indoor gymnastics photography

Discussion in 'Sports' started by lynn_s|1, Jan 11, 2017.

  1. I just got a Canon EOS 7D Mark ii, with a 100-300 lens. I'm looking for suggestions on where to start (ISO & shutter speed) to get the best action photos (without flash) so that hands and feet are also in focus.
  2. you'll need fast shutter speed on the order of 1000 or 2000 (or more). That dictates what will probably be a pretty high ISO (can you set AutoISO ?). Also, that lens is probably more 'consumery' and as such probably doesn't have a very fast maximum aperture. Try it all out but if you're really looking for the best bet, you may want to rent a fast(er) lens (does Canon make something like a 200/2) ?
  3. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Start with the Shutter Speed:
    The necessary Shutter Speed to arrest SUBJECT MOTION BLUR will depend upon the speed, direction and type of movement and also how tightly or loosely you FRAME the Subject and the ENLARGEMENT of the final image - for example, if you make a wide shot containing several Athletes and the final image is relatively small then you can get away with a slower Shutter Speed than if you made a shot of the same action but FRAMED only one Athlete and enlarged the image to 10 x 8.
    In all Gymnastics Choreography there are moments of minimal Subject Movement - if you can time the SHUTTER RELEASE to those moments then you can also use a slower Shutter Speed than otherwise necessary if you were to shoot at times when the Subject Movement is fast. So knowing the Gymnasts' Routine will be beneficial.
    A range of Sutter Speeds as a suggestion: 1/250s to 1/2000s.
    Once you determine the "Necessary Shutter Speed" (and that might vary throughout any Routine), then the MAXIMUM APERTURE of the Lens will determine the necessary ISO for any given Lighting Scenario. Note that the Lighting Scenario (i.e. "the amount of light illuminating the Subject") will vary between Gymnasia and also might vary within one Gymnasium - it is common in small Gymnasia or School Gymnasia that the edges of the mat have less light than the middle of the mat.

    The Lens that you describe is very likely a VARYING MAXIMUM APERTURE ZOOM LENS - this means that the MAXIUMUM APERTURE will vary as the lens is zoomed: if this is the case with your lens then you will have a faster Maximum Aperture at FL = 100mm than at FL = 300mm. Therefore you have more leverage to keep the ISO lower if you use the 100mm end of the Lens.
    My expectation is that you will need to use your Lens's Maximum Aperture - so be aware if that changes when you zoom.
    Gymnasia Lighting is typically from above only: also it is not uncommon for backwalls to be white or offwhite - be careful how you make your Light-meter reading: typically I meter the face of the Athlete when the are situated in the mat area, (and make necessary adjustment for skin colour). If the lighting is reasonably even across the mat then I will use that exposure setting, with the camera in Manual Mode, thus avoiding any false exposures caused by automatic camera functions metering the various colours of walls and/or spectators.
    Gymnasia Lighting is typically Three Phase Powered - this of itself will cause Colour Balance variations - that is just part of the deal if you want to use Shutter Speeds fast enough to arrest Subject Motion Blur.
    BTW I assumed that your reference to "hands and feet in focus" as referring to "not having Subject Motion Blur". The lens you have, when it is used on an APS-C camera should be able to attain an adequate Depth of Field at its maximum aperture, to have the hands and feet "in focus".

  4. I haven't shot gymnastics, but I shoot a lot of basketball and occasionally some volleyball in poorly lit gyms. As others have said, shutter speed is paramount. 1/500th stops most basketball action, but gymnasts doing flips could be moving faster.
    Once I determine the necessary exposure at a site, I always set the exposure manually (expect for that time there were lots of windows and the clouds were covering the sun about 30 out of every 60 seconds). This way I get more consistent exposures on the players and my shots aren't influenced by the sunlight coming through a window that may or may not be in the scene.
    I would suggest shooting as close as they will let you. When I have access to the baseline, I can use a 50 mm lens. If you have to shoot from a distance, you will need the telephoto zoom. A 70-200 f/2.8 lens is expensive, but it may be the only way to get the shot if you need a telephoto in a poorly lit gym. Start by renting one to see how it works for you.
    I always shoot wide open so I can use the lowest possible ISO. Focus can be a problem with basketball. With gymnastics, you know where gymnasts will be so you can pre-focus.
    The most important thing to learn for good sports photos is to anticipate the action. When you know where a gymnast will be, hold steady on that point and start shooting a burst shortly before they get there.
  5. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Worth repeating this:
    Ron wrote - "I would suggest shooting as close as they will let you."
    I absolutely concur: this is a critical point for you to consider. Being able to choose a close vantage point allows one to use a very fast (and relatively inexpensive), Prime Lens. Prime Lenses, even the very cheap ones, are very fast (i.e. large maximum aperture); for example the EF 50/1.8 MkII.
    Please see this recent conversation and note my response mentions that I use the EF 85/1.8 extensively when I am shooting Athletes in Gymnasia.
  6. One thing some of us have done (using film), as everything was in manual by default, that one had to determine where the crest of the action was....and usually there was no reshoots unless the person was doing warm ups, first. I've shot gymnasts in the air (while in HS) and I normally kept it at 1/500sec and developed the film at 1600-2000ASA. It can be done, but we now have way better tools, tho the lighting still seem to be ka ka.
    If I were you, and if this was a serious shoot, having a practice run wouldn't hurt, particularly if you could test the lights at this place, even if the sport was different.
    I'd echo the idea of using a fast 50mm (1.8 or 1.4), same with 85mm and I'd add 35mm (F2 or faster). It wouldn't hurt if you had two camera bodies and this way you could utilize shorter and longer lenses at whim and without spending the time to change them (most sport photographers do this). Anyway, you may have to rent some items to get this done.
    Furthermore, I'd start around ISO 2000 and the lens at F2 and adjust till you are happy with the results. Also,
    if you are not privy to be near the gymnasts, you may have to get (or rent) longer glass like 135/2 or 200/2.
    Good luck.
  7. To answer your original question regarding shutter speed and ISO, I suggest the following:
    • Use manual exposure: set shutter speed to 1/1000 or 1/1250, and set your lens aperture wide open
    • Set ISO to Auto
    • Set your meter to "partial" metering mode
    This will improve the likelihood that you will freeze the action with the lowest ISO necessary, thus minimizing image noise.
    Also, please pay attention to white balance, as lighting type in gyms is variable. Using custom WB is actually very easy and effective:
    1. Take a properly exposed photo of a white sheet (or something white) in the gym light AT 1/30th or slower (some gym/arena lights cycle at 50-60/sec)
    2. Go to Menu --> Custom WB → select the photo just taken → Set
    3. Set your WB to "Custom" (remember to set it back to AWB after you're done shooting the event)
    4. Take another photo of the white object to check.
  8. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Lynn, how did you go with your new camera and the Gymnastics photos?

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