Sports Photography for a beginner

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by jholdernid, Mar 27, 2010.

  1. jholdernid

    jholdernid TPF Noob!

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    My family is very big into sports so I decided to get an SLR. Now I am having trouble learning how to use it properly.

    When shooting football, motocross, and Hockey, is it better to use the Sports setting on my Canon or use the manual settings. I have been trying manual but my pictures come out fuzzy and not crisp at all. I try different shutter speeds, but I still don't understand aperture, or ISO.

    Any help would be great.

    Jeff
     
  2. fokker

    fokker No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    In general, sports photography is all about focusing technique, using a fast enough shutter speed gto stop the action, and capturing that action at the right moment.

    Making some assumptions about what sort of camera you have, but...

    Use AI-servo (or equivalent) for focusing and select a single focus point. Learn to change focus points quickly.

    Try using Av mode (aperture priority) and use the minimum f/number (biggest aperture) possible. Assuming you have a kit lens, this will probably be about 3.5 at the wide end or 5.6 at the long end. Kit lenses generally suck for sports because they don't go down to f/2.8 or something like that. A lower number here means a bigger opening in the lens that can let in more light in turn give you a faster shutter speed. The tradeoff is a shallow depth of field, but this is usually a good thing is sports anyway as you only want the subject in focus.

    You'll want to aim for a shutter speed of something in the order of 1/500th of a second, but it depends what you're shooting. Experience helps a lot here :)
     
  3. ajkramer87

    ajkramer87 TPF Noob!

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    First buy the book understanding exposure by Brian Peterson. It will help you understand how aperture ISO and shutter speeds relate. When shooting sports you want to use a fast shutter speed so you can freeze motion. The other settings are going be determined by the amount light available. If its low light you may have to open up your aperture and turn up the ISO in order to keep a fast shutter speed.
     
  4. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    Shooting sports requires a good understanding of the exposure triad (shutter speed, aperture, ISO), the focus system settings your camera offers, and the nomenclature of lenses.

    If you are using the kit lens that was included with your camera you are fighting an uphill battle.

    Sports photography has an additional requirement for field sports (football, motocross), reach or magnification.

    Shooting at night or indoors is helped if you have a camera that has good ISO capabilities.

    You don't mention what gear you have to work with so only general recommendations can be made.

    Shutter speed needs to be in excess of 1/250 of a second to stop normal motion (no blur), though with good timing sports motion can often be stopped at 1/250.

    A better minimum shutter speed is 1/500.

    1/500th of a second doesn't allow a lot of time for light to stream into the camera and reach the image sensor, so the wider the lens can be opened (aperture) the better.

    It's likely the numbers on your lens include something like 18-55 mm (the lens focal length and it's variable or called a zoom lens) 1:3.5-5.6 which says the widest the lens can be opened at 1/3.5 the focal length of 18 mm and will automatically vary from there to 1/5.6 by the time you zoom to 55mm.

    So a lens with those numbers will let in the light the fastest when the aperture is set to f/3.5, but can only open that wide at 18mm and 18mm is less magnification than your eye provides so everything in the picture will be small.

    We need a lens that can provide more magnification and that can let in light faster.

    A larger fraction than 1 (f)/3.5 would be something like f (1)/1.4.

    A lens that can open to (f)1/1.4 of it's focal length is opening wider than a lens of the same focal length that can only open to (f)1/3.5 of it's focal length and is called a faster lens because it lets light in faster.
    f/3.5 is like a garden hose and f/1.4 is like a fire hose.

    For lenses, f is the same as the 1 in a fraction so I'll stop using the 1 now and just use the f. Just remember f/whatever number here is the same as 1/whatever number here.

    Ok, for indoor or nightime sports we need lenses that can let light in fast so we can use a shorter (faster) shutter speed. F/2.8 is considered the slowest that can make acceptable images in those conditions.

    The kicker is: as a general rule the faster the lens is, the more it costs and adding reach, or magnification, just adds to the cost even more.


    So what do you have to work with gear wise?
     
  5. xsouthpawed

    xsouthpawed TPF Noob!

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    I was wondering if you could help me too. (Is this thread jacking? I can start a new thread if you guys want.. but I thought that it might be better if I just continued this one because it's on the same topic) I'm really thinking about buying a Canon 70-200mm f/4 L this summer. my only other option is to buy the 70-300mm IS USM f/4.5-5.6 (my budget maxes at about $600, I'm stretching to get the L lens) I use a Canon 10d (very old =\ ) and a 50mm f/1.4 (love it) and the Canon 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5. Do you guys think that the L lens is a good addition? or is there something else I should be looking at? Like the thread starter, I want to do more sports photography (both inside and outside) I know that f/4 isn't great for indoors (especially the non-IS version) but it's all I can afford. Thanks!
     
  6. gryphonslair99

    gryphonslair99 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    The 70-200 would be better than the 70-300. I am glad to see that you recognize the limitations of both lenses. Sports is my main focus and if you look at my gear list you will see that i own nothing slower than f2.8 for the exact reason that you have listed. If you could add a little more money to the pot you might consider the Sigma 70-200 f2.8. While not a Canon lens it is a well considered piece of glass. (currently out of stock at B&H but that is the going price and a few reviews to read.

    For sports photography IS has little value when shooting sports.
     
  7. xsouthpawed

    xsouthpawed TPF Noob!

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    Mm. The Sigma 70-200 2.8 was the ideal lens when I first saw it.. Have you ever tried it before? I can't seem to find any camera stores around my area... But anyways I looked at it.. but some reviews like this one talked about it having a front-focusing problem or something (I think the guy tried 3 different lenses of the same model) And I'm a bit worried about that. What do you think? I'm willing to save a little bit longer for the Sigma though, the lens seems really great other than the AF (Maybe it isn't even a problem).
     
  8. DerekSalem

    DerekSalem TPF Noob!

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    Truth is the quality from the f/4L will blow that 2.8 out of the water. Yes, it's a 3-stop difference (for quick indoor sports 3 stops can be important), but depending on the camera it might not be a big difference (if it's a 7D/T2i/5D/etc... it has good enough low-light performance to not really matter) and honestly like I said the quality of the f/4L will be so much better than you'll find it easy to decide you've made the right choice. L glass is *PHENOMENAL*. There are *many* people that hate the fact they bought an L glass because afterward they have a hard time justifying buying anything *BUT* L glass. It's that big of a difference.

    I'm actually about to go buy the 70-200 f/4L myself (possibly tomorrow or monday). I have a Sigma 18-200 3.5 OS and although I love the stabilization I've seen the difference in picture quality...well worth it.
     
  9. gryphonslair99

    gryphonslair99 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    When the local photography shop got their first one in the owner asked me to take it out and give it a try. I took it to a college football game and it did a nice job. It took a bit of getting used to since my 70-200 is Canon. The zoom rings turn in opposite directions. Once I got over that I found the lens to be a good piece of glass. This same lens ended up in the bag of a sports photographer that shoots for my states High school sports magazine and he is quite pleased with it.

    As for a front or back focusing issue. When I got my 24-70 f2.8L I found that it back focused by about 2mm. Not much, but just enough to take degrade the sharpness I was looking for. I sent it and the body it is normally on to Canon and they calibrated it for free. Now I wouldn't sell that lens. It is dead on tack sharp.

    It and a body were out of my hands for a week, but well worth it in the long run. One way to not have this issue is to buy the lens locally if possible from a good photography shop. You could try it before you buy it. I normally do this. The 24-70 was from B&H ( a great company to work with I might add) as my local shop did not have one and could not get one for 6 weeks or so.
     
  10. myfotoguy

    myfotoguy TPF Noob!

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    Jeff- I just want to second some of the excellent advise already given. A good understanding of exposure and then lens specs are essential for sports. Also, knowing your equipment behavior at higher ISO's (finding out how high you can go while image noise is still acceptable).

    I would get a grasp on exposure first though, and second the Bryan Peterson suggestion. After that, do some tests and take if from there. At my link below are some articles on exposure, they may help get you started in some basic exposure concepts.

    What equipment do you have to work with?
     
  11. gryphonslair99

    gryphonslair99 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    If you have ever shot the 70-200 f2.8 and the 70-200 f4 you would find that they are both extremely sharp. The f4 does not blow the f2.8 away by any means. I've owned both and shot both extensively. Also the f4 is only 1 full stop slower than the f2.8.

    The progression of f-stops, 1 - 1.4 - 2 - 2.8 - 4 - 5.6 - 8 - 11 - 16 - 22 - 32
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2010
  12. xsouthpawed

    xsouthpawed TPF Noob!

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    I am totally confused :meh:
    I'm assuming that the 20-200 is actually the 70-200?
    Does Sigma calibrate their lenses too? (the front/back-focusing problem was on the Sigma)

    L lens sounds really tempting though. But then.. it's also.. very eye catching. And I'm not sure if that's a good thing.. Though it does look very nice :)

    I think the max ISO I can go up to is 800 (It's a Canon 10d remember) Maybe 1600 if the prints are smaller...
     

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