Indoor Sports Photography
I have been working on taking photos inside of a gym during basketball games. My problem is that lighting in the gyms causes me to shoot at such at a low speed that the action is all blurred. But if I turn up the ISO, I am able to increase the speed to 1/125, but the shots are extremely grainy and still dark. Even when trying to correct in Photoshop, these are not pictures I would not even be willing to show my kids. Any suggestions on making this better? Currently, these are being taken without flash due to distraction and distance.
Ken, you have hit "the wall" of reality here. Essentially, your only alternative will be to use a faster lens wide open. Remember, a proper exposure depends on 4 things: how much light is in the scene (dark gym); how much gets through the lens (aperture, or f-stop); how much light gets through the shutter (shutter speed); and how sensitive the film or chip is (ISO).
Like everything else in life, photography is compromise. Higher sensitivity, as you discovered, leads to more noise or grain. Slower shutter speeds do not freeze motion. You cannot change the gym lighting. So the only option left is to get a faster lens, something with an f2.8 or faster widest aperture and use it wide open. Just beware - "fast glass" costs.
Just so you know, the great shots you see in Sports Illustrated, etc. are made by the use of huge flash units hung in the rafters and triggered by remote radio control on the pro's camera. By placing them above the main lights, these units are made invisible to both the audience and the players - which is the reason most places don't allow use of flash at court or seat level in the first place. Obviously, this is out of reach for mere mortals, so we're stuck with the realities mentioned above.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Also check out the excellent Sports Photography course here at BetterPhoto.
I shoot all types of sports indoors for a daily paper. Except for gymnastics, I really don't see the problem of using on-camera flash at events such as basketball games. I have never had a complaint either about the flash. Under the basket, I use Nikon's 17-35mm f/2.8 on my D1X, set wide open. I prefer aperture priority operation most of the time. If you are going to use shutter priority, I would bump the speed up to at least 1/250th sec. to avoid blur.
The suggestion of using a 50mm f/1.8 or f/1.4 is a great one.
I shoot high school sports - for indoor; basketball, fencing, swim, hockey, etc., I have my white lightnings 1600's strobes at full power, bounced off the ceiling, clamped to whatever sturdy surface is available; window ledge, balcony... I use radio slaves, shoot at 2.8 w/ my 70-200 at 200 iso 1/250 and have beautiful results. Never a complaint about the flash, because it's bounced.
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