2.8/1000/ISO X, it would seem to make sense to have the camera minimize the ISO based on lighting rather than minimize the exposure time below 1/1000?

      1. One thing about that is…he’s using the D3s where ISO is not an issue untill you get to, say, 8000 ISO!

  10. Hey Scott,

    Big fan of both the Titan’s and you so it’s kinda cool that this happened. I was wondering if you sell any of the print’s you put up. Also, with there being a chance that this could be Fisher’s last game, I was wondering if you got any pictures of him.

    Great job as usual,

  11. Scott, terrific photos! I especially like the last one you posted of the Titan helmet sitting alone on the sidelines. I am a high school coach and coached #53 Rennie Curran in high school. I was wondering if you happened to get any pictures of Rennie. If you do have a shot of Rennie, I would love to buy one if that would be possible. If not, I understand. Love your site…you do a terrific job!!

  12. Scott,
    If it is sunny do you try to keep the sun in the face of the players no matter if it is offense or defense? I know you get some harsh shadows beacause of the helmets depending on the time of day. I remember your post on using Lightroom to try to selectively lighten the face.

    Just finished watching Photo Recepies 2. It was Great!!!!!

    1. Hi Mark: I do try to get the offense facing the sun, but that sure keeps you running a lot, so I usually just tell myself “Well, now we’ll have great light on the defense.” ;-)

      Thanks for your kind words on Photo Recipes 2. It’s so new, I hadn’t heard a lot of feedback on it, so I’m thrilled to hear you liked it! :)



  13. Great shots. But before you start naming your photos and printing them, he spells his name “Peyton” not “Payton.” I’d hate to see you print up a large print with the name misspelled!

    1. Hi Joe. You’re totally right—I knew it looked kind of funky when I wrote it. I guess I don’t get to write the words “Peyton Manning” every day. :) Thanks for heads up—I’ll go and fix it right now. :)

  14. Great photos Scott!
    Sorry about your run in with the guard! I know as a respectful photographer I try really hard to obey the rules. All we can do is keep a positive attitude. Great Job with the way how you handle the situation. Very Professional!

  15. Scott: Excellent shots again! I can only keep working hard and hopefully someday I will be able to get the opportunity to shoot my favorite team – Packers!

    Very inspiring! Glad you had another great time!

    1. Well I guess there ARE more Hoosiers on here then I though…okay…NOW we band together and fight…Photoshop World coming to Indy….after we are the “convention capital” of the country or so I’ve always heard….

  16. Scott — You need an armband to be on the Colts sideline. Plain and simple. You didn’t have one in the picture above. Cross over the 20 on either side of the Colts’ sideline and feel the wrath.

    Someone should of explained that to you. I’m surprised you didn’t get kicked out of the tunnel since you needed one to be there.

    Matt Dial

  17. Scott, Maybe you should carry a image of 2 people in comprimising positions. This way, when faced with the security issues, you could threaten to take the security guards photo and photoshop it into it. Do they know who they’re messin’ with? :)

  18. As always, a great set of photos! :) You’d think with the buffet and the friendliness for photographers, they’d at least told you before if you couldn’t be on that sideline…

    PS: Thanks for the name tag, keep that up and I might know something about american “football” (;)) soon. :P

  19. Thanks for the name check Scott, I have still yet to see an NFL game [ever, even on TV] (I’ve seen NY Knicks, Chicago Blackhawks and The Cubs) so you can treat me next time I’m over – I owe you a ‘proper football’ match down at QPR !
    Here’s what you’ll be getting a taste of,,10373,00.html

    Wasn’t a certain Mr Clayton a big name down at the Dolphins in the 80’s/90’s ? ;)

  20. Scott,

    Your skill in football photography in the last year has tripled in quality, I admire your work tremendously.

    Av mode, huh? hmmmmmm if youre getting what youre getting with Av, nice!


  21. Hey Scott

    Do you ever use the D3/D3s auto-ISO function and manual mode? Given the latitude with both cameras it would seem to be the ideal solution to lock in 1/1000 and f/2.8 and let auto-ISO take care of the rest.


    1. Hi Jay: Auto ISO would certainly work, but as far as ISO goes, I can usually set it and forget it. For an indoor dome or night game in a big stadium, I set my ISO to 1250 or 1600 at the beginning of the game and I wind up with a minimum of 1/1000 but usually higher. If I was fussing with ISO all night, then I’d switch to Auto ISO. :)

  22. Speaking about a domed stadium, I know color balance is the least of your worries, but I assume you just use auto white balance. Have you ever measured the temp of the dome stadium lights and are they even throughout the field?

  23. Hey, Scott!

    Great pics as always and glad you got the chance to meet Donn. You’re right about him being an awesome guy. I used to work with him years ago when we were both at the Nashville Banner and I was a lowly sports writer and he was a staff photographer. I could always count on Donn to get a super shot to go with my stories. Haven’t seen him in years, but glad to know he’s doing well.

  24. What’s so informative about endless snaps of tattooed millionaires? I must stop visiting. I’ve got the memberships, got the books, got the gear, but I get nothing from endless NFL posts. Sorry.

  25. Scott,

    Thanks for the ‘heads up’ re Peyton. You know I was sat there reading this post, looking at the photos thinking “I’m sure that’s that Peyton guy” and lo and behold if I wasn’t right … lol

    On a serious note though, a superb series of photos and I’m totally with Chase’s comment above; seems every game you shoot you raise the bar!

    Thanks for sharing, oh and if you need any pointers with regards to players’ names, you have my number :)


  26. Scott,

    Every pro game Ive shot, the creds usually say something like “photographers must remain behind dotted line” or something to that effect. Like you said, you’re not supposed to shoot behind the bench (either bench) but everywhere else is fair game behind the dotted line. If you’re shooting for a particular team, shooting from the other side is the best way to get shots of coaches etc across the field.

    Not to mention you were in a red vest not a green vest. which usually means general photographer. the team photographers get green ones if I understand correctly.

    anyway, sorry that happened to you. When we get you in the Superdome, I promise that wont happen. :)

  27. Scott,

    Would love to talk to you about buying a copy of the Mathis shot. As a fellow Southcreek shooter who tried to get into Lucas Oil…it is nice to hear that you got in in a different way, because I was told SCG can’t get in there. Would love to shoot the Colts.

    Nice work.


    1. Fortunately for Scott he is able to get into just about anything with his well made connections. The rest are SOL and left to buy his new book on shooting pro football games when it comes out later this year…

  28. Hey Scott! Awesome shots of the Colts game first of all!!!!! I was wondering if you would be selling any prints from that. I would absolutly love to have a copy of the Mathis tunnel shot! I am the biggest Colts fan in the world and that would look sweet in my Colts room! I thought I had seen you on the sidelines at the game and I was right! Thanks alot!

  29. Last year at the AFC champ game Jets vs Colts they didnt allow of us visiting press photographers on the Colts sidelines. Sounds like the same policy this year. Many teams have their own rules I just wish they would publish them instead of finding out on the field.

  30. Fantastic shots Scott! Really enjoyed them.

    Only thing I can think of is that the security guard might have not been digging the Fender shirt. Maybe he was really working for Gibson undercover.

    All the best!

  31. Hey Scott

    I had a similar incident happen to me over the summer with security. I was covering the Boston Breakers Women’s Professional Soccer team at Harvard Stadium. I was covering it both for blogs and for PUMA…you know the athletic clothing company! They sponsor WPS and it was the first night of Project Pink where PUMA and WPS teamed up to fight breast cancer and part of the campaign was to wear special pink uniforms to be raffled off during the games.

    Well I had complete reign of the field till I tried to shoot from the end of the PUMA bench and was told by the woman in charge of team security that unless I was there shooting for the Breakers I couldnt be there. Even after I told her I was with PUMA, the sponsor of all the uniforms and the event that night it didnt matter to her.

    For some people it really is complete black and white with that stuff they dont realize there are gray areas and special circumstances! G

    Great shots by the way!


    1. Hey Big Matt:
      I only have two prints in my home office. Some of my favorites are hanging in my office at work (7 to be exact—all 17×22″), but I print a lot more than that, and I keep them in our archival room at the office. :)


  32. Scott,
    I shoot for a family of papers in the mid-south, one of which covers the Titans regularly. I’ve shot the Colts/Titans game for our regular guy (since I’m always in Indy to visit relatives at Christmas) for several years with Titans-issued passes, and I’ve always been told I had to stay on the Titans sidelines or end-zone areas. If the Colts issue your pass, you may go anywhere around the field, but if your pass comes from their opponent, you must stay on their sideline. Been that way for a long time.

  33. Maybe with the recent filming/cheating scandals, they are wary of other teams support? The game had a lot on the line – maybe they were worried about Josh Mcdaniel tactics? :0
    The Colts play the Jets next :)

  34. So, so very jealous. A few years back, my father in law got my hubby and me great 3rd row tickets. I went out and bought a long Tamron lens for the occasion. I also re-read my Scott Kelby photography book, and off I went, sure of my abilities. Just before kickoff, my husband freaks out about me shooting on manual and begs me to switch it over to the sports setting…which I did. When I got home, I realized I’d shot the whole game wrong. Not a single clear shot to be had (with the exception of the guys in front of me passing around some sideline guy’s brand new Super Bowl ring).

    This was back when we had the RCA dome, and it seemed so bright in there, so I didn’t give a second thought to my ISO, which is where I went wrong. If I’d stood my ground, my hand held shots would have been great. Since then, I learned how to shoot on manual and trust my gut, but I’ll never get those seats again, I’m afraid.

    I’m glad you had a great time. Go Horse!

  35. LOL – Good one Scott. Peyton didn’t want you seeing his super secret QB wrist bands with special plays….so he pointed you out to the guard! LOL They call that one the quarterback boot, edge 50, Kelby clear out! ;)

  36. Scott,
    Awesome emotion in the black and white shot with Silver Effex Pro. You can get the sense of concentration and solemn as he prepares to take on the gladiators. Oh…for a minute I forgot this was football. To be there watching and photographing, doesn’t get much better than that, great shots as usual. Did you use any of the filters in Silver Effex Pro, and if so which one? BTW…friend of mine’s brother John Teerlinck is one of the assistant coaches at Indy.

  37. Hi Scott.

    I really like the way you have these images presented as fine art style prints. What method do you use to achieve the snazzy layout? Lightroom? Photoshop?

    I’m think I’ve seen you demo this kind of layout before somewhere but can’t remember if I imagined it? If I have could you do a quick tutorial on it sometime please? Ta.

  38. Hey Scott, since so many people are asking about prints of some of these photos, perhaps this could be an opportunity to raise more money for the Springs of Hope orphanage in Kenya. :-)

  39. I recently experienced the exact same situation at a High School game. I was on the visiting sideline and the coach came yelling at me to get out of their team box, I was at the 35. I had no idea I wasn’t allowed past the 20. Glad to know other people make mistakes. Awesome shots btw! I can’t believe how well those d3s do at high iso.

  40. I would LOVE access to prints of the Robert Mathis shot. I’m a huge Mathis fan, was at that game, and would appreciate your feedback on availability/pricing! Thank you!

  41. Hi Scott,
    I was one of the other photog’s in the Tunnel as the defense ran out. In order to be on the Colts side of the field you need to have one of those fancy arm bands. I had a friend tell me prior to the game that since I didn’t have one not to go on the colts side of the field otherwise they would run me off. My friend has been to lots of different stadiums around the NFL and he said that only Indy and Dallas have that rule.

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