Expert Photo Cropping for Action Soccer Photography

Capturing the action during a soccer game will mean that sometimes the action is close and sometimes the action is further away. In order to create compelling action soccer photos you will need to do some straightening and cropping of the image. Here are the expert steps necessary to convert the raw files out of your memory card into memorable action shots!

Below is the original photo after some basic levels adjustment and color correction:


Step 1: Rotate & Straighten

The first step is to rotate and straighten the image using a crop tool. The circled areas are examples of items in the photo that can help guide the proper rotation. By matching the poles in the background to the cropping grid you can rotate it to the right place.

Below shows the difference in images after rotation. As you can see, this creates a better sense of perspective and visually ground the background.

Step 2: Crop

The next step is to crop the image to get closer to the action. I hold the shift key in order to create the same original image ratio and crop closer to the main subject of the image. 

Some tips when figuring out how much to crop:

1. Crop to leave enough room around the head and the feet. You want to be able to see some background above and some of the grass below.

2. Most photo editing tools have a "Rule of Thirds" grid that you can overlay the image when cropping. Matching key elements to the image to where the lines bisect can create better looking compositions.

3. Remember to consider other objects and subjects in the image before cropping. In the case of this example I would have normally cropped tighter to the player. However, in this case it would have cropped the referee's head right down the middle. In this case I opted to just have the crop cut off the referee's shoulder which I felt was less visually distracting than right down the middle of his head. There are no hard rules and everyone has their own style. 

The Final Crop

Below is what the final crop ended up as. While most will agree that a tighter crop is more visually interesting, there are no hard rules and everyone has their own style. The more you shoot and the more you crop, you will discover your own preferences.

Below is the difference between original and final crop.


These are the techniques that I use and have had success using to crop  engaging action soccer photos. But there is no right or wrong way to do it. If you have any other tips, I want to know them! Email me here or message me on instagram. I would love to continue the conversation.