Soccer Mom Top 10 Sports Photography Tips
I’I've always been interested in photography, and love taking pictures- especially of my kids. The past couple of years I’ve become especially interested in soccer/sports photography and have spent a great deal of time researching, practicing and reaching out to expert friends. Although I have SO MUCH to learn still, I’m excited about the progress I’ve made.
Here are my Top 10 tips for getting great soccer pictures…
1. INVEST IN YOUR GEAR
There’s no way around it- taking great sports pictures is one of the most expensive things to do in photography. Although my hubby takes some awesome pictures with his iPhone, in order to get consistent results you’ll need a DSLR and a lens.
When I first started, I had a great entry level DSLR and a 55-300 zoom lens that was included in the kit that. I wrote the post, Mamarazzi Sports Photography, which has some great basic tips. You can do a lot with this kind of camera and many of my favorite pictures were taken on the auto “sports setting” (the little running guy!) with a Nikon D3200.
After a while, I started getting more serious about photography and so I started doing a lot of research on upgrading cameras and lenses. I also talked to my friends who are actually professional photographers for advice as well as my friendly neighborhood camera store. Wow… talk about sticker shock! At the end of this post, there are some links, but, remember you can do A LOT with less.
2. READ, LISTEN AND LEARN
When I got my new camera, I was determined to (finally!) actually learn how to use it. It doesn’t have the “little running guy” on the dial so I had a lot to learn. Fortunately, there are SO many places to go for camera classes both in person and online. My time is limited so although I would have liked to take a class at our local photo shop, I found some online classes that I really enjoyed!
I think the key to an online class is to find an instructor that you can understand and easily comprehend. That’s different for everyone, so you need to do some exploring. I started by browsing YouTube for basic photography tutorials and then found a few that I liked. Many, many photographers offer basic classes for a fee. Here are a few that I especially like… (I paid for these resources- they are not sponsored although the link to
Cole’s Classroom– Cole’s classroom is a community that offers a multitude of different classes and resources. The best way to access all the resources is to become a premium member but it can get expensive. When you are a premium member you have access to the training vault where there are TONS of amazing classes on basic camera knowledge, using Lightroom and Photoshop and much more. I also really enjoy the Facebook group. This is definitely my favorite resource.
Fro Knows Photo– Jared Polin is a very opinionated and quirky guy, but I found that I could really understand what he was teaching. I purchased his basic camera course and learned a lot. His video on shooting a soccer game is worth watching. http://froknowsphoto.com/how-to-soccer/
Chelsea and Tony Northrup– I enjoy watching their videos on YouTube and purchased their book How to Create Stunning Digital Photography.
3. FIND A MENTOR OR A COMMUNITY
I’m very fortunate to have a photography teacher (and E’s former soccer coach!) in my life. He has helped me in so many ways- from lending me gear, picking
In addition, I’m a part of several interactive Facebook groups. It’s great to be a part of a group where you can ask questions, see other people’s work and get constructive criticism. Instagram is also a greeat place to be inspired… and post your own work!
4. FIGURE OUT YOUR SETTINGS
I was so nervous the first game I used my new camera so I made myself a “cheat sheet” of the settings that I wanted to use so that I didn’t forget. (In fact, I was so nervous that I totally missed my defender, L, scoring a goal!!) Since her games are usually outdoors, during the day, the settings are pretty easy to set. Normally, I now shoot in manual in AF-C (al servo if you have a Canon) with an auto ISO, shutter speed of 1000-1250, and at F/2.8 or F/4 with the VR turned off. I always shoot in RAW rather than JPEG so that I can have more flexibility in editing later and can hopefully fix my (many) mistakes. I’m definitely not an expert, and I’m always learning!
5. FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU WANT TO CAPTURE
When you are taking pictures (especially if your kid is playing) it’s easy to get caught up in the game and totally miss the moments you really want to capture. Make sure you take a moment to think about what is important to you and the “story” you want to capture. Here are some “moments” that are important to me…
My goal is to have the ball in most of my pictures! There are some exceptions, but having the ball in the frame helps tell the story of what is happening.
Having the player’s facial expression always helps to make a more powerful photo. It can also be funny
It gives a whole new depth to the action when you have both offensive and defensive players in the shot.
I like to get pictures of the ball up in the air with the player jumping. I anticipate when this might happen (corner kicks, punts etc…) and look for the action.
This is an easy win because you know exactly when and where the action is going to take place. L takes a lot of corners so it’s an easy way to get good action shots of her.
My favorite photos are of the celebrations after a goal is scored or a big win. I have to consciously remind myself to keep shooting rather than doing my normal soccer mom crazy cheering.
6. SCOUT OUT WHERE YOU ARE GOING TO STAND
Most of our games are not played in a stadium, so there are many options for where I can stand. I aim to have the sun at my back so that the players’ faces aren’t shadowed, but that isn’t always possible. During the game
The Corner Flag | Standing at the corner flag or at the end line allows for some amazing offensive action shots. Although you may not “officially” be allowed to stand there, I’ve never had an issue as I don’t coach my kid or (usually…) cheer loudly. I also make extra sure to stay out of the action although my kid has yelled at me to get her the ball for a corner kick!
The Sideline | Since L plays in the back, sometimes the sideline is the best place to be to capture her and the rest of the defense. Sometimes I will wander over to the opposing sideline, but if I do, I am very quiet. (It’s kinda funny to stand over there and listen to all the other parents…hee hee)
My chair | Don’t forget that games are supposed to be fun for you too! Don’t totally miss the chit-chat with your friends :). Besides, the camera is heavy!
7. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
I take 1,000s of pictures!!!
8. TAKE PICTURES OF EVERYONE ON THE TEAM
Why? Why not? It’s great practice for you and fun for the other parents and players to have pictures. I make a point of trying to get pictures of every player, every game. It doesn’t always happen, but I do make an effort.
9. LEARN SOME EDITING SKILLS
After the game, you need a way to sort through all your pictures and do some editing. Cropping and editing photos
Lightroom makes it super easy to sort and edit your photos although there is definitely a learning curve when setting it all up. It’s worth it though! If you have joined Cole’s Classroom, there are some great videos that go step by step of how to set everything up exactly the way you want it.
10. BACKUP AND SHARE YOUR PHOTOS
Now that you’ve done the hard work of learning, shooting, and editing, it’s time to back up your photos to the cloud and share! Although many people use Shutterfly, Team Snap, and Facebook to share photos, they are really unwieldy to use when you
I’m now using Smugmug to store and share pictures which
Wow… that was a lot of words! Most importantly I have a blast taking pictures and love to share with friends and family.
SOME GEAR SUGGESTIONS…
If you are interested in upgrading your gear, I highly recommend talking to your local camera shop or an expert about what you are hoping to accomplish and what equipment will help you get there. After your discussion, make sure to do more research on-line about equipment and pricing.
Most of the links below are Amazon affiliate links if you are interested in browsing. Amazon can be a great place to purchase photo equipment once you know what you want, but again, I suggest talking to an expert first. I use a Nikon so that is the equipment that I’ve linked, but Canon also has some amazing cameras and lenses. Purchasing used/refurbished can also be a good option, but be careful where you buy. Adorama and BHphoto have extensive selections and are reputable sellers.
You can also rent equipment to try out what works best for you. You can go to your local camera store or to borrowlenses.com. Just make sure to pay special attention to limits and insurance if you are borrowing something pricey.
All the gear below is Nikon because that’s what I’m most familiar with, but there are so many other choices… Cannon, Sony and more.