Although I only played high school football for two days during preseason, I do understand the draw to playing under the lights. Rushing the field to a hill full of fans, making the big play, and celebrating with your teammates fills you with a sense of thrill that can't be matched many other times in your life. The players give everything they have to their team and the lights amplify it all. The ups and the downs.
high school sports
How many photos do you need from a game or event depends on what they will be used for. I deliver anywhere from 3-100 photos depending on the event. When you are trying to get a large quantity its harder to be riskier with your photos. One reason I like news assignments is that it allows me to be risky and wait for a moment to happen.
The best time to be risky is when you already have the safe shots. Starting out get the safe shots you need and then look for different ways to be creative. You should also make sure you won't miss a game winning basket or something else as significant. I like to use the third quarter/right after halftime as a time to experiment. There aren't late game heroics going on and you tend to have plenty of safe shots.
I often lay down on the ground or floor to take photos during a game. You definitely get a lower percentage of keepers, but a more impressive image overall. Try using slow shutter speeds, lay on the ground, hold the camera up above your head, focus on an individual and wait for the play to happen. When being risky don't follow the action, try to anticipate whats going to happen next and have you camera there. If a player is on first base then point the camera at second base waiting for the steal or double play ball. Find a great background or frame and wait for the action to come to you. Once you become ok with missing a few photos you can be liberated to try new things and improve your the shots you do get.
When starting out photographing sports it was all about capturing the action on the field. Trying to get the peak action from every play. I got some great action shots from those early games, but it doesn't always give you the best photos to tell the story of the game.
It's still hard to take my focus off the field, but I'm willing to miss some on field action to get those more meaningful photos of fans, coaches, and other players. Understanding the game and anticipating what will happen next are keys to knowing where to point the camera. You will also miss great reaction photos if you are checking the back of your camera to see if you got the action shot. You got the shot or you didn't. Check it later during more down time and get the reactions. Reaction photos are just as important, if not more, to telling the story of a game.
Get there early and stay later. I arrived an hour early for this game. Players need to warm up and so do I. It helps to dial in your settings, get your reaction time down, look for good backgrounds/angles, and get to know the teams. The first first photo in this post happened because I arrived early, chatted with a parent, and she let me know what direction the players would storm the bench before the game. Staying late can also pay off. If I left after the action ended I would have missed out on the photos below. Learning to cover the entire game, not just the action, will yield some great photos.
To keep improving you have to try different things. At the recent girls hockey game I tried out using different lenses, changing my vantage point, and dragging the shutter. It was a close game and it shows in the emotion of the photos!