Absolute Lowest Shutter Speed

Discussion in 'Sports' started by leroy_photography, Nov 19, 2008.

  1. I know, I know ... this question has been asked a thousand times in a thousand different ways, but, since football
    season is wrapping up and there are some newly seasoned practitioners on Photo.net, I’m hoping that more wisdom
    and understanding will be presented this time. :)

    Specifics: Nikon D80, Nikor 80-200mm f/2.8

    (1) What is the absolute lowest shutter speed I can use for poorly lit high school football games using the above
    equipment? What is the formula used to determine this? (2) Has anyone used Exposure Compensation to get a
    better, cleaner shot?

    As far as lighting and reduced noise, I’ve had the greatest success using Program Mode, but many of the good
    shots are blurred (because Program Mode reduces the shutter speed in order to capture the light). I’ve tried using
    Aperture Priority (f/2.8), which gives excellently lit photos, but, most of the subject is blurred, with the exception of
    the area of focus (the face or football).

    This leaves two remaining options: Shutter Priority and the dreaded MANUAL. I have to admit, I’m not fearless, so
    I’m hoping someone that shoots excellent pictures using Shutter Priority will bestow his/her wisdom upon me!
  2. Laura - you're shooting with the D80 - use "S" priority, and start with a shutter speed of 1/500 sec., set your aperture @ 2.8, and take your first shot with your ISO @ 800. Check your histogram, then adjust your ISO and/or your shutter speed until you attain the result you're after. It costs nothing to experiment with different ISO and shutter speeds with a digital camera - anything you don't like, simply delete. Perhaps Wilson Tsoi and some other sports photographers will provide additional info.
  3. Depends, Laura, on which direction the back is running. You need to know, at all times what shutter speed you are
    using. You can get away with 1/200 from behind the goal line with someone headed directly toward you but you really need
    1/500. I did a lot of dimly lit HS football games for the local paper. Exposure compensation does not really work in my
    experience. You need the correct exposure. I shot a lot of football throughout the state of Maine and some of those fields were really bad.
    I got quite a
    few in the paper at 1/250 but I don't recommend it. End zones were very bad and I kept a flash mounted for those times
    when I just did not have enough light. I don't know Nikon but with Canon I used 3200 ISO a lot and 1600 most of the
    time. A newspaper is not too demanding in terms of tack sharpness as the printing staff can make a bad picture really bad with too much
    or too little ink. Flash is only good if you are in range of the flash but it has saved my
    coverage once in a while as my boss wanted a local face and a football in every shot particularly crossing the goal line. I would use
    shutter priority.
    F2.8 kills depth of field. Get a monopod. This will help with slower shutter speeds some but not much. However, you
    have to use whatever the light gives you. You can underexpose some and fix it in photohshop. A stop or two can be
    fixed bui slow shutter speed cannot be fixed. Shoot lots of pictures and like me you will get lucky occasionally and get
    some nice pictures. Find the best light on the field by metering it along the sidelines and try to get most of your pictures there. If you
    want touchdowns get a strong flash.
  4. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    There is no "formula." You have to do the best with what you have. In order to do this, set your camera to the maximum ISO you feel comfortable using, i.e., where noise is tolerable. Then use aperture priority and shoot wide open. That is the best shutter speed you will get. If you are still getting unacceptable blur, the only choice is to up the ISO.

    Changing to shutter priority changes nothing in terms of minimizing blur. You are still stuck with the maximum aperture and the highest ISO you can tolerate. Glen's response is quite confused and wrong, since you can't set the aperture in shutter priority. You shouldn't be using program mode since it doesn't necessarily optimize for the highest shutter speed available with your lens and the light.

    You can use exposure compensation to get the shutter speed up, but then you will have to correct in Photoshop or whatever you use and you will end up with more noise. This isn't a good solution.
  5. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Generally I agree with Dick, but if the shutter speeds are going to be too low, shutter priority doesn't help. You will have to end up at maximum aperture if there isn't enough light.
  6. Laura, you can't rely on your camera to set the exposure for you when shooting sports. There are just too many variables that change too quickly. In one frame, you'll have a dark night sky behind your subject, in the next it will be a light standard shining right into the frame. You may be dreading it, but you really need to shoot in manual. It isn't as hard as it seems. Get to the game early enough for warm-ups and take some test shots. If it's a night football game, you'll be shooting wide open at 2.8 the whole time. If you want to stop the action and avoid motion blur, the minimum shutter speed you'll want to use is 1/250, 1/320 would be better and go faster if you can. Then adjust your ISO to accommodate your shutter speed and give you good exposures. It's always better to get a good shot with the action frozen and have to deal with noise later (Neat Image, Noise Ninja) than to have a blurry image.
  7. I guess I can't avoid using MANUAL any longer. I always keep the aperture at f/2.8, so that won't change. While I've found that the shutter of 1/250 is sufficient for lighting, it's difficult to freeze the action (or else our running backs are just too fast!), so I'll keep the shutter at 1/320. I hate putting the ISO any higher than 1250, but I'll set it to 1600. DONE!

    Now Dan, tell me about the setting for the above photo. What was the ISO? Since it's not very noisy, I would assume you used ISO 1600 and cleaned it up with Noise Ninja. Is that your secret?
  8. Jeff is right. The real issue is having enough light and understanding your camera and the elements of exposure well enough to assure there is enough light at a fast enough shutter speed to stop the action. If I can get 1/500 at f4 then I am happy. If I have to go wide open at 2.8 I will. If I can't get either I will raise the ISO to what I need. If I can't do that I will try to get close and shoot flash at 1/200. If you shoot flash a 1/60 you will get ghosts as the subject moves. It is not whether you set the selector at Por A or M. Below is a perfect example of what happens in a dark badly lit swimming pool when my flash was inadvertently set at 1/60 at a recent swim meet. Look at the letters on the hat. No effort is useless you can always point to it as a bad example.
  9. Laura, that one was shot at ISO1000. I have Noise Ninja, but didn't use it on this one. The D300 is great that way.
  10. Laura, Well, you've got another HS football shooter for a newspaper from Maine here, and actually started out using relatively the same equipment you've got there. As Dick stated the fields are just too dark up here, so I ended up using a flash, but my main set up was a D80, 80-200 f/2.8 AF-D, and an SB-800. Lighting conditions varied. At Camerson Stadium or Fitzpatrick Stadium - the two biggest in the state- the lighting is great and I can get away with 1/400-1/500 of a second. But it all changes which is why I always use manual which was stated above. I think you'll find shutter priority to be very hard to use, and it's all a matter of playing with what the best lighting is for you. Try manual and test it out, for newspaper ISO 1600 is perfectly accetable. Good luck! Gabe.
  11. One suggestion. If you are shooting a pass play, either shoot at an angle that the players won't look into the flash or wait until after the catch. After a player has the ball, it usually doesn't matter. Usually.
  12. Yes, Kent does have a very good suggestion about the flash part. Usually it doesn't matter, I take the redeye out if it's going to be used in publication, but didn't have the time here. but yes an angle is a good idea as well as Photoshop or other post production software technique so you can remove the redeye.
  13. BTW, I'm sure my photos would be much improved if I were able to read the next play. I know a little bit about football and can guess when the pass is going to happen, but we run the spread offense and with 4 receivers, I'm lucky if I guess correctly. My QB photos are pretty good, though. Thanks guys for all your suggestions. I don't think I'll ever use a flash as there are very few photos taken with them that I actually like. I'll just keep fiddling with my settings and avoiding the dark spots on the field. Thanks again.
  14. 1/320 is absolute minimum, if the light will support it, 1/400 or 1/500 would be much better for night games. Some schools have very dim fields, some very bright so location will dictate a lot.
  15. Here is an example from a great field with bright lighting, ISO 800 f2.8 1/500.
  16. Laura
    I agree with all the previous replies that suggest using Manual mode in poor light. However at f/2.8 the DOF is very shallow and that may be why the rest of the image is blurred except the area of focus. I shoot football "soccer" under floodlights (not very good ones in most occasions) and usually start with the ISO1600 Shutter Speed: 400 Aperture: f/2.8. Here's an example below:
    At f/2.8 you've got to nail the focus tho' there is very little margin for error.
    This was taken using a Canon EOS30D and a Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. Noise reduction software: Noise Ninja auto profiled during a batch process.
    Hope this helps.
    --Mark Fletcher

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