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My first sports photography experience with futsal

I went to my first futsal game!  It was a sport I didn’t know at all.  But I had a chance to photograph it.  Futsal Tokyo Meetup kindly allowed me access to one of their matches.  It was an exciting night!

Futsal Tokyo Meetup player kicking ball past defender

My first task was to learn it.  To me, it resembled soccer.  That was the extent of my knowledge.  Of course, I had seen some pictures on TV and the internet.

attacker running ball past defender

YouTube, as usual, was indispensable.  It taught me everything a beginner needed.  One thing I didn’t know was how to photograph it.  That proved a challenge.

I have done some cricket photography.  But that game is very different.  It is outside.  You have natural light.  Higher shutter speeds are more common.   The action is further from the lens.  Generally speaking, photographing that sport is not so difficult.  Futsal was different.

futsal defeder trying to intercept attacker

At the venue, I found two courts, outside and inside.  But, I discovered that the lighting for the outdoor one wasn’t good enough for photography.  It was bright enough for the human eye, but I judged it insufficient for my camera’s sensor.

That left me with the indoor court.  While not ideal, I thought it was workable.  It was a little dark, but I felt that everything would work out with post-processing. 

Futsal Tokyo Meetup player kicking ball

The biggest problem was the fast action.  Sometimes ball possession changed in the blink of an eye.  I needed to react quickly as the game moved up and down the field.  Futsal is high-paced.

By the end of the night, I had taken close to 3000 pictures!  I had also met and talked to some great people.  Futsal Tokyo Meetup ran a fun group. 

Futsal Tokyo Meetup players chasing ball

Problems for photographing futsal indoors

  • After looking through my photos, I came up with a few things:
  • Lighting will probably be poor  
  • On top of that, white balance can be problematic.
  • Action is nonstop
  • If you are chimping or your mind wanders, for example, you will probably miss something.  Keep your eye on the game as much as possible.
  • Futsal is fast
  • You need high shutter speeds, or your pictures will have blurry players in them.
  • Shooting from the sidelines in the middle of the court 
  • Players will be running quickly past you.  The distance from you to the ball can be very close indeed.  You need to keep your head and camera swiveling.
  • Occasionally the ball flies in some random direction. You need to be alert because it does happen.  Keep your camera safe.
man dribbling futsal ball past woman

My tips for photographing futsal

On arrival 

Walk around with your camera and take pictures from different court areas.  This should give you a good idea of lighting conditions.

To get as much light as possible for the picture

Shoot at the maximum lens aperture. Get it wide open.

Use a very high ISO  

Court lighting will be enough for the human eye.  But it might be a little dark for some cameras, so boost that ISO!  Keep in mind that might increase noise.

Avoid blurry players in pictures.

Freeze that action by keeping shutter speeds at 1/500 second when possible.  The downside of that is it will make your pictures darker (so see next point!)

My pictures are dark! 

Don’t worry if your pictures are one or two stops underexposed.  You should be able to recover that in post-processing.

Get as low as physically possible to take pictures

That will make people look bigger and more heroic.  Photographing from eye level makes the players look small and insignificant.

Don’t miss the emotions.  

This was my biggest mistake in my first game.  I didn’t realize until later I missed the after-game interactions between players.  Smiles, fist and elbow bumps look great in pictures.

Lens choices  

I took all my lenses (not that I own many).  The longer lenses got the most use.  It was good to have the ability to zoom in.  My 16-55 mm lens was good for the majority of shots.  Another lens I used was the 55-200.  My 10-24 mm got no use during the night

Where is the best place to take pictures?  

From my first experience, I’ll say the ends of the court are best.  That is where the goals are!  And you will have more time.  Players will be either running to or from you.  That is much easier than working laterally in the middle area.  Still, anywhere can yield nice pictures.  Be flexible.

man kicking ball past goalie into net

Is futsal a good game for sports photography?  

Without a doubt, I say yes!  It is a great game.  Here are my reasons:

  • It is the fastest-growing indoor sport in the world;
  • It is quick and action-filled.  There is little downtime.
  • As it is fast, you get many opportunities to take exciting pictures.  They keep popping up during the game.
man kicking futsal ball

Can anyone play futsal with Futsal Tokyo Meetup?

Joining is no problem!  FTM is a great group, and they welcome everyone.  They have players from beginner to advanced.  If you look at their Meetup page, you can see when and where they play.  Don’t be shy.  They are very friendly.  Join them!

And don’t worry about language!  It’s a multi-lingual group.  You don’t need to speak Japanese.  People from all over the world are in the group.

men playing futsal

Wrapping up

Futsal is another sport I want to photograph again.  It is ideally suited to sports photography.  Still, there are many things I need to learn about it.  And if you have any tips for me, tell me those too!

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