9 Lessons I Learned Photographing A Hockey Game

I do not usually photograph sports, but when given the opportunity to take one on, I try my hardest to provide challenge myself and at the same time produce quality photographs that clients would like.

I recently photographed a hockey game in New Jersey. Having played hockey when I was younger, I looked forward to it. Having never photographed a hockey game, I was even more excited.

In this article, you are going to read about some of the lessons I learned by photographing a hockey game. I hope that in some of these lessons you walk away with some tips when you’re faced with the same situation, and that with the other tips you walk away with at least some small laughs.

Lessons Learned Photographing A Hockey Game

To start, here is some background information.  I was shooting with the Nikon D700 and 70-200 VRII lens, on a tripod.  My camera was set to ISO 1250 for the entire game.  For the most part, my lens was between f/3.5 and f/5.6 and between 1/400 shutter speed.  This is going to be the only time in this article that you see the words RAW, JPG or White Balance.  I will assume that you’re already shooting RAW because JPG is useless and that you’ve set your White Balance to fluorescent or tungsten depending on the venue.  In my case, it was fluorescent.

Shooting Through Glass Sucks

For the first period, I positioned myself next to the away team’s bench.  I had about 6 feet of risky shooting because there was no glass protecting a puck or person from hitting me.  During the remaining periods, I changed positions and had to shoot through glass.  Avoiding reflections when shooting is never a fun obstacle to think about, but a photographer has to do what a photographer has to do.  If you’re faced with having to shoot through glass at a hockey game, I recommend one of the curved locations near the goalies.


Higher ISO Than You Might Think

As I mentioned before, I was shooting at ISO 1250 then entire game.  If I was to go back and do it again, I’d push it to 1600 or maybe 2000.  The reason is because of the foal length I was shooting.  At 200mm, you need a shutter speed at 1/400 or faster to reduce blur.  I did not expect the players to be skating as fast as they were, so I still managed to capture a decent amount of blur in many of the shots.  If your camera can handle it and produce minimal noise, then I recommend bumping the ISO up high.

Tripod Was A Good Choice

I decided to use a tripod instead of a monopod.  I think it was a good choice for a couple reasons.  The first is because I was standing the entire game and concentrating on exposures, focus, etc.  If I had to worry about holding a monopod at the same time, I would have been sorry.  The second is because of the ball head I use.  I am a big fan of Really Right Stuff tripods.  I also use their ball head system which gives me the ability to easily, and quickly, change my aim/position without moving the tripod.

Wide & Zoom Lens

If I had advanced notice of the game, I would have prepped a second camera and mounted it somewhere near me with a wide lens focused up close.  That way I would not have awkward close up photos shot with the 70-200 lens at 70mm.  It is too close and doesn’t look right (for good reason).  Having a wide angle lens in addition to the zoom lens would have provided the best of both worlds.  If you do not have the option for both, but do have a super tele-zoom like the Nikon 18-300 then that might be a good choice.

Hockey Players Look Goofy

It is so true.  Depending on what is happening in the game, in still photos a hockey player can look very goofy.


Hockey Players Look Angry

Also very true, and not surprising.  With all the gear on, hockey players look angry and ready to brawl.

Say It Don’t Spray It

When a player does a hockey stop on the ice, they spray a good amount of snow at the glass.  If you are photographing from behind that exact spot then it is time to move.  The snow does not melt fast enough that you can keep shooting.  So when you find your ideal spot, scope out a couple more as you might have to move eventually anyway.


Sometimes They Check With Their Eyes Closed

I am not sure if that scares me or makes me feel better.  Hockey is a dangerous sport and even with so much protection, players can still get hurt.  I do not remember if I used to close my eyes when checking or being checked.  Look at the first photo in the article to see it in action.

I Miss Playing Hockey

100% true.  I have not picked up a hockey stick in such a long time.  I miss it a lot now.  Want to play?

In Conclusion

As I mentioned, some of these lessons are silly and some are serious.  I hope you walked away learning something about hockey, photographing hockey or the fact that I used to play.  Stay tuned to the blog for more hockey photographs.

Thanks for reading and happy shooting,


This Post Has One Comment

  1. can I see some of the pictures you took? and what hockey game did you go to an NHL, OHL etc. and do you know if you’re allowed to randomly pull out a camera and take pictures, or do you have to have permission from the team, and if you do need permission how do you get it? Great article, by the way, lots of helpful tips.

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