How do I make my son's basketball pictures better with my current equipment?

km78

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I took some pictures at my son's basketball game a few weeks ago and am not happy with how they turned out. I am still learning all of the basics, so I am sure my settings were off. I am wondering if anyone has any advice to offer that might make them better? I know that I need a better lens for sure, but will not be getting one before the season is over. I am hoping that there are some other things that I can do with what I already have. For one, I know the color is off...it looks yellowish?? Of course there is a lot of noise and they are pretty dark. I believe I was using Shutter Priority and I was using a 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens. Not sure of the white balance setting or my ISO although I know I had it bumped up pretty high.

$DSC_4810_zps4c7fc9c9.jpg

Also for future reference, what is the best type of camera for a hobbyist to use for these types of photos? Thanks for the help!
 

TCampbell

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The camera "body" is fine. This is an issue with how fast your camera can collect light.

We can be more specific if you also include the settings you used when you took the shot. The camera will embed the data in the image as "EXIF" data (it's not visible but we can read it using browser plug-ins). Your images have had their EXIF data stripped (a lot of editors will commonly strip it or at least offer to strip it out. When posting to a photography website it's best to leave it in because we can tell a lot about how you took the photo and what you could have done instead if we can see that info.)

I see from your profile that you own a D3100 and you've mentioned that you were using the 55-300mm f/4-5.6 lens.

The "problem" with most school indoor sports is that the gymnasium is not particularly well lit (it's not like playing outdoors on a bright day).

The "f/4-5.6" spec in the lens is the widest focal ratio it is capable of using. The fact that it's a range (f/4 through f/5.6) means that your lens has a variable focal ratio. At the 55mm end it can do f/4, but at the 300mm end it can only do f/5.6. This is where it's important to understand how focal ratios work.

The focal ratio is the ratio of the lens aperture divided into the lens effective focal length. If your effective aperture is a 14mm wide hole and the lens' focal length is 55mm long then you have f/4. Now imagine... if the aperture was actually 28mm wide instead of 14mm wide.... your lens would then be f/2, but more importantly, at that larger size the lens could collect FOUR TIMES more light while the shutter is open for the same amount of time. What that means to you is that you could either reduce the ISO setting (for less noisy images) or you could increase the shutter speed, or a little of both. And that's just at f/4. More than likely you're zoomed in a bit and your lens' widest aperture is f/5.6. f/4 collects twice as much light as compared to f/5.6. That means that if you compared it to an f/2 lens, the difference would be EIGHT TIMES as much light... and that's a HUGE difference.

There are some zoom lenses that can provide constant focal ratios -- they don't vary when you zoom. Some of them provide f/4 all the way through the range and those lenses are a bit more expensive. Some of them can provide f/2.8 all the way through the range and those lenses are a LOT more expensive (they're also much bigger and heavier... they have to be because the physical diameter has to be much larger in order to create that larger aperture and THAT means all the glass elements inside the lens also have to be bigger and more precisely ground and shaped. That's why f/2.8 zooms cost so much.

HOWEVER... there are some lower cost alternatives.

Lenses that don't zoom at all (aka "prime" lenses) almost always have lower focal ratios to begin with. Nikon, for example, makes an AF-S 50mm f/1.8 lens and also an AF-S 50mm f/1.4 lens. The 1.4 is a better lens, but ignore that for the moment... you wont shoot below f/2 because if you do the depth of field will get so narrow that one person will be focused and the rest of them will be out of focus. So there is a practical limit to how low you can go with the f-stop even if the lens can go lower.

Since you have a D3100 (which doesn't have an in-body focus motor) you'll want to get Nikon's "AF-S" lenses (which have a built-in focus motor in the lens.)

Also, don't forget to change your focus mode to "AF-C" (Nikon's auto-focus "continuous" mode) otherwise the camera will lock focus when you half-press the shutter and they'll have moved by the time you actually take the shot. The "continuous" mode tells the camera that you're shooting a moving subject and that it should never stop focusing until you've taken the shot.




The yellow/green cast is easily removed. That's just a while balance problem. If you shoot in JPEG, change the white balance setting on the camera. This looks to be yellowish and greenish to me. Green is usually caused by florescent lights. Yellow is usually incandescent. These are probably mercury or sodium lights in the gym. Your camera wont actually have a setting for sodium lights but you can use "custom white balance". This requires that you shoot a photo of a neutral gray card (neutral gray cards are CHEAP -- get one and throw it in your bag). You shoot a single photo of the card (MUST be in the SAME light conditions as your subject) and then tell the camera to perform custom white balance based on that shot (the card should mostly fill the frame). The camera knows the card is supposed to be neutral gray but will actually appear tinted because of the lights. It'll figure out how much it needs to adjust color to make the card gray again and will then apply that same change to every shot you take until you change white balance modes again. Also... if you happen to know the color temperature of the lights in degrees kelvin you can enter the value directly (I don't happen to know the value off the top of my head.) But I'm not entirely sure these are sodium lights... that's my guess. Before you look up the temperature and enter it, you'd have to KNOW what type of lighting they use.

You can also fix the color temperature in post processing on your computer. The best way to do this is, again... take a photo of a known true neutral white or gray source. You can then have the computer perform the color correction (it'll adjust color until the known white or gray source has equal amounts of red, green, and blue balance to create a true neutral gray). You can then copy that same color adjustment to all other images shot in the same lighting.
 

CanonJim

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+1 on Tim's advice - very sound. As he noted, the problem comes about because the lens can not open to let in enough light to properly expose the scene given the selected shutter speed. Thus, two choices - open lens more (not possible) or slow down shutter. Trouble is, slowing shutter leads to blur. Adjusting ISO (within limits) may help by allowing better exposure at selected shutter speed. Bumping the ISO to 400 or so may allow the shutter speed which is needed to stop action to be sufficient. And yes, the greenish cast is caused by the lighting in the gym, 99% of which are abysmal in terms of lighting, from a photographic point of view. A raw image, or a white balance corrected one, should be fine.
 

Derrel

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Buy yourself a 50mm f/1.8 AF-S G Nikkor prime lens...it's going to be a good investment for low-light, HIGH-ISO shots, like in the gymnasium. In terms of dollars spent and the ability to make good low-light shots, that specific 50mm lens, which has AF-S focusing, is going to be the best thing you can buy.
 

Buckster

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Buy yourself a 50mm f/1.8 AF-S G Nikkor prime lens...it's going to be a good investment for low-light, HIGH-ISO shots, like in the gymnasium. In terms of dollars spent and the ability to make good low-light shots, that specific 50mm lens, which has AF-S focusing, is going to be the best thing you can buy.
Just curious - Is that what you would use for shooting high school basketball?
 

ceejtank

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Not knowing your settings.. you can boost your ISO a little to help let you take wider aperature, and faster speed shots, or if freezing the "motion" wasn't a problem, you could just open up your aperature. This shot looks underexposed to me, and also looks like it's using the incorrect white balance.
 

TCampbell

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Buy yourself a 50mm f/1.8 AF-S G Nikkor prime lens...it's going to be a good investment for low-light, HIGH-ISO shots, like in the gymnasium. In terms of dollars spent and the ability to make good low-light shots, that specific 50mm lens, which has AF-S focusing, is going to be the best thing you can buy.
Just curious - Is that what you would use for shooting high school basketball?

I suppose this really depends on where you're allowed to stand. A 70-200mm f/2.8 would be fairly versatile. Nikon doesn't make a 135mm f/2 with AF-S focusing (it's AF only) and the closest AF-S lens is the 105mm macro (which is f/2.8 - not f/2).

If you're stuck up in the bleachers you probably want a longer focal length, but if you're allowed to hang out court-side you can park yourself near one of the backboards and wait for the action to come your way with a 50mm lens.
 

Joves

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Buy yourself a 50mm f/1.8 AF-S G Nikkor prime lens...it's going to be a good investment for low-light, HIGH-ISO shots, like in the gymnasium. In terms of dollars spent and the ability to make good low-light shots, that specific 50mm lens, which has AF-S focusing, is going to be the best thing you can buy.
Just curious - Is that what you would use for shooting high school basketball?

Yeah I am kind of wondering too.
Okay for the lens you have I will make this as simple as possible. First though I am not a fan of it you need to set the WB to Auto, but the problem with that is, that gyms have very mixed lighting so you will most likely get odd color casting. My preference would be to Measure the lighting using a gray card, these can be bought cheaply on line. The instructions for it are in the Manual. Shutter priority is good, you can get by with a 1/125 shutter speed, but above that is naturally better. Now here is the part that will make it more effective. You zoom your lens out all the way, this means your Aperture is at 5.6, since you already have the Shutter set to 1/125 or better, you now bump up your ISO till you get the right level in the meter, it will tell you it is under exposed. Once you have it set up then you are good to go, and the camera will only adjust the Aperture to keep the shots consistent. Also if you want you can use Exposure Comp to lighten the images, but I personally never use it. I would also suggest shooting in RAW+Jpeg Fine, because you can really do a lot of repair if needed in ViewNX, things such as tweaking the WB and so not then save them to Jpeg later. But this how I said to shoot will be the easiest for you with the equipment you have. On Variable apertures when shooting you always want to adjust for the smallest when zoomed, and make the adjustments there so that from there it is just a matter of shooting and not having to worry.
Oh you can make a DIY Expodisc from a Pringles top, and actually the clear plastic milk jugs are very close to 18% white. To measure White Balance you cove the front of the lens with the DIY disc then you point it at the lights and measure.
 

CMfromIL

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I've shot some basketball shots with my 50mm f/1.4. Typically have the f-stop at 2.8 or so. As T-Cambell noted it's all where you are situated. At a Jr High basketball game it's pretty easy to get courtside. :lmao:

Normally though I'm using my 70-200.

Here is a quick one I took with my 50mm. f/3.5 ISO 5000 (I probably could have lowered ISO by putting the f-stop to 2.8 or 2.0). Shutter speed was really slow 1/250. Should have been higher, but I was just messing around with settings to see how they would do).

BB5Layup.jpg
 
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