Lacrosse, like American Football, is played on a large field, however the differences between the two sports are numerous. The ball used in Lacrosse is quite small, so you need a sharp eye to follow it. The helmets worn by the players cover most of their faces with a grid pattern, yet they are still open enough to get good face shots. Action moves up and down the field, with frequent changes in direction, so be prepared to move around, which is easily done with the large sidelines.
The Lacrosse games at the school I shoot at usually start in late afternoon. The late afternoon light allows me to use faster shutter speeds, smaller apertures, and lower ISOs. Lenses like the 70-300 or 80-400 can easily be used, as f/5.6 will not be a problem until the lights have to come on. As the light changes, remember to lower your shutter speed, and/or increase your aperture, so that your ISO does not go too high. Once the lights are on, your best bet for shooting Lacrosse is the 70-200 f/2.8 lens. I would suggest a shutter speed of at least 1/500th of a second, but I prefer to shoot at 1/800th or more. For more settings, see my High School Sports Photography Tips article.
You can shoot Lacrosse with one or more cameras. Most people will use a zoom and a prime, or a short and long zoom, but that is not always necessary. I have shot it using a 300 f/4 and an 85 f/1.4 (the 85 f/1.8 will also work well). Using two prime lenses does, however, require more moving around.
Lacrosse starts with a face-off. Two players crouch down and then struggle for possession of the ball. Shots of the face-off are perhaps the easiest to shoot in this sport, and can result in good action sequences.
Lacrosse is a contact sport. Collisions occur, often, and it is not uncommon for players to end up on the ground. The stick is not only used to carry and shoot the ball, but as an implement to knock the ball loose from the opposing players’ stick. Lacrosse is similar to Hockey, except it is played on grass, and there tend to be fewer fights.
A player may get possession of the ball and go end-to-end, which allows you to get great solo shots, or the player may pass the ball to someone else. Getting shots of a pass is easy, while getting shots of the catch is usually more difficult.
Shots on goal are good to get, especially ones that score. While you can shoot from the ends, if you are behind the net in the goal, you are blocked from getting the photo. I prefer to shoot from the sideline, running up and down the field as required. Fortunately you don’t need to run the entire length of the field. This is another sport where you need to be sure to bring a water supply with you. I frequently wear my Camelback when shooting Lacrosse, so I can drink on the run.
I have never used a flash for shooting Lacrosse, and would suggest you check with the officials and schools if you wish to do so. Like Football, however, the distances can be long, so most flash units would not help except for shots close to you.
I have used a D3S, D600 and a D800E for shooting Lacrosse. The new D810 will also work. I normally shoot in CH mode, with lots of short bursts. Single Point AF works best for me. I have yet to test Group Area AF on shooting Lacrosse, however I expect that Single Point will still be best. As with all such sports, there are multiple players moving around, sometimes slightly blocking the player you wish to be focused on, and this can cause the focus system to switch to the other player.
As with other sports, try to get a few sideline shots of the players, coaches and fans.
Though a lot of work, especially if you move up and down the field, Lacrosse is typically a fairly easy sport to take pictures of. With very little practice you can capture exciting shots. For those who shoot JPGs, I would suggest you shoot NEFs if shooting in poorly lit conditions (night time or backlit), as that will give you the ability to improve the final picture. Good luck, and perhaps I will meet you at the field.
Great technical pointers on how to photograph the sport of Lacrosse. Thanks for posting such a detailed review of your techniques and why you use them.
You’re welcome. I shoot a lot of sports, and though there are numerous similarities, each one has unique approaches and/or techniques. There are four more sports I plan to do articles on: Basketball, Baseball, Soccer and Horse Polo. If you (or anyone else) has any particular sport they would like to know about, please let me know, and I will discuess with Nasim about an article on that (if I shoot it).
My niece used to dance for the Colorado Mammouth Lacrosse Team, then the Denver Nuggets.
Doing the mom dance now, but still active with the squad in choreography. The dancers are a
challenge to shoot too. Lots of movement and energy there on the floor when they do their routines.
That is one of the activities I have yet to shoot. I have shot the Cheerleaders, including when they throw one into the air, when is a focus challenge. Do you try to capture the entire chorus, just one or two dancers, or a mixture of both?
Since our relatives are in the Denver metro area, and we live in MI, I only had one opportunity to photograph her when she danced with the Mammouth squad. With an 80-200 f2.8 Nikon D I was able to get some good action shots, but really didn’t ID Angela until viewing them on a
24″ monitor. I knew she was a team captain, and led a group of dancers onto the floor, but once two converging groups met things got difficult to follow. No numbers on the gals uniforms. If I lived in CO. I’d have attended more games and possibly practices too and would have had better results. On the other hand, the walls of her parents home are filled with family photos I’ve taken over the years, so I’m still represented. Never got to see her perform with the Nuggets. That’s OK- she’s been in dance since she was 3. It’s in her blood.
Great shots. My D800 with 70-200 got great results here in Colorado, of my Grandson in the playoffs at Dicks Sporting Goods Park. Hauling that rig is a workout in itself, yet worth the buildup in forearm musculature, and Sports Illustrated cover- worthy timeless shots of his first La Crosse season. The D800 does it all – with finesse. D810 is in my future.
Thank you. Glad you like the shots. If shooting in daylight (or at least good light), you might try the 70-200 f/4 to reduce weight (or 70-300). The 80-400 gives you more reach, but also weighs a lot. I wear a harness, so I can let the main camera hang when not using it. Hope your Grandson does well in the sport. The D810 is a great camera (so far). I just got home from my first nighttime Football game of the season with the D810, so I will be busy tonight working on pics (about 1,500). Remember on the 800 series to use large CF cards (I use a 128GB card, plus have numerous 64GB cards also). I frequently use the 1:2 mode (about 25MP) on the 800 cameras. This reduces memory requirements, makes working the files faster, and still leaves me plenty of cropping room.
Thanks for the pointers. For me, f2.8 rules. The extra f stop helps with action and smaller ISOs. The teleconverter sucks up an f stop as well, although I do just as well blowing up the pictures 2 or 3 times. They still look great printed at 8×10 or projected at XVGA. A high res projector is next.
I have never had good luck with a TC, so I don’t use them. I agree that at night f/2.8 is hard to beat (though I have shot nighttime sports with an 85 f/1.4). If you are using a 1.4 TC, then your f/2.8 lens will be an f/4 lens, so you might consider trying the 300 f/4. That one as the primary lens, along with the 85 on the second camera, worked well for me when shooting nighttime Soccer, and should also work for Lacrosse. I agree with keeping the ISO as low as possible, but there are times (poor light) when you don’t get a choice. I find that most parents don’t buy large prints, so I typically don’t worry too much about the ISO level. On the Nikon 800 line I try not to go over ISO 6,400, and on the D3S (since sold), I tried to keep ISO no higher then 10,000.
All my shots are processed with DxO (Version 9), but there are plenty of other software options out there. Use what works best/easiest for you.
Looking at the pictures above, every shot had a different ISO. Are you using Auto ISO?
I can see you use a high shutter speed and an average f/stop of 5.6, but the ISO has a huge range.
In the last picture of the candid/portrait shot, couldn’t you use a lower ISO and a lower shutter speed?
I use Auto ISO all the time. The above portrait shot was a quick snap, so I did not take the time to change shutter speed. If I had, then the ISO would have been lower. You might also check out some of my other articles (High School Sports Photography Tips and Sideline Photography Tips).
Do you keep VR on at 1/500 sec for action shots ?
No. I might use VR on a slow speed sideline shot, but I very seldom use VR at all, especially if the speed is equal to or faster than the focal length (400mm use no slower than 1/400th of a second).
Thank you for taking the time to write you informative article. I shot my first ladies Lacrosse game last week at the University of Richmond. A bit different than men’s games since there is no use of the sticks to the body.
I only shot part of the game since I was not prepared to make the runs up and down the field. I’m not a youngster any longer. I did manage to obtain some very good shots as this game was during the day and enabled me to use both my Nikon 70-200 f2.8, Tamron 24-70 f2.8 and the Sigma 50-500 f4.5-6.3. I had a great time and a lot of fun doing this. I wouldn’t say much of my shots were keepers but they certainly were good for a learning experience.
I have never shot Ladies Lacrosse, so was not aware of the difference in rules. Thanks for the info. I am no Spring Chicken myself (North of 50), so the up and down the field also wears on me. That is why I will wear my Camelback. It increases the weight load, but gives me instant access to water.
Daytime sports are always easier to shoot, and I prefer the deeper DOF I can get. I tried a Sigma 50-500 once, but it did not work for me, so I hope you got a good copy. When shooting sports, I never change lenses in the field (too much chance of dirt getting onto the sensor), which is why I normally shoot with two cameras.
Even if you don’t shoot the full game, it is still a fun sport to shoot (and watch).
Some great shots. Would a kit lens also work for school sports if you dont have a zoom.
As a sufferer of GAS is the purchase of the D750 in the pipeline? Appears to be an ideal all rounder.
For me, most kit zooms don’t reach far enough (though it could depend on the kit). For FF cameras, 200mm is a minimum for a zoom for this sport (on DX this would be a 300mm Aov). However, it can depend on how much of the game you wish to capture. If you are willing to forgo shots that are far away from you, than a shorter zoom would work. I try to capture the entire game, which is why I prefer longer reach (and move up and down the field).
As for the D750, I have yet to make up my mind (or, to be exact, I have so far been able to hold back my hand from hitting the purchase button, but the other hand is getting tired). The ability for additional cropping that I get from my D800E and D810 is something I really like, and with the D750 I fear I might start getting shots I would have to throw out, as they would be too small after cropping. Perhaps in one of my future articles, I will include an example to demonstrate this (uncropped and cropped). Sports shots can not always be easily framed in advance (there are some exceptions, like a batter in baseball). There may be a D750 in my future, however I would have to sell my D600 first.