Soccer or also known as football is big enough to deserve its own genre in photography. Soccer photography falls into the category of sports photography. The reason why you would want to invest your time in this niche is that it pays high cash.
Sports, News, Magazines, and TV channels are willing to pay a significant amount of money for soccer photos.
Sports photography is a favorite for many photographers as it allows them to enjoy their match by physically getting closer to the field than the general public and also get paid for taking those photos.
This article is aimed to help photographers know the best way to prepare themselves before going to the event and learn about what to do and not do during the sports event. We will even discuss the photo editing part, as it’s also necessary.
First, let’s know what soccer sports photography actually is.
What is soccer sports photography?
Soccer sports photography is a kind of photojournalism where the photographer captures the actions and emotions of the players and the audience. These photos are highly in demand by both digital and print media. Soccer photography intends to capture the best and worst moments of both teams that are playing on the field.
Understanding the Game Properly
Even before we get onto discussing the cameras and equipment, knowing the game is the most important part. If you don’t understand the game then there’s no point in doing absolutely any kind of sports photography. And the reason is that you won’t be able to anticipate what’s going to happen next.
If you know the game rules better, you will be able to take better shots. Also, it is a great idea to know which players are in the game and how they play, so that you will be able to predict their next move and prepare yourself for the shoot.
Basic Rules of Soccer (Football)
Here are the must-know rules of the game in its simplest form:
- The total game time is 90 minutes broken down into 2 halves of 45 minutes with a resting time of 15 minutes in-between.
- There will be a total of 11 players including 1 goalkeeper in each team.
- Most fields are within 100-130 yards long and 50-100 yards wide.
- Each match will have 3 referees with 1st being the main referee and the other two will be the assistant referees.
- Players can receive either a red card or yellow cards. Having 2 yellow cards equals 1 red card and the player has to stop playing for the rest of the game if given a red card.
Camera & Equipment for Soccer Photography
A DSLR or a Mirrorless camera is a must. Don’t get fooled by people recommending smartphone cameras saying these also take great shots.
You will need to take great shots from further away as well as up close. Smartphones and point & shoot cameras won’t be able to produce the desired shot and don’t even give any significant control over how the images you take.
When purchasing a camera, buy one that comes with semi-automatic features such as aperture priority mode and shutter priority mode. These will come in really handy and we will talk about those in the latter part of this article. If you can afford one then it is better to get an all-season weatherproof camera. You will be on the field, there will be dust and also might rain, so it’s a good idea to stay prepared.
Lenses are important
Buy a lens that comes with at least 200mm focal length. Higher will be better. Depending on where the players are, you might need to zoom in or out to get the desired shot. Soccer is a fast-paced game, everyone is consistently in motion, having a lens with an automatic stabilizer will help greatly if you are shooting videos.
Also, by having a large focal length, you will be able to isolate any particular subject in the field. Try to buy a lens with the lowest number of f-stops possible. It will help to capture more light if needed and help to achieve a good depth of field.
Buy a Monopod
Buying a monopod will be really helpful. You could also use a tripod, but judging how crowded and messy soccer fields become, it is suggested to use a monopod instead.
Unlike a tripod that comes with three legs for support; Monopods have only one leg. It aims to help maintain balance for the camera. These are easily carriable and can be placed on a significantly small surface.
You will need a monopod if you are standing between the crowd. There will be little to no space for anyone to stand, so using a monopod in such places will be helpful. Also, Photographers might need to stand idle for longer periods of time, in such cases these tools do a great job of lifting the weight of the camera from the photographer.
Camera Setting for Soccer Photography
Soccer Sports Photographers need to be very well aware of their camera setting. If you delay adjusting the camera, you might miss important moments.
Shooting using fully automatic can be quick but takes away a lot of control over the quality of the image. Instead using shutter priority or aperture priority mode will be much better.
Aperture Priority Mode: In this setting, the aperture will be set by the photographer depending on the outside lighting and the shutter speed will be decided by the camera. This is helpful when you have a subject standing still and want to get better lighting and depth of field.
Shutter Priority Mode: When you need to get clear images of fast-moving subjects, shutter priority mode will be the one to choose. You will decide the shutter speed of the camera and the camera will decide the aperture automatically.
The faster your subjects are, the higher your shutter speed should be. As an example, a shutter speed of 1/500 of a second will be required to freeze a moving subject.
Keep your ISO low: ISO adds more brightness to the image. It is usually recommended to keep the ISO low, as higher ISO tends to add digital noise to the images, which becomes hard to remove during post-processing.
Plan the Appropriate Location
Position yourself in a place where the majority of the action happens. If you can position yourself from where the light is hitting the subject; it will help you to get well-lit photos.
Always remember to follow where the ball is headed, because it is the main attention point of everyone in the field, and it’s where most of the action happens.
Sitting in the middle of the field might not be useful. Consider placing yourself near any one of the two goalposts.
If possible, come to the stadium a day before the match to get a better view of how to place yourself.
See what’s going around
The audiences are more excited about the match than the athletes. Audiences are usually hyperactive during the game. A lot of emotions, anger, and frustrations happen at the same time. Capturing those onetime short moments will be very valuable.
If you are aiming to sell these photos then capturing audience moments will be an excellent choice. These types of photos are also in demand in the print and digital publishing industry.
Respect the audiences, athletes, and staff members
Being respectful is a key factor in becoming a good photographer. Don’t take a particular side, rather be open to every side. Remember you are not there to criticize anyone; you are there to the photos of the event.
There will be a lot of noise and shouting’s; stay calm and don’t get into a fight with anyone. It will only harm your purpose of being there.
Consider using Burst mode
When a player is about to shoot a penalty, use burst mode instead of manually trying to get the perfect shot, it will be much safer in burst mode.
You can always delete the extra photos that are unnecessary. You might find certain facial expressions that last a few split seconds while in the middle of an action. Using burst mode can help you capture those moments.
Post-Processing for Soccer Photographs
Often times in soccer sports photography there will be unwanted objects in the photo. Not only that many photos have inappropriate lighting. These can be resolved using post-processing.
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Becoming a professional soccer sports photographer is not easy. You will need a lot of practice, dedication, and most importantly patience. You will need to stay in the event for a long period of time, so prepare yourself beforehand with the necessary equipment and snacks needed to keep you going throughout the game. The key here is to first understand the game properly, otherwise, all your preparation and hard work will be of no use.