It probably goes without having to state it as a rule, but generally it's not a good idea to chop peoples' heads off in pictures. That said, I run hot and cold when looking at this photo: sometimes I like the action being aimed at the feet (it is soccer, after all), but other times I wish I'd twisted the zoom back faster (I was shooting very tight with a 70-300mm zoom) and included the entire players--heads and all.
The risk you run in composing off-beat images like this is that people will think you made a mistake and that you didn't mean to shoot it that way. And, of course, in this case they'd be exactly right: it wasn't a planned shot, it was just a matter of the action happening faster than my hands could react. But still, in looking at the 100 or so photos I shot during the first half of this game, this is one of the ones I like the best. I like the feet in motion, I like the ball being right on the side line and I like the shadows behind the players. I'm not sure that including their heads would have added anything to the shot. I'm sure the parents would love to see their little darlings' faces, but since I don't know the players, it's not a concern.
So is cutting off the heads always a mistake? You decide next time you're out shooting sports--shoot a couple of shots without heads (it's probably tougher than you think when you're actually trying to cut off the heads) and see if you like the results after. I'm not sure I'd go out looking for headless soccer players in the future, but I would still keep firing if a shot like this ran into my viewfinder. And by the way, you're seeing the show exactly as it was taken--this isn't a fake crop, though I'm sure someone will think it is. See, you can't even confess to mistakes without people calling you on it!
New Zealand in LA
23 hours ago