Photographing Tom Brady in His Final Super Bowl

Photographer Kevin C. Cox has covered 11 Super Bowls leading up to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles. Tom Brady, the newly-retired quarterback who is widely considered the greatest ever, played in five of those eleven and won four of them. Cox has also been fortunate to cover Brady celebrating on the field with his wife and children after three Super Bowls.

PetaPixel spoke to Cox about his experience of covering Brady’s final Super Bowl, Super Bowl LV in 2021.

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“In this image, Tom Brady is passing under pressure from the Chiefs’ defense which brings out a nice view of his face,” explains Cox. “Typically, you always want to be as low as possible in order to see faces under the helmet, but there are many times that a higher angle leads to a better view of faces as players look upwards, especially quarterbacks.

“It’s also very important to have the ball releasing from the hands of the quarterback while being pressured to bring the story out. It shows the pressure the player is under from the defense rather than being able to pass the ball freely behind the offensive line’s protection.”

The photo was shot on a Canon 1D X Mark IIICanon EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM, and Canon Extender EF 1.4x III tele-converter at 840mm, f/5.6, 5000 ISO, 1/1300 sec.

Not Always Having the Best Vantage Point

Cox, an Atlanta-based Getty Images staff sports photographer, covered Super Bowl LV for Getty, which usually has a large team of photographers positioned all around the stadium and also on the field. Due to the pandemic last year, they were allowed only three total photographers inside the stadium.

“I was positioned in a seat on the first level concourse of one of the corners of the stadium while two of my colleagues were roaming the first row of seats on each side of the field,” remembers the sports shooter. “In my position, my goal was to cover everything that occurs within sight, considering our limited coverage of the field.

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“The angle I had was not the most ideal, but as photographers, we always work with what we’re given and do our best to tell the story…” Cox says. “When covering any football game, you always want to focus on having an image that shows the quarterback of each team against their opponent.”

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Telling the Story of the Game

“Football photography has changed over the years, but there is still the importance of making sure to tell the story of the game whether you are covering it alone or with a team,” reflects Cox. “I always focus on understanding the teams that are in the game, as well as the key players on offense and defense. I look deeper into how the game is played and try to pick apart offenses and defenses to be ready for what might be coming inside my camera.”

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One major thing Cox was taught in his younger years is to find the picture in the picture; whether it be right in front of you or further “outside that box” you’re looking through.

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Up Close with the GOAT

Tom Brady, who recently announced his retirement from NFL after seven Super Bowl wins in twenty seasons, is considered the greatest of all time (or GOAT). He was known for being able to will his teams to record-setting seasons, dominant wins, and comeback victories. After many triumphant years with the New England Patriots, he joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and proved his dominance yet again by winning a Super Bowl after moving to an entirely new team.

Cox has spent a lot of time with Brady on and off the field. He was even photographing him in the locker room after Super Bowl LI at the moment Brady realized his jersey was missing — a unique memory away from the field.

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You can see more of Cox’s photos on Getty Images, where he has over 150,000 photos, and on Instagram.

How I Got the Shot is a weekly PetaPixel feature that is published every Sunday. If you would like to share the story of how one of your best or favorite photos was made, we would love to hear from you!

About the author: Phil Mistry is a photographer and teacher based in Atlanta, GA. He started one of the first digital camera classes in New York City at The International Center of Photography in the 90s. He was the director and teacher for Sony/Popular Photography magazine’s Digital Days Workshops. You can reach him here.

Image credit: Header illustration based on photo by All-Pro Reels and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. All other photos by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.