My weekend was littered with sports; mostly football; American and European. I thought I would take the time to describe some key differences from shooting a high school game, to a college game, alas to a NFL game.
There are many points one could mention, but I'll talk about the those I think of the most: parking, access and ambiance.
High school is easy. No paying or fighting for parking; wait a minute, it's basically the same as the NFL minus checking the for a parking pass.
At M&T Bank in Baltimore, Md. you pull in, show your pass. Simple. Great access and great people.
With that said, after shooting the NFL, I've realized that Towson University is much like trying to break into Fort Knox. For a school that on average gets maybe 3,000 fans to a football game, parking is outrageous. During Saturday's game I was forced to either pay five dollars to shoot the game, or walk two miles in the dark with expensive camera gear. I decided against the latter.
Don't get me wrong, I've shot at other college venues and have had problems, but none are as ridiculous as Towson.
At high school games you can be a parent and shoot on the sidelines, it's that easy. If that doesn't work, lie and say you're with a small local publication and at the very least you will get into the game for free (I am not endorsing this...ha...a friend told me about this).
Back to Towson. I hate to use them again as my example, as all colleges are different, but I shoot there every week. Once in the stadium I am continually harassed to show my credentials and even have my staff photographers calling me saying they aren't allowed to get on the field, even when they do have proper media credentials.
And obviously, the NFL you need to be of a large publication to get one of those snazzy red vests.
High school has zero thrills. The best thing about high school games I think is the raw emotion of players. Although all levels and all sports have emotional players, I feel the younger the players, the more emotion they show, especially at the end of a game. But, around here in Maryland, prep sports are nothing big and exciting, say as Texas high school football. Last, most have horrible lighting at night and no wireless web.
College has better lighting, but it's not ideal. As stated, access is generally easy if your with some sort of media, but that entails stadium workers that are power pushers to some sort. At Towson it's mostly the parking services. Other than that, college games are a little more action packed and give a sense of professionalism. However, I don't think the emotion is as evident in college sports.
Finally, the NFL, which I think has it all. Thousands of people screaming, energizing the stadium, good food, lots of media and always action packed. Not to mention emotions running wildly after a touchdown is scored.
But, I should note that I don't shoot any of the three any differently. In the words of NPPA's Tony Overman, "I've learned that I don't need to chase the big time. The big time is where you make it."
A high school game can be just as exciting as a NFL Monday night football game, but it all comes with the mindset you have before the game.