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Photography Question 
Kraig Henry
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/2/2007
 

Sports Photography in Low Light


 
  here comes the BOOM!!!
here comes the BOOM!!!
Zoomed in to 300mm
Football Scrimmage; Sigma DG 70-300mm 1:4-5.6 lense 7:00pm; neighborhood field

© Kraig Henry
Nikon D80 Digital ...
 
  Flying Tackle
Flying Tackle
Zoomed in to 300mm
Football Scrimmage; Sigma DG 70-300mm 1:4-5.6 lense 5:00pm; neighborhood field

© Kraig Henry
Nikon D80 Digital ...
 
 
I generally take youth sports pictures. All summer, I've been taking baseball pics and I have had a lot of success with my Nikon D80 and a Sigma DG 70-300mm 1:4-5.6 lens. Now that football is here, I get great pics at Saturday morning practice and scrimmages but evening pratices are an adventure. I understand a little about the lighting conditions (I have set the camera through program mode to take pics inside without the flash at concerts), but I wanted to know is that possible at a sporting event?


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8/30/2007 12:46:10 PM

 
Kraig Henry
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/2/2007
  If anyone could offer an alternative lens that could be used I would appreciated that as well. Also is it possible to shoot a night game? (7:30pm in Oct or Nov)


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8/30/2007 1:12:22 PM

 
Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005
  Hello Kraig,
Options:
1) Buy some fast glass (expensive)
2) Raise the ISO
3) Get a high-powered flash
I don't mean to sound abrupt, but those are about all you can do. Oh, except for "don't shoot at night" Kidding. ;)
Pete


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8/30/2007 8:27:02 PM

 
John G. Clifford Jr
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/18/2005
  Also, get out of program mode. Shoot in aperture-priority or shutter-priority. Many sports photographers shoot in shutter-priority because stopping action is more important than depth of field ... but I'd shoot in aperture-priority mode and choose the widest aperture to ensure the highest shutter speed possible.
Raise your ISO to at least 400 if not 800. Your Nikon should take acceptable images at ISO 800 ... they won't be as good as at ISO 100, but would you rather have grainy and sharp or smooth and blurry? ISO, shutter speed, available light ... pick any two.
Now you know why pro sports photographers have those massive f/2.8 lenses that cost more than many used cars!


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8/30/2007 9:56:41 PM

 
Kraig Henry
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/2/2007
 
 
  LaSalle College Halftime Show  1
LaSalle College Halftime Show 1
Program Mode:
Nikon D80
White Balance set to flouresent -3
ISO 1600
8:00pm
Stadium Light

© Kraig Henry
Nikon D80 Digital ...
 
  LaSalle College Halftime Show  2
LaSalle College Halftime Show 2
Program Mode:
Nikon D80
White Balance set to flouresent -3
ISO 1600
8:00pm
Stadium Light

© Kraig Henry
Nikon D80 Digital ...
 
 
Pete
I have a SB 800 AF Speedlight is that what you'd consider a high powered flash or is there something else. I see what I can do about the fast glass...

John
Last night my kids played a half time scrimmage at the LaSalle College Football game. The college field had better light than any rec field we'll play on but I've seen better. I set the camera ISO to 1600 and set the white balance to flouresent and the shots weren't to bad. A monopod could have helped. I'll try that (aperture-priority or shutter-priority)


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8/31/2007 6:51:04 AM

 
Kraig Henry
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/2/2007
  Pete and John Thanks


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8/31/2007 6:54:46 AM

 
Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005
  Kraig,

The SB-800, while a great flash, is really not considered high power in the world of sports photography.

On the other hand, if you are close enough, 30-40 feet and raise your ISO to perhaps 400, you will get some great action shots at night.

Shooting 40 yards across the field with the SB-800? ..well, no; no chance.

ISO 1600 will indeed get the shot, but you can pretty much forget about enlarging it. LOL

John correctly points out why pro sports shooters use fast lenses, but many actually cost a lot more than "most" used cars! LOL
This is what I call "Lens Envy." Heh-Heh
...and I suffer from it too.

Pro stadiums are also lit far better than HS stadiums. Furthermore; if you know where to look, the big name magazines rent high powered strobes from the stadium owners that are mounted permanently in the ceiling of these domes and are fired wirelessly. Sports Illustrated and the like use what I call the "Apollo Moon Mission" philosophy..."Throw enough money at a problem and the problem will disappear." LOL


Pete


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8/31/2007 7:12:13 AM

 
Martin J. Preslar
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/25/2005
  I haven't shot much in poorly lit football stadiums, but I shoot regularly in poorly lit ice arenas, which are brutal! Most of the suggestions I would give are here already, but here is my formula:

Fast Glass:

I use the Sigma 70-200mm 2.8 APO EX. The DG or Macro version would also do, but the older EX is good for me. And I got it for around $500 on eBay. (Plan on at least $600 now.)

Up the ISO:

I frequently shoot at 1600 or even 3200 for hockey, and even for late afternoon baseball games! As to the comment about "Forget about enlarging" at ISO-1600, 1600 I took this shot with my Canon 20D at 1600: http://www.betterphoto.com/gallery/dynoGallDetail.asp?photoID=3574397&catID=&style=&rowNumber=12&memberID=127318

It is currently hanging above the kid's bed as a 20x30. I have a 16x20 of the cropped version (without the kids heads at the bottom) ready to enter in print competitions! It enlarged just fine! (Remember, neat image/noise ninja is your friend!)

Don't bother with Flash:

Unless you can afford and set up a pro strobe set, flash is not going to help you in most sports venues. In addition, flash at the sideline level can be distracting to the players. If you are shooting from above in the stands it isn't so bad, but it is also worthless! In arenas you can get your strobes hung from the rafters or attached to high railings in the stands get pretty consistent light, but I doubt that you could get decent coverage of a football field. (At least you won't have dark spots on the field because of banners hanging from the rafters blocking the stadium lights!)

Use a monopod:

I don't always do so for hockey, because when shooting from above in the stands it is hard to get the shot level from one end of the ice to the other, but if you are shooting from field level a monopod will help a whole lot! If nothing else it frees up one hand to adjust settings without taking the camera out of position for the next shot!


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9/4/2007 8:11:37 AM

 
Kraig Henry
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/2/2007
  Thanks Marty
I'll see what I can do about getting that lens. How do you feel about shooting in aperture-priority or shutter-priority? I tried it and I have mixed feelings. I shot the first quarter in aperture and the second in shutter then the second half using the program sports mode. The first quarter pictures have a green tint, second quarter had alot of noise then the second half turn out great.


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9/4/2007 9:29:30 AM

 
Kraig Henry
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/2/2007
  Thanks Marty
I'll see what I can do about getting that lens. How do you feel about shooting in aperture-priority or shutter-priority? I tried it and I have mixed feelings. I shot the first quarter in aperture and the second in shutter then the second half using the program sports mode. The first quarter pictures have a green tint, second quarter had alot of noise then the second half turn out great.


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9/4/2007 9:39:37 AM

 
Martin J. Preslar
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/25/2005
  I generally use shutter priority for hockey and baseball. That ensures that I am getting the shutter speed to freeze action. I then will adjust the ISO to compensate if the lighting is too dim. Aperture priority is ok, but you can end up with too little shutter speed and camera shake issues if you don't watch out! Generally, I try to keep the speed at about 1/800 but I will drop down to below 1/400 if I have to (as evidenced by the picture I gave the link to). Strangely enough, hockey is more forgiving of lower shutter speeds than baseball. The puck doesn't look off if you have a bit of motion blur on it. Sometimes it makes the shot look cooler, especially if the player is frozen well. Baseballs without clear stitching look wrong most of the time. I would expect that football would be the same on that measure. The players rarely are moving to fast for 1/400 to freeze. Though, getting some shots with the spiral frozen right off the receivers hand would be cool! :)

The green tint is something I used to get with my 28-300mm lens. It just wasn't bright enough. Shoot raw and you might be able to adjust it in post-processing. You can also remove color cast in PS/PSE too. As for noise, I don't know how the nikon cameras perform, but when I was shooting with a Digital Rebel (300D) noise was a much bigger issue than with my 20D! If I could afford a 5D noise would be a distant memory...


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9/4/2007 10:44:15 AM

 
Mike Perez
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/21/2007
Contact Mike
Mike's Gallery
mikeperezphotos.com
  Kraig: I like shooting different sports and football is my favorite. However, at the high-school level it is a challenged because the games are played at night in typically poorly lit stadiums. In college stadiums the light is soooo much better!

Options:
1. Buy higher-aperture lens. f2.8 or better is a must for night shooting but they are pricey. I've been very happy with the Sigma 12-300 f2.8. During daytime shoots I can add the 2x teleconverter and get 600mm (at f5.6) which also works great for wildlife images in bright light.

2. Don't use flash if you are shooting from the sidelines. This can be dangerous for the particpants and the ref's will normally not allow it. I even suggest to turn off the small AF-Assist light that some cameras have to help with the AutoFocus. In baseball, the players will definitely pick it up when shooting from behind the plate.

3. A monopod definitely helps. For a heavy lens (line the Sigma) it is a must! I don't always use with my lighter lenses to get better range of movement and increased abiltiy to react to changes in the direction of the action.

4. Increase the ISO to the max allowed by your camera. I typically shoot night football at ISO 1600 or 3200 (D100). This causes increased noise but that can be dealt with in post-processing. The important thing is to get a sharp image. I shoot Shutter-Speed priority at various speeds depending on the available light and the speed of the action. For football I try not to shoot any slower than 1/200.

Hope this helps,
Mike


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9/12/2007 7:54:59 PM

 
Kraig Henry
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/2/2007
  Thanks Mike. I visited you website... good stuff


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9/13/2007 3:25:06 PM

 
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