A personal view by John Coxon.  (All words and Images copyright John Coxon 2011)

Must be coming up to the tenth anniversary of the beginning of  my involvement in photographing and trying to help promote the game which my eldest son introduced me to and consequently got me hooked.  I have travelled extensively home and abroad and have an archive of nearly a million images from thousands of games at local, regional, national and international level. With the explosion in public ownership of affordable image taking technology and the popularity of the internet for social networking and information sharing, there has never been a better time to photograph the sport and help it gain the profile it deserves.  The game still gets little coverage in the mainstream press and there is a still a paucity of off the shelf hockey magazines in the UK and beyond. TV is by far and away the most effective tool for promoting any sport  because of the potential size of audience and moving film to engage people but due to cost and the relative  size of the current fan base , mainstream broadcasters rarely invest in coverage of the game. With the possibility of cheap tools for video recording and the availability of, for example You Tube, it is now possible for those with a love of the game to be pro-active and broadcast themselves.


Despite the effectiveness of video , there is still room for what is now digital still photography to illustrate news reports on line and in newspapers and magazines and they are a simple cost and time effective way in which anyone at any level of competence with a camera device  can help the sport. (Of course those who are marketing the sport or products associated with it would be foolish to skimp on cost and  use amateur images which would send out all the wrong messages and damage the credibility of the brand. ) You can easily improve images with editing software . The commonest fault in sports photography is leaving too much wasted space in the image so it is important to examine each shot and crop in to make maximum impact. And now to some of my ideas based on experience of shooting the game for many years both for clubs and media use at all levels. The same ideas apply to professional work as they do to the  amateur. I feel it is about maximising the impact of your images.  On average I take between 3-500 shots during a 70 minute game with a few during the break and before and after to try and record the whole picture. I always spend many hours more with the pictures editing each of them than I do at the actual game.  Why?

However great you are at this it is a percentage game and you are not going to get every shot perfectly framed. But when viewed on a computer or laptop screen you can examine each shot and easily make simple adjustments to enhance each picture and add to their impact.  Naturally you would usually delete any images which are out of focus, too dark or too light or say where only the players backs can be seen. Of the skills needed at this stage cropping is by far the activity after the game that occupies most of my editing time. Cropping is a bit like harvesting- separating the wheat from the chaff, eliminating any wasted space in a photograph and, for example ,  filling as much as the frame with a player or group of players . The examples I am using here are winter shots- the best shots  are taken in better light at the beginning and end of the season. The colour of the pitch affects the quality of images, older sand based pitches as featured here produce pictures that aren’t quite as good as those taken on newer pitches which have a strong green or blue!

During a game I try and isolate players one on one  usually sitting or standing between the 25 yard line  and the long corner attackers mark as better photos are gotten when players are running towards you.  Sitting provides a more dramatic  angle.  Here is an action shot which as you can see is surrounded by empty space. By tight cropping the player takes up more of the frame making a more dramatic picture.

In this second example I have cropped in to isolate the action and make it fill the frame and simply saved it as a tighter cropped shot. The player watching, right of shot could be cropped and saved separately as a portrait.

Don’t be tempted to shoot all the game in landscape format but turn the camera 90% to pick out an individual player running towards you enabling the whole frame to be filled. This should also be done when taking marketing shots of players for their stick sponsor.



Sometimes the ball is too far from the player to get a tidily cropped shot but it is easy in Photoshop to simply copy and move the ball! You will need to enlarge the view to check that the background of the ball matches where you drop it in.


Inevitably vertical and horizontal lines from goal posts and perimeter fencing appear slightly skewed in some images and it is necessary to rotate a picture by a few degrees. I use a simple feature in Photoshop which enables me to rotate a photo clockwise or counter clockwise by a number of degrees. With a little practice you can guess how many degrees it needs. Here is an example where the goal posts need straightening up a tad.



Picture editors are very busy and see hundreds of shots every day and they are ruthlessly selective. Check the sports pages of newspapers famous for the quality of their sports images and check out industry standard work and notice the cropping, The Daily Telegraph is one of the best.  Your local paper might not be so prestigious but always select a few of the best shots from a game to go with a match report.  In my experience editors don’t like pictures with large groups of players for ordinary reports, they prefer say an individual portrait of a player or a shot of one one from each team.  You do not know what space is available to the editor and page designers  and neither do you know what shape that space might be- square or rectangle, portrait or landscape. Send in a few of the best shots but as they come off the camera to give editors maximum flexibility in cropping the shot to the shape and size that suits available space.  Send shots as jpeg image files, as big as possible. Don’t send more than half a dozen  because staff have not got time to sort through masses of pictures.


  1. Rob Furber says:

    I have been doing assignments for the local newspapers for the last 4 years, have to do hockey tomorrow for the first time and I find this article absolutely eye opening .

    Well done – a lot of good stuff – and plenty I didn’t know. Very well written and illustrated

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