Soccer Photography Tips

You can photograph soccer at a local level with a zoom lens like a 300mm telephoto zoom lens. A powerful 800mm lens can also be used to cover professional soccer matches in big stadiums. Soccer is a dynamic sport. Sometimes there’s a lot going on, and other times there’s not. It is crucial to be able to predict when the action will occur in order to take exciting soccer photos.

Concentrate on the Crowd

A soccer fan cheers during the final game between France and Italy in FIFA World Cup 2006

The soccer crowd is usually lively and colorful. If you are attending a match in Europe or South America, be prepared to wear brightly colored clothing and banners. A wide-angle lens between 17mm and 40mm can be used to capture large crowds. However, a telephoto zoom lens is great to see the finer details. An example of this is a banner with the words “GOAL”, which shouts soccer. You can wait for the action to occur on the field, but instead of photographing the players, capture the reactions of the fans. Capture the emotions as they happen!

Take Position

Soccer player with a ball

You should sit at a lower level, so that you can see the entire field and not just the players’ backs. You can also sit behind the goalkeeper, which is a great place to be. Although there may not be any action at all, you can zoom in and watch for moments when the ball approaches. To automatically focus the lens on the player moving, set the lens focus mode as AF (Autofocus), and choose continuous focusing mode.

One player

Soccer player legs in action

For portraits of players, a telephoto zoom lens will be essential. You need at least 300mm. Attend training practices for your local team and pay attention to the ball tricks and special skills being practiced. To freeze the action, especially when the ball is up, use the largest aperture (f/2.8-f/4) with a shutter speed at 1/1000th of an second. A monopod or tripod can be used to provide stability on a practice field.

Follow the ball

Soccer player legs in action

You can capture moments while the game is being played if you are right in the middle. Zooming in on one soccer ball is enough to capture action shots. To ensure that the lens’ focus is maintained on the player, set the focus mode to continuous focusing (AI Servo AF Canon/AF–C Nikon). Continuous shooting mode is best for multiple shots. You can hold the shutter button down as long as necessary. Continuous shooting is a great option for soccer photography. Use a large aperture to create a blurred background that allows you to focus on the soccer player and capture their efforts.

Capture the Action

Soccer player against blue sky making volley

Sometimes, soccer players will leap high to hit the ball with their head (known as a headshot) or thrill fans with a “bicycle kick”, where the ball is kicked backwards above the player’s head. You can avoid blurring by keeping your shutter speed at 1/1000th. Continuous focusing is used to zoom in as close as possible. You will need to press the button halfway to set it. Then, take the shot at the best moment. You can increase the ISO if the largest aperture does not give you the shutter speed you desire.

Make great group photos

Soccer team posing for photo, portrait

You will want to take group shots of all the players and coaches before the practice or match. To make sure everyone is properly seen, you can position them in two rows, one standing and one kneeling. For example, you might use a 35mm lens in order to get close enough to everyone and minimize distortion. For sharp images with shallow depth of field, set the shutter speed to 1/250th to 1/5th of a second. You can!

Additional Information

Soccer is a sport of passion. Even in slow moments, there’s always something to photograph. The referee is important! Referees in soccer are responsible for imposing punishments on players who commit fouls. Expect some venomous remarks from him! Increase the ISO speed if the weather is bad (soccer is played in the darkest of conditions). High ISO speeds can cause noise and grain. Sometimes, “mistakes,” can lead to pleasant surprises. A grainy photo can look stunning when it is combined with drops of rain.


To freeze action, use a fast shutter speed. This will avoid blurring. Nothing is worse than zooming in on a subject and seeing some blurring. For best results, use ISO 100-800. You can also set ISO to 1600 or higher. However, you will need to take into account digital noise. You can use a shutter speed of 1/6th of a second if you are trying to capture motion, or you are panning a player. The shutter speed can be adjusted depending on how the image appears on your playback screen. For best results, keep the aperture at f/4 to F/5.6. This will give you a good depth of field and enough light to allow for a wide range of shutter speeds.

Equipment we recommend

It is highly recommended to use a telephoto lens. A telephoto lens is recommended at least 300mm. You may also consider a zoom because the field can be very large. With only one break between matches, soccer matches can last for 90 minutes. Make sure you have enough memory cards and batteries. An extender or teleconverter might be something you should consider. A lens mount device that doubles the focal length of the lens. Teleconverters allow you to be closer to the action but at the cost of brightness. A 2X teleconverter magnifies your lens by two and reduces the brightness by half. Monopods are useful, but they are not allowed in stadiums. If you ask ahead for permission, a monopod shouldn’t pose a problem.


A soccer match may have slow periods, interspersed by quick bursts or emotion. You will want to make sure your camera is ready to capture the action. You can keep the depth-of-field small enough to focus on the action, so set your aperture at either f/3.5, or f/4. This will allow you to effectively pan the play and capture the soccer players. Although you may be tempted increase your ISO to get faster shutter speeds, you don’t have to go higher than 400. Digital noise can be obvious and the image you want can be captured at 1/1000. You will be using a minimum 300mm lens so you should bring extra batteries and memory cards.