2016-17 Premiership Football - Where to sit as a Sports Photographer?

January 15, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Hello sports fans,

With the 2016-17 Premier League in full swing it has been for myself a constant flow of games and now we are in to January. As with all the matches I attend, preparations are the key although luck does have the final word as to whether you can get the images that all sports photographers wish for. So prepare well in advance but don't be disheartened when luck conspires against you - its the game!

One of the most important decisions any football photographer has to make is where to sit during the match. Of course this is limited to where the ground will let you sit. Every stadium I have attended as a photographer is different in their allocated photographer areas on pitch side. Nearly all of the football stadiums will not allow you to sit on the same side as the team dug-outs. So this means sitting in the corners or along the side line of the pitch on the opposite side to the team dig-outs. Sometimes there are severe restrictions and you find all photographers in a couple of places (diagonally opposite corners). Of course this concentration of photographers in limited areas does not allow us to generate a variety in match imagery - we all end up with the same photographs from very slightly different angles. 

I advise all photographers that attend any match regardless of level, to ensure that they check upon arrival the accessible areas otherwise there is a risk of being moved by stewards at an inopportune moment and/or incurring the wrath of the media team and alienating other photographers. Once you know the areas where you can sit, it's time to decide where to place yourself during the match.

My decision is made on the day based on a number of factors including: 

  • The favoured team based on league position and teams performance over the past few games. 

  • Quality of lighting - many stadiums are upgrading their lighting to LED's and this improves the quality of light tremendously compared to the past. Linked to this is height of lights affixed to the stands or on pylons. The lower the lighting the better. If they are all at the same height the there should not be a great difference.

  • Ethernet ports on pitch side. All Premiership Stadiums have a requirement from the Premier League to provide Ethernet ports on pitch side although this can be very limited. If your using 4G mobile devices it can be difficult when there are 30-40,000 supporters that carry a mobile phone with 4G to clog the network bandwidth. 

  • Expected direction of play when the match starts. It is always worth double checking with media and stewards the home teams likely direction at kick-off although it is not always consistent.

  • The away supporters location in the stands. It can be useful to sit next to the away supporters if there is likely to be some goals from the away team.

  • One other factor is whether you want to sit next to other prime photographic agencies which would only mean duplicating their imagery. Sometimes it is best to find a different and unique angle away from them.

Once you have found your spot, it is possible to leave a marker such as a monopod or seat in your spot so that other photographers know you have marked your place. All photographers respect this and will not move the marker - it is an unwritten rule we all observe. I would personally not leave anything of value as a marker just because you will leave it there for a period of time before you start to set up your gear before the match starts. 

Once the match starts, you hope that based on your guesstimate, you should see some action and hopefully goals. Of course, as the first half progresses you will see how the play develops and this informs your decision to stay or move at half time. It is of course difficult to move when your hard wired to the Ethernet network. I would only tend to move if I am certain that all the action appears one way and if I stay where I am, I will miss all the action in the second half.

One final point that we should all consider as sports photographers, we use big lenses when shooting the match and many have large lens hoods to shield against flare. These can and does block other photographers views of the action, so please be considerate to other photographers. Of course this is a decision each photographer must make a decision on as 'we' must try and work together when wedged in to a small area. If you believe removing the hood will not impact on your images and it would clear a view to a neighbouring photographer, please do so. They will respect you for doing this and likely reciprocate if the roles were reversed at a future match.

Happy shooting...


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