Soccer photography is undeniably one of the most exciting photography styles for me.
Football (soccer) is THE most popular sport on the planet.
For this reason, any enthusiastic photographer would not hesitate to capture all the thrills, turns, dribbles, and player celebrations associated with the sport.
Nevertheless, soccer photography is not as easy as it might seem. Essentially, you need to invest in the right type of camera, lenses and other recommended equipment to capture and produce stunning images. Most importantly, your camera must have the appropriate settings ideal for shooting soccer.
If you are having trouble finding the ideal settings for soccer photography, do not fret. Here are a few tips that can help you adjust your camera and start taking amazing soccer photos like a pro!
Best Shooting Mode for Soccer Photography
The photography mode that you choose will determine the quality of images produced. For this reason, it is imperative to understand what each mode has to offer. This makes it easier to select the appropriate shooting mode.
At the start, you would want to use the full auto mode since it doesn’t require any adjustments. However, this mode is somewhat restrictive, and it may not produce sharp results (as it uses artificial intelligence).
Given that people play soccer in open fields where you have plenty of light, you are advised to choose the aperture priority mode for now. This mode allows you to utilize the depth of the field to produce interesting images. Moreover, you can set your lens anywhere from f/8 to f/11 to capture sharper images.
Soccer is a fast-paced sport that involves a wide range of components. For you to capture the fast-paced action without ending up with blurry images, you need a camera with a fast shutter speed. This is also true for other action sports photos such as surf photography or skateboarding photography for example.
The shutter speed refers to the amount of time (exposure) your camera spends to record an image. If the speed is too low, you stand the risk of producing blurry images.
The ideal shutter speed in soccer photography should be 1/1000th of a second, but you may start with 1/800th as the bare minimum. Additionally, you should turn on Auto ISO for night games.
Best Aperture for Soccer Photography
Aperture in photography refers to the opening of the lens of a camera.
A wide aperture tends to allow more light in, making it ideal for night games.
However, if you have a large aperture e.g., f/2.8, the depth of field will be smaller. This means you can only focus on one player rather than multiple players in one frame.
If you want to capture more than one player, then you should opt for a narrower aperture for a large depth of field.
ISO in photography is a measure used to classify light sensitivity in your images.
If your images are too bright or too dark, you may have to decrease or increase the ISO, respectively, to find the right balance.
Notably, ISO numbers are in the range of 50, 100, and 200 all the way to 3200. Interestingly, moving your ISO from 50 to 100 halves the light sensitivity. On the other hand, moving from ISO 100 to 50 doubles the light sensitivity of the film.
When shooting soccer on a bright sunny day, the ideal ISO should be 100 and 200 for cloudy days. For night games under floodlights, you should set the ISO to Auto.
Soccer is a sport where everyone participates, including the crowd. With this in mind, not only should you focus on the players, but also the crowd as well.
Understanding camera focus modes will go a long way to determine the quality of images you produce.
The three most common focus modes include one shot, AI Servo, and AI Focus modes. One Shot mode is ideal for subjects that are not moving, while AI Servo (continuous) is best for shooting moving subjects, as it is the case in soccer.
On the other hand, AI Focus combines the aspects of one shot and AI Servo, and it is ideal for capturing slight movement.
White balance in photography is the process of adjusting color settings so that images look more natural.
It removes unrealistic color casts, ensuring that objects in a picture appear the same way you saw them before shooting the photo.
Amazingly, modern digital cameras allow you to change the white balance manually. This gives you the freedom to add more color to your images.
Alternatively, you may use the Auto White Balance feature to ensure the images remain as natural as possible. The AWB feature comes in handy for both day and night games depending on the lighting in the stadium.
Best Lenses for Soccer Photography
The field of play used for most sports, including soccer, is typically expansive. With this in mind, you should opt for a lens that gives you more flexibility and versatility. The ideal lens, in this case, is a zoom lens. For best results, you should opt for a 200mm – 400mm zoom lens.
Bonus Tip: Best Positions on the Pitch
Your position also matters in soccer photography.
In essence, the position you choose will determine whether you can get the best shots. The beauty of soccer is that the action can be scintillating from any position.
You can sit near the goal line to capture goalmouth action or player celebrations. Alternatively, you may shoot looking down the pitch to capture great shots as the players run towards you.
If you are interested in capturing tackles and dribbles, then consider taking your shots from the sideline at the center.
This article on Digital Photography School covers the topic really well.
Soccer photography can be just as gratifying as watching the sport.
However, unlike other fans, you get to capture all the breathtaking moments and bursts of action happening in the field of play, in a simple photo.
Nevertheless, to produce sharp images, you need to adjust your digital camera using ideal settings.
Stefano Caioni is a photographer from Sydney, Australia. Founder and editor of Pixinfocus, his passion for photography helps him explore new places and live new adventures. Thanks to photography he reconnected with the outdoors and was able to travel the world and take photos of some of the most beautiful places on Earth.