Category Archives: Sports Photography General

Soccer Photography Challenges & Rewards


Because shooting soccer is challenging, most people do not do it well and thus great soccer photos are appreciated and rewarded. As with most challenges, the more difficult the obstacle, the greater the reward. Here are some of the challenges you will be facing shooting soccer that can help you to overcome:


You Don’t Get to Choose the weather

That’s right. You have to play the soccer game when it’s scheduled and competitive soccer leagues try hard to not reschedule games.  You might be trying to take photos in the rain, snow, cold or heat, and you might have to adapt to changing conditions.  Those changes may occur during the course of a soccer tournament or even within the timeframe of a single soccer game. 

You Don’t Get to Choose the Lighting

No, you don’t get to choose the lighting that soccer will be played in. Besides sunny days you will have cloudy days as well as games that go late with the sun going down.  Sometimes the sun will be straight overhead and other times low on the horizon causing shadows and dark faces.  Cloudy days may provide low light conditions all of which cause challenges for the soccer photographer. 

You Don’t Get to Choose the Moment

Sorry, no posing those soccer athletes. No saying, "Okay I’m ready go ahead make that move, steal that ball or shoot on goal." If you don’t anticipate it, you’ll miss it. If you saw the perfect shot, you just missed it, and invariably the moment you stop for a break is the moment you miss the shot you were waiting for. Great soccer photo opportunities happen throughout the game. You have to be ready at any moment to capture them.

These are just a few of the many challenges you will be facing trying to shoot soccer, including caring for and protecting your equipment, choosing the right equipment, learning how to be in the right position for good shots, and much more.

So, with all those challenges, do you have any chance of capturing amazing soccer shots? Absolutely, and this website and soon to be released book will help you do just that. We have just one purpose in mind—to help you become the best soccer and sports photographer you can!



Although the challenges of soccer photography are many and great, the rewards are equally wonderful. When you catch that perfect shot, you’ll find yourself running around the field showing others or emailing like crazy for all to see. There is nothing quite so rewarding as sharing with a soccer athlete the action shot that shows the emotion of the sport and represents the myriad hours they have spent training and working to improve their skills. You will experience hard work, long hours, difficult situations and conditions–but when you capture those great moments, the challenges and the obstacles fade away.


Time for soccer photography


It’s that time of year that soccer begins outdoors, at least in our climate, and it’s time to capture great action of my children playing the beautiful game of soccer.  What a great sport we love it at our home whether it’s MLS, Premier League, La Liga, World Cup or u10 girls playing 8v8 on a small field we love it.


In the next blogs I will cover tips and tricks to taking great sports photos during soccer games.  Soccer presents it’s own set of challenges.  You are now outdoors which can be great for lighting, but it can also present challenges with weather on cloudy days, bright sunny days, dusk, rain and just a variety of changing weather.


You are now also presented with the challenge of a much bigger playing area.  A regulation size soccer field can be 100-120 yards long and 60-80 yards wide.

In addition you now have perhaps 18 players to capture playing soccer, each playing a different position on this large field. 

I will cover ideas on what equipment to use, where to stand how to handle the weather and everything you need to know to take great soccer photos.

So, let’s get ready for a great season of Soccer and have fun capturing some amazing photos of your favorite soccer players.


Shooting Basketball Custom White Balance

Remember that the purpose of white balance is to ensure the colors in your photos accurately represent the colors as you see them with your eye.  If you are not achieving the colors you want in that old dingy basketball gym another option to use the custom or manual white balance setting.  Don’t let those words scare you away it’s not that difficult.  In some basketball gyms you might find custom or manual the best way to find and then save a color setting that works.

What is custom white balance
In simplest terms you are giving the camera a reference “white” photo from which it can create proper color for your photos.  You put the camera in a mode telling it you are going to take a reference white photo, take it and then the camera will do it’s magic.  By doing this in the same lighting you will be shooting your basketball photos the camera will help you achieve proper color.  Then once you achieve the best white balance you can for that location, if it’s one you come to often, you can save it as one of the presets and you’ll be ready to go each time you come back to that gym.  I took the following three shots using various white balance, the first florescent, the second incandescent, and the third a manual white balance using the white wall on the side of the gym.

Florescent WB



Incandescent WB Fluorescent

Custom WB (shot the white wall) Custom

What to use
A number of items can work for your reference shot, from purchasing a white or grey card to using many free items found around your home.

  • white or grey card (purchased)
  • 3×5 card
  • coffee filter
  • pringles lid (at least they are good for something)
  • Inside of your camera bag (often the proper grey)
  • White paper or items in the gym

How to do it
Essentially you will tell the camera you are going to do a custom setting, then take a picture of something that is ALL white and then save the setting.  Those are the steps.  Below are the steps for a Nikon D200,  other cameras will be similar only the buttons you press may be different

Step  1 – Place your card or item in the lighting

Step  2 – Change or rotate your WB setting to “PRE”

Step  3 – Fill the viewfinder with white (all white, focus doesn’t matter)

Step  4 – Press the WB button until the PRE begins to flash

Step  5 – Release the WB button; then press the shutter button (taking a photo)

Step  6 – You will now see “Good” or “NoGd” on your display (- Good means you have now set a preset, otherwise do it again)

Saving the results
Your custom white balance is now set and saved.  On the D200 you can save up to 5 presets.  This can be helpful when you are returning to the same gym to shoot basketball.  Once you have the color the way you want it, just remember that location on your presets and don’t overwrite it.

Go try it, it’s not that hard and you might just achieve that beautiful color you’ve been looking for.


Shooting Basketball (Fluorescent Lighting)

We’ve talked about the challenges of shooting basketball in old gyms.  Let’s get a bit more specific and talk particular types of lighting, starting with Fluorescent lighting.  You will find many basketball gyms using fluorescent lights because of the cost savings.  Fluorescent lights though cause real challenges in achieving good basketball photos.  We are all familiar with those long fluorescent light tubes we see in offices and commercial buildings.  This same design continues today, but it has also changed with looped tubes and other tube designs that can often make it difficult to tell by just looking at the light fixture if you are shooting in a fluorescent gym.

A little history and background
Fluorescent lights began being used commercially back in the 1930s.  They became popular because fluorescent lights are more efficient than incandescent light.  Fluorescent lights are a gas discharge light which means that electricity is used to excite an ionized gas such as mercury vapor.  The resulting ultra-violet radiation is converted to visible light with a fluorescent coating on the inside of the lamp.  Standard heat temperature ratings (kelvins) do not apply to fluorescent lights, in addition fluorescent lights change over time through usage, making basketball photography under fluorescent light most difficult.

Okay…………..that was probably more than any of us wanted to know and what does that have to do with how you get a good basketball photo…………………  

Bottom line
We are real fans of automatic white balance, but basketball gyms and fluorescent lights are one place it usually doesn’t work well.  Fluorescent lights typically produce a more warm color in the orange and red range.  When that combines with yellow/orange hardwood floors and wood bleachers you can get some very orange photos.  
There are primarily three things you can do to improve the color in your basketball photos::

  1. Try the “fluorescent” white balance setting on your camera.   That setting will often compensate quite well for the lights.   
  2. You can manually set the white balance by shooting something white in the gym and then manually adjusting the white balance.  We will cover this in a future blog, it’s not as hard as it sounds.
  3. Shoot in RAW mode and adjust the white balance afterwards.  We also plan to cover this in a blog.

So, if your basketball photos are looking real orange, or reddish try that fluorescent setting and see what you get!


Three Keys to shooting basketball

It’s basketball season and time to capture some amazing photos at the gym.  Of course the challenge is shooting indoor basketball with lousy lighting at old basketball gyms, not to mention the yellow wood floors and bleachers that can reek havoc with your white balance.

Key #1 Equipment
This is a case where you are going to need a nice lens.  No way around it, you really need a lens with an aperture of 2.8 or you will really struggle getting enough light in poorly lit gyms.  You can use a smaller lens but I find the 80-200mm ideal allowing me to catch action most anywhere on the court.  You might get away with a smaller lens if you can get close to the court and if you are willing to wait for the action to come to you.

Key #2 Where to Position Yourself
My preference is in the bleachers at the end of the court and a bit off to one side so the backboard doesnt’ get in the way.  If there are no bleachers on the end then standing at the end can work as well, just be careful of the refs blocking your shots.  If you shoot from the middle of the court you can find some unique angles but you will seldom get the face of your player while they are shooting.

Key #3 Frame a Great Photo
The nice thing about basketball is there is a lot of action.  If you miss one shot it will certainly come around again and you will have another opportunity.  My favorite shots are when my player has the ball and there is contact and action with the defenders.  If I can catch that including my players face and the ball then I have a GREAT shot.  Remember your photos are always better with those two things, the ball and the face.  The player without the ball just isn’t that interesting and if you can see the ball and not the player’s face not so cool either.


See you on the court!

Three Keys to Shooting Soccer

Are you enjoying the World Cup?  It’s a frenzy at our house, trying to watch 3-4 games a day, rooting for our favorite players, teams and countries.  It’s hard to fit in everything else in life while all this great soccer is going on.  It seems appropriate to share some keys to shooting great soccer action while we’re in the middle of World Cup.
Shooting soccer on a full sized field isn’t easy, but very possible.  If you’re trying to get action shots of a single player then it’s much easier than trying to get the entire team.  We’ll focus this blog post on how to shoot an individual player and I will try to follow up in the coming weeks on shooting the entire team, the goalie and posed photos.

Key #1 Equipment
Soccer fields are large as you know so this is a case where the bigger the lens the better.  A large lens can be very expensive, but on a sunny day even a f4.5 lens can get you great action shots.  I’ve had great luck with a sigma 50-500mm lens on sunny days and it’s even affordable.  If you position yourself properly and are willing to move more frequently even an 80-200mm can work.

Key #2 Where to Position Yourself
Let’s assume it’s a nice sunny day for soccer (not that my children had any sunny days this Spring) and you’re in place for the entire game.  The sun is your friend as well as your challenge.  You want your players face to be toward the sun so that it’s lit up and bright.  So, when only needing photos of one player I would probably shoot photos for just half the game.  The half when your player is primarily facing the sun which means the opposing goalie’s back is toward the sun, and your back as well will be toward the sun.

Key #3 Frame a Great Photo
The “beautiful game” certainly has lots of action both on and off the ball.  How do you catch the right action to ensure a great photo.  Be sure to capture the face and the ball in the frame.  Yes, that’s not easy, but your photos are always better with those two things.  The player without the ball just isn’t that interesting and if you can see the ball and not the player’s face your photo won’t be as interesting either.  Of the thousands of soccer photos we’ve sold 99%+ of them have included the players face and the ball.

See you on the pitch!


Sports Photography Preparation is the Key


It doesn’t matter if you are going to shoot your child’s baseball game or the High School state championship football game,  you will most likely get better sports photos if you are prepared. There are a couple of things that you should take into account when getting ready for a sports photo shoot.

Get your gear ready

This might be the most important. You don’t want to get to your destination, have everything setup to find that your battery is nearly dead. This and many other mishaps can be avoided by simply getting all the equipment together the night before the big event. This includes blank memory cards, charged batteries, lenses and camera. Depending on whether you will be indoors or outdoors and the weather you may have additional accessories that are required.

Whatever the equipment requirements are it is always a good idea to get them all ready and packed so when you are ready to go and can just grab your gear and be on your way, confident that you have what you need. You may even want to make a list of what you need for different sporting events so it’s easy to bring out that specific list when you are planning on a shoot.

Scout out the location

Obviously you aren’t going to be able to check out a location before hand if it’s out of state or country, but when possible it’s a great idea to check out the location you plan on photographing at beforehand. A great time for this may be something as simple taking a family member practicing at the facility or location.  You should definitely check out the location, walk around and find great spots that will make a great photo.

You don’t necessarily have to check out the location a day or two early. If it’s a sporting event like volleyball, you can get there a half hour early so you get the perfect spot in the stands. If it’s something like a soccer game, it may not be too important as you may be moving to different positions on the side lines as the game progresses, but you may actually miss some shots of the kids practicing (that’s right, you can get some great shots before the game actually starts).

Remember these tips and you won’t have to worry if you forgot your flash card at home, or worrying about getting a great spot to shoot from.

Meta Data for Sports Photography – Part 2

This is a continuing discussion of meta data, the additional information that a camera attaches to each photo you take, and how that can assist you in becoming a better sports photographer. Since Picasa is free and currently my favorite photo application let’s review the meta data it provides and what that data means. Below I have displayed the meta data for a photo which I obtained by right clicking on the photo and selecting properties.

At the top of the box you see a number of meta data information that we are used to looking at such as filename, location, size and date The additional meta data which we don’t often look at but which can be helpful in improving your sports photography comes next. I will explain each item:

Dimension = 3456 x 2304 pixels

This particular photo is 3,456 pixels wide (horizontal) by 2,304 pixels high (vertical). Read the article on pixels to better understand, but essentially the photo is made up of little dots and this represents how many little dots there are.

Camera Make = Canon

I took this photo with a camera made by Canon

Camera Model = Canon EOS-1D Mark III

This is the model of the Canon camera I used which is an EOS-1D Mark III (sweet camera)

Camera Date = 2009-12-03 18:20:11

I took the photo on December 12th 2009 at 6:20pm.

Resolution = 3456 x 2304

Notice this is the same as the “dimension” representing how many pixels or little dots make up the picture.

Orientation = Normal

This field stores the orientation of the photo. Newer cameras will detect if the photo was taken horizontally or vertically. Actually 8 different positions are supported and more and more photo software supports this field which helps to ensure that whenever you are viewing your photo you are viewing it right-side up.

Flash = Not Used

I did not use a flash for this photo

Focal Length = 135.0mm

I was using a 70-200mm lens and this number represents the focal length the lens was set at. The larger this number the greater is the magnification of distant objects. The lower this number the wider the angle of view.

35mm equivalent = 173mm

Because the CCD of this digital camera (and most are the same), is smaller than the sensitive area of 35mm film, this number represent the equivalent magnification for a 35mm camera. In other words it would have been the same as shooting 35mm film with the lens set at 173mm.



In my next blog I will finish describing the rest of the fields.


Meta Data for Sports Photography (Exif) – Part 1


One of the beautiful things about digital photography is that with each photo you take the camera records all kinds of information about your camera settings. Information that if you know how to view and understand can help you take better photos the next time. This information or data is often referred to as EXIF data or Meta data. Simply put it’s additional data or information that is included in the file with your photo. My next few posts will explain this meta data, how to view it, use it, change it and improve your photography with it.

This information can’t be seen as you look at the photo, but most photo viewers are able to display this data. A couple of pieces of meta data we are all familiar with is the file name and date. Those pieces of information are attached to your photo and is information you see and use regularly. You can of course change the file name, and it’s also possible to change and add other meta data with the right photo viewer or editor.

Did you know though that beyond just the simple file name and date you can also see information about the settings of your camera at the time you took the photo. This includes aperture setting, the shutter speed, focal length, quality, resolution and much more. Imagine how useful this information is once your get home and want to see which photos turned out best and why! Looking at this additional data is a great way to improve your photography.

Pretty much any photo viewing and editing software will provide you a view of this information. Programs from Adobe including Photoshop, Photoshop Elements provide this data as well as free products such as Picasa will also provide you with this information. In addition to photo editing programs your operating system, such as Windows 7 will also provide you with a quick view of some of the basic meta data such as ISO and aperture settings. Below you will see three examples of metadata displayed, the first is a screen shot from Picasa the second from Exif Pilot and the third is Windows default information.



meta data

9 Challenges

Sports photography is the most difficult photography to master.  You are faced with a myriad of challenges.  As with any challenge those that overcome the greatest obstacle gain the greatest reward and thus it is with sports photography.  Read our list of top nine sports photography challenges:

Where Venue/Location
Sports photography does not let you choose the location of your shoot.  You don’t get a choice on where the competition or event will be held.   You are stuck with where the event is being held whether it’s an old musty school gym, an outdoor field with next to the freeway or a performance halls.  You as the sports photographer will have to adapt to the venue and figure a way to make it work.

As a sports photographer you will not be able to choose the time of day that you take your photos.  You must shoot the competition when it’s being held which means you may be shooting at 6:00am in the morning or 11:00pm at night or anytime in between.  It’s not always a time when it’s convenient for you, but the only way to capture those great photos is to be there.

You obviously can select "who" you want to take photos of, but you don’t have control over the team they are competing against, when that individual participates, and where in the even they participate.  The quality of the event is often determined by the skill of the competition, some athletes may not participate the entire event and may be in the back or a position that makes them difficult to photograph.


You’ve got to love those old school gyms with lousy lighting.  School gyms are typically quite dim, never with sufficient light and often have a harsh yellow tone from wonderful florescent lights.  Your challenge, capture photos that are bright enough, without blur or unnatural colors.


Sorry, they won’t reschedule that championship match for the weather to improve.  You will be at the mercy of whatever weather is occurring.  You will be dealing with wind, dust, rain, mud, snow, cold and heat.

Have you ever bought "obstructed" view seats?  They don’t make for good photos.  As a Sports Photographer you will want the best position possible to take photos, but that’s not always easy to come by.  There may be physical obstructions hindering you including people and depending on the event there may be rules that will prohibit you from the ideal positions.

All cameras are not created equal, those point and shoot cameras are just not going to get the job done when shooting sports photography.  In fact, many cameras will not work well for shooting sports and you will need special lenses to assist you.  In addition to quality lenses and camera bodies there are many other accessories you will need.

Framing your photos for sports photography is not easy!  Unlike portrait photography you don’t get a chance to pose your subjects.  You don’t get a to tell the athlete’s to STOP, do that again when I’m ready.  Not only that but your subjects are moving and not remaining in once place so you have to anticipate when and where the action will be. 

Once you see the great sports moment it’s too lake to capture it.  Sports photographers must be ready at every moment and even anticipate the action and great moment to have a chance at capturing it.

There are many challenges to being a sports photographer, but they are all worth it when you capture those great sports moments.  You can learn to do it like the pros by following guidelines and techniques found on this site.

ProPix Photography
The Sports Photographers