Learning to Shoot Soccer: December 2014
Current modus operandi (in Canon lingo):

Kit
o Canon EOS 7D Mark II camera
o Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM lens
o Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM lens
o Canon Extender 1.4x II

The Exposure Triangle
o Mode: Manual (M), or if lightning is variable (partly cloudy), Aperture Priority (Av)
o Aperture: f/2.0 to f/3.5 depending on light and how much depth of field vs. bokeh I want
o ISO: 100-3200 depending on light to get at least 1/500th second or faster shutter speed (preferably 1/1000th)

Other settings
o Drive mode: high-speed continuous shooting
o Metering mode: spot, or evaluative if lighting variable
o White balance: manually set to sun, fluorescent, etc.
o Picture style: Standard
o AF mode: AI Servo
o AF point selection: Manual selected center point with AF point expansion (1+4)—see EOS 7D Mark II AF-Setting Guide
o Image format: raw
o Back Button AutoFocus

Post Processing
o I use a combination of iPhoto and Aperture.
o Learn your tool’s quick key for rating a photo.
o First pass: give a rating to possible keepers (in focus, face(s), ball, and interesting). [Aperture]
o Second pass: Straighten, crop and delete those that are not crisp afterward. [iPhoto]
o Third pass: apply location data (if necessary), 0.6 sharpening, 0.05 contrast, etc. to one photo of the batch and use "lift and stamp" to apply to the rest. [Aperture]

Dogma
o Shooting soccer on sunny days is one of the easier photography tasks, but you need something substantial like a DSL camera with at least a 200mm lens.
o Start with your camera’s "Sports" mode and move on to aperture or shutter priority modes, and if you have a fixed-aperture telephoto lens (i.e., the aperture doesn’t change as you zoom), manual mode.
o To shoot at night or indoors requires a fast lens (i.e., f/2.8 or lower) and a "low noise at high ISO" camera, e.g., Canon EOS 5d Mark iii or Nikon D610 that can shoot at 3,200 ISO without degrading image quality. My old Rebel XSi couldn’t go much above 728 ISO. My new 7D Mark II starts degrading noticeably above 3,200 ISO.
o To make the players "pop", you need a shallow depth of field. This will blur everything else so that the player(s) in focus will stand out. You get this by using a large aperture lens, i.e., small f-stop. A lens with a small f-stop is known as a fast lens because your exposure times can be very short, i.e., quick.
o Sometimes I shoot from the sidelines, but my favorite spot is a few feet off the endline where the penalty box intersects.
o Strive to shoot with low sun (morning or afternoon) at your back. As a result of this and my favorite shooting position (see previous), I often can only shoot one half of a game (If I’m only following one of the two teams.) Overhead sun (e.g., around noon) is harsh and creates shadows that create a sunken eyes look.
o To get intimate action portraits, get camera as close to ground as possible.
o Take lots of photos (~1,000 per half) and be prepared to only keep 2‑5%.
o Try to "fill the frame". Put the camera down when the action is at the other end of the field if you don’t have a >300mm lens.
o To minimize unnecessary camera movement, form rigid triangles with body, camera, and ground.
o Use raw image format so you have much more freedom to adjust image in post processing, e.g., exposure, contrast, sharpness, white balance, etc.
o To be able to take bursts of photos, get the fastest memory card your camera can support—an internet search will often turn up a card speed test for your camera.
o To learn how others take photos, look for Exif data (meta data about a photo).
o You do not need a lens/camera with image stabilization because the shutter speeds to capture the action are so fast. In fact, turn off image stabilization if your camera/lens has it—see for example, Image Stabilization: When to Use it and When to Turn It Off.
o Use snapsort to search for cameras by criteria (e.g., low noise at high ISO) or compare camera specifications.
By bil_kleb on 2014-12-21 12:23:19
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