Rob Lilley

Rob is a photographer who specializes in football photography. A previous amateur rugby and football player, he moved into photography after a back injury during a rugby match ended his playing career. Being unable to watch rugby from the sidelines he turned to football, having been a lifelong Leyton Orient supporter. Football photography has since been a means to bring more exposure to the grassroots level.

He is currently the Media Manager for Catholic United Football Club, within the Essex Olympian League Premier Division. In the 2022-23 season, he won the Essex FA Grassroots Media Manager of the Year award.

Outside of the volunteer work he performs for Catholic United, he has photographed matches at Colchester United, Billericay Town, Braintree Town, Concord Rangers, Brentwood Town to name just a few.

You can view his daily photography on Twitter or Instagram @OffsidePhot

“Experience comes from getting behind the camera as much as possible and pressing the shutter button!!   My adventures with Offside Photography I hope will go from strength to strength and bring as much exposure as possible to grassroots football clubs”


What came first, sport or photography?
“Sport. I always loved football, being a Leyton Orient supporter, but I played rugby as a sport. After injury put an end to my playing days, I took up photography to get me closer to the action.”

Who did you look up to when you were young, and who has helped you most with your development?
“I never really looked up to anyone, purely because I didn’t know I would take up photography after my playing days would end. The fact they ended in my mid-20’s, meant that I looked to do something that kept me close to the action as possible. Once I had a camera in my hand though, I never wanted to put it down and read so much into mainstream photographers such as Robbie Barrett, who I think is a master at snapping the emotion of football”

One change for the better to improve football photography for the next generation of photographers?
“The FPA is a godsend. Young photographers should have a platform to ask questions from professionals and use it for inspiration and guidance to further progress their own photography careers.”

Favourite football ground to work at and why?
“Brisbane Road, my spiritual home of football. I’ve supported Leyton Orient since I was about 8 or 9 years old, when I started getting into football. There are better stadiums, with better atmosphere’s, that is obvious, but this is just such a special place for me.”

Do you have a favourite memory or anecdote from your time as a football photographer?
“I’m happy to have built some great memories as a football photographer, but one that always makes me chuckle is a shot that I took for a Step 5 club, Great Wakering Rovers. It was a player who had just risen for a header, headed the ball but had taken a cracking barge to the body at the same time. My shot captured the moment where he had twister with his back to me, but he head must have been down at his stomach as there was no evidence he had a head at all.”

Favourite footballer to work with and why?
“There isn’t a solitary player but a match for which I was asked to provide photography services for, the Justin Edinburgh Foundation Charity Match. Being a Leyton Orient supporter, and the emotion I felt at the passing of Justin Edinburgh, so soon after Orient had secured promotion, was immense. Charlie Edinburgh, his son, spoke to me a few times after the match had finished but I was so honoured to have been there to capture the events of the afternoon. It certainly holds a special place in my heart.”

Canon, Nikon or Sony?
“I’m Nikon, through and through.”

First match photographed?
“Step 5 match, Great Wakering Rovers v Takeley FC back in April 2014.”

If you weren’t a photographer what would you be?
“This is a really tough one. I can no longer play rugby, or even watch it, I get so irate and shout at the tv. I played football but now my knees are shot to pieces, I can’t play that either. I guess I would have to look down the coaching route, something which, after coaching an Under 14’s girls team, has given me some food for thought should my eyesight be the next to go.”

Some advice for youngsters?
“Get out and use your camera. The best way to learn is to get out with your camera at every opportunity. You don’t need to spend huge amounts of top of the range gear, it won’t make you a better photographer when you initially start out. Learn the exposure triangle and snap at as many games as you can”

Biggest lesson learnt?
“As much as football photography is about pre-empting where the ball is going, where a challenge/tackle is coming in from etc, you can’t always get the shot. Just keep snapping away and get the next one, and the one after that. Football photography is always full of disappointments, just like my golf game”

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