Best f stop for football

Discussion in 'Sports' started by michael_dougherty|2, Aug 21, 2008.

  1. I will be shooting several football games during daytime for a local junior college with a DSLR with a new
    120-300 F2.8 lens with hypersonic focus. I will be shooting from a relatively uncongested sideline between 20
    and 30 yards distant from the line of scrimmage. I previously shot at F8 with another lens but wanted to know
    from experienced football photographers if shooting at F2.8 is even practical given the conditions outlined
    above. Of course I will check while on the field and I am sure some images will be successful but I need 100+
    properly focused images and am not sure I can achieve that at F2.8.
  2. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Well I do not shoot your football, but I do shoot hockey, (field hockey) and have covered a lot of Rugby, both sports
    from the sideline, and I generally like F8 to F11 with a 70 to 200F2.8L on an APS-C digital body.


    Taking another spin on it, (and assuming you have an APS-C body):

    At 60ft (20yards) and in a scrimmage position, with 300mm you will have a shot with one key person in the FoV and
    a couple flanking him: using horizontal format the frame FoV is approx 3 ft x 6ft.

    And at F2.8 the DoF will be 1`4`` which is hardly the width of the key subject`s shoulders, perhaps only a bit more
    than his helmet.

    At F8 the DoF for the above is about 3`10``, which I vision as a much nicer image.

    (In the example, the DoF at F2.8 is not that significantly larger on an APS-H or Full Frame 35mm digital body)

  3. Micheal, I hate to disagree with the previous poster but I shoot sport and always use as wide an aperture as I can. If you nail the focus and there's no reason you shoudn't, the less depth of field the better here's a shot from last week with a 180mm lens at 3.5 if it had been shot at F8 or F11 I think the guy in the background would have been distracting look in the sports pages all the impact shots are shot at wide open or close to, these guys don't lug 400mm2.8 and 300mm 2,8's around for their health a 400mm @ 2.8 properly focussed is spectacular. Btw I think this is so for soccer, rugby, hockey and football and actually most sports. Steve
  4. I agree with Steve Hughes... I shoot football between f2.8 and f4 all the time. The shallow DOF really emphasizes the player who is the subject of your photo. It takes practice to get properly focused and exposed images at f2.8, but it's definitely worth it.
  5. If your goal is to get as many recognizable faces in as many pictures as possible, then shoot with a small aperture (f/8 to f/11). If your goal is to get that one stunning image suitable for publishing, then shoot with a wide aperture (f/2.8). The pros that shoot for SI shoot as wide as possible.
  6. I agree competely with Steve also. It's all about subjuect isolation.

    Small apertures cannot give you the isolation that makes sports photography give its punch, usually causing confused, "busy" images.

    One thing you did not mention is wheterh you will be shooting at night, or during the day.

    If at night, there is no getting away from a wide (f2.8) aperture.
    I know this is not a football picture, but the same rules apply.
    If i used a smaller aperture, the other players in the bg would be too focused, leading to confusion and an unacceptable image. (IMO of course)

    Hope this helps
  7. BTW appologies for my typos.

  8. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    > Michael, I hate to disagree with the previous poster < (SH) Steve: No need to hate it, disagreement is fine: that`s what a forum is. :) I agree, F2.8 looks great, provided you nail the focus and have the DoF through the main subject(s) to accommodate F2.8 at the particular FL you are using: and certainly that is why 300 and 400F2.8 are used, in particular circumstances, for many sports shots. I use F2.8 through to F11 for sport. *** But that was not the question as I understood it: If you are still reading . . . what aperture would you use at FL 300mm on an APS-C at 20yards from the line of scrimmage? (if I understand correctly ``line of scrimmage`` it is when the two teams line up facing each other in a kneeling position). The question asked: ``(whether) if shooting at F2.8 is even practical given the conditions outlined above.``, and as I understood the question, those were the conditions outline of the shot. *** Perhaps I read the question too literally? Perhaps clarification of the question is required? If it is a general question, then my answer is: you use the aperture necessary to achieve the DoF you require. WW
  9. William, I am looking for the widest aperture (using aperture priority) possible but still get the maximum possible number of properly focussed images. Steve's image of the over 50's tournament is the effect I'm trying to achieve but, like you said, you have to nail the focus which is what I am concerned with. I thought just opening up a faster lens to F2.8 would work but apparently it doesn't unless the camera focus controls are set properly.

    In the post above, I should have also asked for the best auto focus setting to use. I have done a little more research and will set my D300 to dynamic auto focus, continuous servo AF, 9 point and see what happens. Closest subject priority on the older Nikon DSLR's was great but the new bodies no longer have this feature so I will be shooting with less than full confidence.
  10. Actually, in a situation like William's swimming, if you want to get all three girls in focus, you want to stop down as much
    as you can. If you are shooting a static image (line of scrimmage football with everyone in place not moving) then you can
    stop down so that your shutter is 1/125 or something. I always shoot football at ISO 1600, I know you didn't ask... but just
    thought I'd throw it out there. if you don't shoot RAW or your camera isn't the latest generation low noise camera, then 800.
  11. Michael - your AF settings on your D300 seem correct. You wouldn't want 'closest subject' anyways since you could easily get someone back in sharp focus and not the quarterback, as intended, for example.

    Much of the correct focusing rests with the shooter - you. Get that one of 9 AF points on your subject and keep it on him! You may need a monopod if you are not smooth in your movement while following you subject. I would suggest aperture of 3.5 - 4.5 for your first few shoots. Even shoot some at 2.8 and 5.6. analyse the differences and see which give you best shots in combination with your current skills.
    I find it takes me a game or two to get skills back to previous season level much of which involves the flow of game action for that particular sport.
  12. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member


    Thanks for clarifying. When I read Steve`s answer it made me think I had the wrong slant on the question: I was
    thinking of one image, of (a player) at the line of scrimmage and the phrase ``if shooting at F2.8 is even practical
    given the conditions outlined above`` was referring to that: hence my specific example with DoF and FoV. Upon re
    reading the whole thread, I think I could have also composed my opening sentence better: I was thinking, as an
    example one player in a Lineout in Rugby.

    So, now being quite specific to answer the question, if you wish to use Av, and get a shot like the example of
    Steve`s above you would be best to use F4.

    It is all in the maths of it: as you are using a 70 to 300 and you (generally) want to frame a single player with a bit of
    head and feet room, if you know the following Horizontal Fields of View, you are set:

    . at 15ft a shot at 70mm will frame about 6 `6`` Horizontal, so will all of the following:

    . 30ft at 140mm

    . 45ft at 210mm

    . 60ft at 280mm

    If you check the DoF at F4 at those Subject Distances you will have about 2`5`` for each shot, which would have a
    little fiddle room for inaccurate focus and still give a reasonable amount of keepers with shallow DoF, which is what
    you want.

    [FYI: the same calculations at F2.8 will give a DoF of about 1`6`` for each shot]

    It might be an anal retentive mechanism to some: but that is how I have mostly always structured my selection of
    aperture, I have cheat sheets for just about every regular occurring scenario I have shot.

  13. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    > Actually, in a situation like William's swimming, if you want to get all three girls in focus, you want to stop down as
    much as you can. <

    Correct, but 1/640s is the limit for a Backstroke start at National Level Swimming.

    Your point is well taken . . . I was in fact too lazy to drop to ISO 1600 to get another stop of aperture, which I think
    would have been more professional of me.

    The Girl in the Green National Suit, is the key Subject.

  14. When shooting football I tend to shoot a lot with a 300mm f/2.8 and 70-200 f/2.8. I most of my action day or night at f/2.8. I shoot at f/2.8 because I like sharp subjects wuth shallow depth of field (Bokeh). This blows out the background but keeps my subject sharp. This is a really effective way of pulling a subject away and isolating him form a busy background.
  15. About wide apetures, 300MM F2.8 lenses, 500mm F4's, etc 70-200 F2.8s, a wise photographer told me once that,"Tom, if you aren't going to use the lens at the widest apeture, then don't spend the $ or the effort to lug them around. They exist for one purpose, and that is to allow you to stop action in the night or day, and to isolate and bring focus on your subject" When you look at spending, in my case, $6000.00 for a 300mm F2.8 lens, I had better be sure that F2.8 is a requirement. The same went for my $1,800.00 70-200 F 2.8 and my 24-70 F2.8. The nice thing is that with the 1.5x conversion with my Sony A700's I have the equivalent of 450mm F2.8, and if needed it, 630mm at F4 with the use of the Sony 1.4X teleconveter.

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