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Photography Question 
Mike Tassinari

Sports Photography at Night

What is the best way to take sports pictures at night (i.e., Friday night football games)? I use these photos to make up to 18"x24" posters. I have a Canon EOS Rebel digital camera with a Quantaray 70-300m auto focus lens and Carrot 660T flash.

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10/20/2006 4:58:03 AM

Bob Fately   Mike, odds are that you will not be able to get poster-sizeable shots using the equipment you mention. Your lens is not very fast - no doubt, the typical f5.6 at the 300MM end. To freeze motion, you'll need to use a high shutter speed. Given the relatively slow lens and the need for a fast shutter, the only options are to put more light on the subject and/or raise the sensitivity (ISO).
Not sure about a "Carrot" flash, but unless it's a multi-head strobe with a 20-pound power pack, it's highly unlikely that it will put out enough light to make much difference, uness you take a shot of a player within 10-20 feet of you. And, of course, a high ISO leads to high noise leads to less than optimal image quality (unless you're going for that in an artistic manner).
So, to answer directly, one approach is to set the camera to aperture preferred mode and the ISO to 800 or more (whatever you can stand) and see how fast a shutter speed you can get. The potential problem here is that the camera's meter may be fooled if you take a shot where a distant spotlight is in the background - the camera may attempt to "balance" the exposure and give you a higher shutter speed, but your subject will become a silhouette.
That's why the second approach may be better - take some meter readings on the field (without bright lighting appearing in the background) to find out what the appropriate shutter would be at the maximal aperture, and then set the camera to manual mode and just leave it at those settings. That way, even if you get a klieg light in the corner it won't "throw off" the meter and ruin the shot.
As for that flash, unless you're going to be shooting within 15ish feet, I don't think it will be of any help at all.

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10/20/2006 12:40:56 PM

Mike Tassinari   Bob
That answers my question.
Thanks for your help.

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10/23/2006 5:00:13 AM

Cindi J.    i have the same problem but with a Canon 10D.. what would be the best type of lens for this type of photography? and what lens would be the most economical?
thanks in advance

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10/25/2006 9:49:22 AM

Bob Fately   Well, Cindi, in the world of lenses, "fast" and "economical" don't often mix. Those big honkin' lenses you see the pros use on the sidelines at major games cost upwards of $6000 or more...

For us mere mortals, though, probably the best thing to do is get a prime telephoto lens - that is, one that does not zoom but rather has a fixed focal length. These are smaller, lighter, and generally lest costly than their zoom brethren.

For example, the Sigma 50-150 f2.8 zoom is about $700 while the Canon 100MM f2 is about $400 - a full stop faster and nearly half the price.

SO much depends on the venue you'll be shooting - how well it's lit, where you can stand, that there's really no simple answer.

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10/25/2006 1:05:00 PM

Bill    I shoot a lot of "friday nite football" and I have found sucsess with only one lens it is a 70-200 2.8 vr from Nikon. It is expensive Retail $1800 but is worth every penny. If you can't afford a new one, I could'nt, so I went to a local photographer and bought one of his used lenses for $900. It works perfectly and I sell a lot more pics now than I ever did. Also I have found that field lighting is very inconsistant,it's usually best between the 30 yrd lines. Try to take the majority of our shots in that range. If you watch your angles you can catch the action in a pause(change of direction) this will minimize blur,when the teams lineup for the snap and the monent before the ball is snapped is a good time to get indivdual (poster shots)without blur. You mentioned a flash, most stadiums will not permit flash pictures during the game,save it for after game pics. I hope these tips help you . If you have a web site send me a link I am always interested in other peoples work.

Bill Schmidt

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11/9/2006 3:28:02 AM

Mike Tassinari   Thanks Bill, very helpful

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11/9/2006 4:46:23 AM

Cindi J.    I am very much the amateur.. with the Nikon len.. what are your usual settings? (I know that is so general but I am kind of looking for a good starting point and then I can fuss and muss from there) In the past year I basically have been taking picutres until 1/2 time and then quitting :(
our team has a website but usually my pictures there are more for the players not necessarily the best pictures. I am working on a website through here but haven't had time.
thanks so much for your help.. I love this website.. I can already tell I will improve by leaps and bounds with the information here! thanks again!!

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11/9/2006 12:21:33 PM

Bill    The usual settings for me are, iso 1600, camera (nikon d70) set to sports. This setting on the nikon gives you f2.8 and max shutter speed for the lighting conditions at the moment. I hope this helps.


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11/9/2006 1:19:03 PM

Brenda M. Wolfensberger
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/29/2004
  This helps me a great deal Bill, especially since I have the D70! I just got home a couple of hours ago from my son's last game of the season (although I think they now qualified for playoffs!) I have never taken my camera because it's so hard to get a great shot. I'll be sure to try these settings. I have the 70-300mm lens from Nikon so I'll give it my best. I'm thinking the same settings would work for my daughters outdoor guard competitions? I'll try those on Sunday at her championships. Do you have a website for your pics Bill? I'm always interested in others who use the D70. Thanks for the insight! Brenda

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11/10/2006 8:26:35 PM

Bill    Brenda,

With the 70-300 lens you will probably need to be on the field to get anything good because as you zoom in you lose f-stops which will in turn make the camera reduce shutter speed, so don't try to zoom in too close. Just use photoshop to crop out unwanted space. Most fields don't say anything about photographers being on the side lines as long as you act professional and stay out of the way. My website is Right now it is all sports but I will be adding other subjects to it when I get time. I hope this helps. Bill

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11/13/2006 5:42:37 AM

Brenda M. Wolfensberger
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/29/2004
  Thanks Bill! We made it to the playoffs, so we have another game on Friday night, so I'll try it. I normally do walk down to the field and stay just on the edge. I try to stay down and away from everyone. No one has ever asked me to leave yet. If I get anything good I'll try to post it. Thanks for your site, I'll check it out!

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11/13/2006 6:08:08 AM

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