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Photography Question 
Karen Reynolds

Trouble with shooting action in low light

I am an amatuer photographer shooting mainly family activities with a semi-automatic digital Canon Rebel using mostly auto modes and having great success. I often shoot my kids sports activities and have found that a long lens helps to get better shots on the field without my kids being aware. Recently, I tried something new...shooting nighttime football action shots. I was dismayed to find alot of movement in my photos. I never had a problem with the same equipment during the day. I was told I needed to adjust my camera to correct the exposure problems, so I have done some research and realize that I have to use a monopod to keep my camera still since the camera struggles to capture the action under the low light conditions. I was also told to try using the Aperature Priority, (AV), setting on my Rebel to open up the iris and let in more light. My question is this...The lens I am using is 200 to 400mm and has a maximum f stop of 5.6. However, this is the aperature that my auto sports mode automatically uses so I am not sure how using AV changes anything. I realized that I can change my ISO to a faster speed, (which I had not done before), but I am confused about the aperature. I thought I would find that I could make this adjustment, but since I can't, will the AV setting really change anything? Would I be better off changing to Shutter Priority, (TV), therefore controlling the shutter speed instead?

Thanks for your thoughts...

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9/17/2006 9:52:39 PM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/18/2000
  The stadium lighting is significantly less than daylight, so getting action-stopping shutter speeds can be a problem. Yes, as you noted, the Sports mode (and some of the other full-auto program modes), are going to tend to give you the same maximum aperture exposure as Av, Tv, or M modes. P, Av, Tv, and M will allow you to set higher ISO to get faster shutter speeds than will the full-auto modes which limit ISO to the 100-400 range.

Setting Tv may be preferred over Av. While the image may be underexposed, it will at least have frozen the action and any camera movement. The underexposure can be corrected somewhat in post-processing, especially if working from the RAW file rather than JPEG.

Also be aware that the meter may be calling for more exposure than is actually necessary. If you're shooting from field level, you may have very dark backgrounds (black night sky, unlit bleachers, etc.) that the meter is reading in addition to the well-lit players on the field. Once the sun has set, the lighting will be constant. You can take a reading from the grass (which approximates 18% gray tone) and simply set that exposure in M and use it for the rest of the evening.

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9/18/2006 5:44:55 AM

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