Find Out What It Takes To Make It As A College Football Photographer

Turns out it's not so easy to show up and get the money shot. Six college football photographers share their tips and tricks for shooting the games.

From the moment the clock starts, to the end of the fourth quarter, football games are almost entirely unpredictable, and photographing them is no small task. Rain or shine, from the sidelines to the locker rooms, being a college sports photographer could be in an athletic class of its own with the constant running around.

In addition to showing up to the stadium hours before kickoff, college sports photographers spend practices with the team, travel with them on the road, and often edit for hours after the game ends. Some work as photographers for the team while studying full time, while others have graduated and are hired to work full time on content for the school. Meanwhile, most do not own the copyright to their photos from the games (it is standard practice for the school to hold the copyright). That said, there is little glamour to the lifestyle of shooting such high-energy events, but that makes the work of these photographers all the more impressive.

Here are six photographers who capture the magic of the game on and off the football field, sharing their tips and tricks, and advice for young photographers.

Angela Wang - University of Texas

A Texas longhorn emerges from smoke on the field at a Texas football game

"When I joined The Daily Texan as a staff photographer in my first semester of college, I had no photo experience. Luckily, I had two great editors, Juan Figueroa and Gabriel Lopez, who invested a lot of time in me. Specializing in sports was kind of an accident. At the paper, I became close friends with a group of sportswriters and slowly took on more and more sports assignments. Before I knew it, I was the photo editor of The Texan’s weekly football publication, Double Coverage. During my sophomore year, the university athletics department reached out to me looking to hire their first photo intern, and I’ve been here ever since."

How do you prep for game day?

"Game days are long, so I always make sure I have a large mug of black coffee in my hand and a good attitude when I show up to the stadium."

What is one misconception people have about sports photography?

"Sports photography is surprisingly physical! On football game days, I’m usually carrying 15-plus pounds of gear on me while running up and down the sidelines with the action."

What is one piece of advice you would give to some aspiring to shoot football games?

"Don’t be afraid to reach out to people you admire. The best way to get a response from them is to make sure your questions are well thought out and specific, so they can help you as best as they can."

Follow Angela Wang on Instagram @texaswangela.

Morgan Givens - University of West Florida

Football players celebrate a victory in their locker room after a game

"On game days, my mantra is 'first one to show up, last one to leave.' I like to arrive at the venue several hours before kickoff to make sure I cover team arrivals, get fan content, and also cover any storylines that develop before the game. A lot of content I get on game days is within an hour before kickoff, where the team is making final preparations before taking the field — this is when the adrenaline starts pumping, but at the same time, I'm able to get the quieter moments that fans don't get to see, like prayers and scenes of silence where I never ask but I always wonder, 'What's going on in their heads?'

"For me, I gravitate towards sports photography because of the emotion. It's so raw and something that you can't find anywhere else. Even though West Florida is a smaller school (Division II), I love it because I feel the relationships I make with coaches and athletes are more genuine and it gives me the opportunity to share the stories of these people from this school that many others may have never heard of and make them care about their successes and struggles."

Do you have a good luck charm or something unique that you bring or wear when shooting games?

"Part of my gameday outfit I wear padded knee sleeves since I'm usually always shooting low. I love that angle because it makes the athletes look more heroic as compared to shooting at eye level. My knees definitely thank me for doing as much as I can to take care of them!"

Follow Morgan Givens on Instagram @mowwgan.

Katie Chin - USC

A football player is seen upside down holding a football at a USC game

"I always loved sports. My mom was in charge of the Little League Yearbook one year and asked if I could help her take photos for the book. We both fell in love with photographing baseball and ended up becoming the photographers for the league for about four years and followed the teams all over the state. We started shooting youth basketball and then I joined the yearbook in high school to keep shooting sports. I found out it was something I could do professionally and I haven’t looked back since."

What is one piece of advice you would give to some aspiring to shoot football games?

"You don’t need to shoot at the collegiate or professional level. I had just as much fun and gained just as much, if not more, experience photographing high school and youth football as I did college."

Do you have a good luck charm or something unique that you bring or wear when shooting games?

"I do have one pair of shoes that I always wear. They’re pink and green and people started remembering who I was based on my shoes, so I let them become a way to identify myself on the field."

Follow Katie Chin on Instagram at @katiechinphoto.

Jack Mayo - Southern Methodist University

A football player looks and points to the camera from the touchdown zone of a football field

"I’ve always had a camera in my hand, but I hopped down onto the sideline with a camera my freshman year of high school to photograph the student section to show off our school spirit, I didn’t even shoot the game, but it led to me being on the sideline at every game and eventually becoming the football photographer/filmmaker."

What is one misconception people have about sports photography?

"That gear makes a big difference. The biggest differentiator in your shots will be the angles and perspectives you can offer, the gear doesn't matter as much as most think."

Do you have a good luck charm or something unique that you bring or wear when shooting games?

"Just my Apple Watch to make sure I get all my steps."

Follow Jack Mayo on Instagram @jackmayofilms.

Shanna Lockwood - Auburn University

"I think some people think we are watching the games, and we are but in a very different way. We're also looking out for things like environment, fans, and unexpected moments. I'm looking at field position, but I'm also thinking about the direction of the light, framing, checking to make sure settings are dialed in if it's a day game and the light is shifting.

"During timeouts, I'm sending photos and also keeping a lookout for potential moments with fans, mascots, details, coaches, etc. From the time I arrive four hours before kickoff, throughout the game, and after, I'm looking for possible photos."

Do you have a good luck charm or something unique that you bring or wear when shooting games?

"I don't have a certain thing I wear (unless you count my ThinkTank belt), but I do have a routine of getting there early and walking a lap around the field while it's still quiet. There's something extremely meditative and calming about that for me."

Follow Shanna Lockwood on Instagram @shannalo.

Evan Luecke - Previously Stephen F. Austin State University

A football player sits alone in an empty locker room

"I knew I wanted to be a sports photographer when I got to college. I always wanted to work in sports media but wasn’t sure exactly which direction. Being a track and cross country runner in college, we didn’t get a lot of coverage, and when we did, it was mundane at best. I told the current Sports Info Director at the time I could do better and he said, 'Do it.' So he sent me with a camera and I fell in love and wanted to start taking it seriously. I shot some soccer in high school but more of as an amateur."

What makes for a great game shot?

"I think first if something is on the line such as a championship or revenge, etc. Personalities will always help make the story interesting and conflict helps. Weather-wise, I’m a sucker for sunset/pink skies but also overcast games will always be my favorite."

What is one misconception people have about sports photography?

"I think one misconception is that just because you shoot a high-profile athlete doesn’t necessarily make a good photo."

What is one piece of advice you have for a young photographer?

"I would say stay curious, hungry and foolish, love what you do, trust yourself — have that confidence that you belong there and treat every game like you’re on the biggest stage, and lastly, do not settle. I think this applies for life in general and not just being a sports photographer."

Follow Evan Luecke on Instagram at @evanlueckephoto.

Topics in this article

Skip to footer