Canon 60d Action shots blurry, grainy,!


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Jan 15, 2012
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Photos OK to edit I have a question...After spending a couple of hours in a dark roller rink, using direct flash, high ISO, preset modes, bounce flash, etc...I am TERRIBLY disappointed in my pics. I have a Canon 60D and a Canon 430ex flash. I bought a stroboframe to offset my flash and used it also. Someone please give me a "dumbed down" lesson about your typical roller rink photography...low light, dark, carpeted walls, fast skaters, action shooting, etc... or tell me where to find this information. Why are most of my pics blurry? I tried my max ISO (6400) with and without the flash, lower ISO with and without the flash. My lens is the 18-135mm that comes standard with the camera. I understand some bit about noise with a high ISO but didn't shoot that many in the higher range. I didn't have good luck with the auto focus obviously...(I know I should have done manual focus now) With the exception of a few, the pics are either dark, blurry, or both. Even though digital photography is new to me I mostly turn out good shots...except today. Help...​
In a situation like that, you probably have no hope of getting much of any ambient exposure. So even if you crank the ISO all the way up, the shutter speed required to get any exposure, would still be too slow to freeze any movement. It might be enough to get a bit of ambiance for the background, but you're going to have to light up your subjects with flash only.

That shouldn't be too much of a problem, but you will probably only be able to light up people who are rather close to you....or maybe a little farther away, but not both at the same time.

Focusing would probably be a challenge, so I'd suggest pre-focusing. In other words, focus to a certain distance, then wait for people to get to that spot and be ready to snap the photo at the right moment.

Bounce flash may work, provided you have something to bounce off of. You might have better luck putting the camera and the flash into manual mode, figuring out what settings will work for a given scenario, then sticking to that.
Big Mike . . . the 60D has off camera flash capability. Is there anyway for the OP to use the built-in flash of the 60D to light up the people and then use the 430ex to get some lighting in the back?
Or maybe try something completely different?

Go ISO800 to shorten the range of the flash, get the people exposed but not the background, and then choose a slower shutter speed to get a little splash of colour in the background?

Or do panning with the flash set to trailing curtain to get an impression of the person in motion and then the flash at the end to lock in a frozen image of the person?
Forget about lighting the background. Set you camera to manual mode, 1/200, and leave the flash on auto but set the camera for second curtain sync. Start out around ISO 800 and adjust it from there and you should get pretty close in only a few shots. That shutter speed is what your camer syncs to the flash with, second curtain will give any motion blur the affect of going forward (I use second curtain on any flash where the subject might be moving), and the flash on TTL should expose your subject (but not enough for the background).

Your camera and lens combo will not handle focusing on moving subjects in this light, lioke Mike said, prefocus on the area the skaters will be comging through. Pan with them and when they hit the spot you have prefocused on fire it off.

Tactic, the built in flash won't have the range needed to light the subjects unless they get really close ( and get aweful red eye) and also another flash or wireless transmitter would be needed to fire the 430EX off camera away from the shooter to light the background.
Tactic, the built in flash won't have the range needed to light the subjects unless they get really close ( and get aweful red eye) and also another flash or wireless transmitter would be needed to fire the 430EX off camera away from the shooter to light the background.

I thought the Canon 60D had wireless flash capability (just no multiple group stuff . . .). My buddy actually bought both the 60D and the 7D to try out. Said that both had wireless capability and when we looked it up, its seemed both did. In the end he decided to keep the 7D and send the 60D back, so when we got together I only got to play with wireless on the 7D though . . .
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Oops, I was talking out my @$$ again. The 60D does have wireless funtions from it's flash.
Oops, I was talking out my @$$ again.

HaHaHa, I like that. That's funny.

With all the cameras out there, it's hard to keep track of what has what feature.

You're probably right about the range on the built-in flash though. That's something that might have to be played with . . .

Thank y'all so much! After reading your posts, I remember reading things about "trailing curtain" and "2nd curtain" I remember seeing that mentioned in the flash literature but it was totally confusing so I set it aside for the time being. So...let me understand...when I shoot motion shots in darker areas, the flash can be set to "follow" mine and the subject's movement? Is there a thread on here where I can learn more about the flash curtains?

Y'all have given me a lot to start with and I really appreciate it!
Normal operation for a flash is to fire when the shutter curtain first opens up, this will sort of freeze the motion of the subject. But if there is enough ambient light in the scene there will be blurred movement, becasue the flash stopped this movement at the beginning of the exposure the blurred area gives the impression of action/movement in front of the sharp area. The resulting motion blur seems unnatural, like it's blurred in front of the moving subject.

Second curtain sync fires the flash at the end of the exposure just as the shutter curtain closes. If you have enough ambient light in the scend the subject is blurred and then the flash fires giving you a sharp subject. The effect is motion blur behind the moving subject. You get a more natural look to the motion with the blur being behind the subject.

All this only has an effect if there is enough ambient light on the subject, if the flash is providing the bulk of the exposure there should be no difference between first/second curtain sync (also sometimes referred to front/rear curtain sync).

A good example of the motion effect I am trying to explain is in the train photos at this link.

ShortCourses-Flash Sync and Shutter Speeds

Oh, yeah. Just thought I'd mention that photographing action in dark situations is hard for a number of reasons, most of which you have mentioned. If it is dark, iso will only help you so far.

Are you trying to document an event and / or get creative shots?


Have you thought about starting a thread called "Roller Rink Photography help?"

The pros might give you strategies . . .
Get a faster prime lens to assist in AF. (like a 28mm f/1.8 or a 50mm f/1.4 ) They are about $400 each. Even if you stopped them down to f/2 or f2.8, your camera's AF system would still benefit from the max aperture when focusing. Other than that, the flash advice was pretty accurate. There are some situations that cameras are going to struggle, and I am sure this is one of them. That doesn't mean you can't get good pictures, just don't expect them to look like something in a magazine that was staged with a boatload of extra lighting used.

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