Shooting Pitt vs. the USF From the Sidelines

I shot the USF Bulls vs. Pitt game the Saturday after the Bears/Dolphins game and just wanted to share a few shots from the game.

I used the same camera set-up, settings, as I do for any day game: Aperture priority mode; both cameras at f/2.8 all day. Both cameras at ISO 200 all day. I love day games—you set it, and forget it, and just work on your timing, and not worry about ISO or camera settings, or anything.

(Above: The receiver just scored a touch down and while he’s making the rounds of the end zone, he just flicks the ball behind him, and I was right there in front of him with a 400mm lens. One of my favorites from the day).

(Above: This shot breaks all the rules—it’s not an action shot—the ball’s not in the shot—he’s just standing there. But just standing there, this guy just look like a load. Looking at him, I’m thankful I’m on the sidelines and not the field. Also, you get a nice look at the wonderful bokeh the 400mm f/2.8 creates).

(Above: This is our buddy, sport photographer Andy Gregory. He’s a very good photographer, but he had been drinking heavily before and during the game, and right after this photo was taken, he fell over—passed out cold. Matt Kloskowski was shooting the game there with me, and we immediately rushed to his side, took his gear, went to the media center, and put it up for sale on eBay. When Andy woke up, around the 15 yard line, we had already pants’d him. It was a long day for Andy). [kidding, of course. About the drinking and stuff. Not about him being a good photographer. He’s a real pro, and an awful lot of fun to shoot with, and even more fun to tease].

(Above: Here’s a shot of Matt shooting from behind the end zone. The guy to Matt’s right, in the white shirt, is saying “Don’t you think Matt looks much taller in person?”)

(Above: This is a guy running with the ball. [Sorry, I couldn’t help myself]).

(Above: One of the big advantages of shooting from behind the End Zone is that there’s usually nothing in front of you—no refs, no chain gang, no TV guy with a giant parabolic microphone shield, so when somebody breaks for a touchdown run like this, you’re got a straight unobstructed shot).

Here’s a few more to take us out.

In all seriousness, hanging out with Andy and having Matt along with us for his first big football shoot was a lot of fun (and as expected, Matt came away with some nice shots. Andy of course—none). ;-)

We’re coming on up our last four weeks or so of Regular Season play, so there’s not much football left, which is a bummer. I’ve got a couple of NFL shoots coming up this month, and because of my travel schedule I am going to miss a few college games, but I did get my first Bowl Game assignment this year, so I’m psyched about that.

  1. Scott, don’t you get tired of coming home every night with a boat load of fish? You make it look so easy–and it’s not! I tell you, it’s not!!

    1. Hi Criag:
      Matt is shooting a 200-400mm zoom. The Barrell is buck smaller because it’s only an f/4. Those other guys are shooting f/2.8s. They’re only shooting that large a glass to make Matt look inadequate. ;-)

  2. Hey Scott,
    Let me start by saying, I really enjoy reading your football photo blogs; I enjoy taking pics at the Bucs home games too. Granted I’m in the stands, but your techniques have helped me tremendously!

    Are you shooting the Bucs game this weekend vs. Atlanta? Should be a good one with the Bucs wearing their throwback jerseys? Lots of fun color with the orange of the Bucs and the Red of the Falcons!


  3. Scott

    Perhaps a dumb question, but I’m just curious. I read your blog every day and when you shoot sports events I notice the majority of the pro shooters have Cannon gear. For example in two of the shots above the two guys next to Matt are both Cannon shooters and your Buddy Andy is a Cannon shooter. So is Cannon (Cameras, Lenses, or both) better for sports? Your thoughts?

    Thanks and as always enjoy your posts.


  4. Hey Scott

    Great as always. Love the “pants’d” section. ;-) I’m guessing you followed your usual path of shooting JPEG at the game. But am curious about the white balance. I’m surprised the shots look so cool (except for “No. 59”) as yours tend to be warmer. I’m guessing it was mostly overcast as the shadows aren’t too hard or too soft. What was your WB set to?

    1. Hi Jay:
      Later in the game, it was overcast, and a big chunk of the field was in shadows (as happens in the stadium late in every day game). However, now that I go back and look at them, I should have corrected for it. I’ll fix the high RES versions.

      I shot in Auto WB, in JPEG.


  5. When shooting these games do you always shoot in landscape and then crop the image to portrait? When I’m shooting my kids games I’m always switching back and forth between portrait and landscape with my camera and it often times results in me missing a shot.

    1. Hi Lucas:
      I switch back and forth depending on where I think the play is going to go, and how close to the play I am. For example, if I’m isolated on a receiver, I’ll usually shoot in portrait, especially if he’s going to be close to where I’m shooting from, because if he jumps up to catch a pass (which is very common) in landscape orientation his head or at least his arms and the ball wind up out of the top of the frame. I learned this one the hard way, after a few games of timing the catch right, but having the ball or receiver chopped off.

      Hope that helps.


  6. Scott,

    Interested in your take on the Canon gear question above as well. I always wonder myself why Canon seems to have much more of a presence along the side lines. That said I am seeing more Nikon these days and especially the last Olympics.

    Now, for my comment on the corrected vs. non-corrected fish-eye photo. Personally I like them both looking between the two of them, but I think the fish-eye perspective is a little “cooler” for this particular shot. I like the “bowl” look of a stadium shot with a fisheye. That said, there are some shots that I would prefer it corrected.

    Speaking of lens correction, I have an older Nikon 24-120 lens I put on the camera when my kids are shooting. Anyway to find a lens correction profile that I can add to lightroom for that lens?

    1. Hi Derrick:
      When I shot my first NFL game, I was the absolute only Nikon shooter on the field. Period. Canon absolutely dominated the sports photography market. I felt like the odd man out. Then came Nikon’s D3 with it’s incredibly low noise.

      Now, it’s not only evened out, but sometimes they’ll be more Nikon shooters, than Canon shooters—especially if the game is in a dome or at night. plus, I now see a lot of shooters who are carrying both—a Nikon and a Canon body. The Canon gear really stands out because of the gray color on their long glass, so it’s easy to spot, but I’ve been to games where the Nikon gear was much more prevalent, and that stands out to me

      That being said; I think Canon makes really great gear, so I don’t have a whole “Nikon vs Canon” thing going on. Right now, I think Nikon has a big edge at night games and dome games because of the d3’s amazingly low noise at high ISO’s. In the day, the playing field is evened quite a bit., because the low noise performance isn’t a factor.



      1. I believe it was the late 80’s when Canon got the jump on Nikon in sports photography when Canon began using autofocus motors inside the lens and Nikon placed the motor in the body, which is still there except for their entry level DSLR’s (D40, D3000). Nikon’s AF-S lenses helped them to return to the sidelines.

  7. Matt looks a little intimidated. Maybe its their long lenses, or maybe he is still working on his “cool sports photographer” look. Maybe he needs a raise, those jeans look a little worn. Come on Kelby toss him some of those bills that are stuffed in your camera bag.

  8. Scott,

    Any chance you are shooting at the ARMY / NAVY game in Philadelphia on Dec. 11th ??? I will be in the stands but close enough to yell at you if you are on the field! ;)

      1. Hmmmm….might it be the Bears/Patriots game on the 12th, Mr. Kelby? Being a Pats fan, I would love to see some of THOSE photos! :D


  9. Scott,

    I really enjoy your football pics and as always appreciate you sharing your techniques. I’m curious, could you also share the full frame pic vs. the cropped pic. I assume many of these pics are cropped. I love how you have isolated the action, but I wondered how much “white space” you allowed yourself when shooting in such a fast action environment knowing you could crop later.


    1. Hi Paul:
      I believe the only one that’s cropped is the 6th one down from the top. That being said; when the action moves farther down the field, I will crop in tight to isolate the action anytime I need to, si while I don’t generally like to crop, when it comes to sports, it’s almost a necessity in some situations.

      Hope that helps.


  10. Scott,
    Love the pics as always! Quick question but might not be a quick answer… How can a freelance ‘JoeSchmo’ photographer obtain a press pass to cover an event like a college football game? Being a PSU alum and huge fan, I am trying to determine the best route of getting the ability to shoot from the sidelines at a game in Happy Valley. Any thoughts?

  11. “I love day games—you set it, and forget it, and just work on your timing, and not worry about ISO or camera settings, or anything.”

    That’s something very nice. All your attention goes in getting that perfect moment on the camera. Not fidgeting with settings and missing all the best timed shots.

    Thanks for the tech specs as always.

  12. Hi Scott,
    I have been shooting sports for a couple years and would be interested in knowing if you track how many shots you take during a “typical” football game and how many are useable after you do your standard post processing . You post a few good shots on the blog, but you take a whole lot more, I just wonder how many shot you take during the game.

    1. Hi Steve:
      I under shoot most games, which is something I’m working on.

      Typically, I’ll shoot around 1,100 shots (less than 300 per quarter, which is low). From my last shoot, I had around 156 picks (keepers) that I could have uploaded to a wire service, had I been on assignment). Out of those I pick some of my favorites to show here on the blog.

      Hope that helps.


  13. There’s something about the way these photos look that makes me love em a lot. It’s probably my favorite set of football photos you’ve taken yet. It makes me want to take photos again.

    I’ve become a little bit of a hermit because of school so i never leave the house…or even bring my camera with me. SO….i lack practice. I’m terrible at sports, but maybe I’ll try my hand at it after this set hehe

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