Night Football Photography

Discussion in 'Sports' started by shannon_bockover, Oct 30, 2013.

  1. What are the best settings to use when shooting night football games with a canon 50d while using the canon EF 70-200mm f2.8? I was using AV mode with f2.8 and changing the ISO from 1600 to 3200 which turned out to be a huge waste of time. This is a newer lens to me and I have not quite figured out everything there is to know about it. The lights on the field were not very good either.
    Thank you
  2. Having shot many hundreds of them, go to manual mode and set a minimum shutter speed of 1/250. Anything slower just won't stop the action and 250 doesn't always. After that try to get f/4 but don't be afraid of 2.8, set the ISO as needed, hopefully no more than 1600. Most high school stadiums are notoriously dark.
    Rick H.
  3. I use a 7d and shoot in a very dark stadium. I shoot AV and I push my ISO to 6400 to get a higher shutter speed (1/400 at f2.8).
  4. As mention HS Football stadiums are very poorly lit. You WILL have to use ISO 3200 or higher. The local paper photographer uses ISO 10,000.
    I just bought a 150mm f/2 to shoot football due to the crappy lights.
    Also check the end zones. The end zones at the local HS are a full stop SLOWER than the 50 yard line. Ugh!
    I use my Sekonic L508 and I check the lights at mid field and the end zones.
  5. Having shot a few hundred HS night football games I suggest you get a monopod for arm weariness and a little stability. Before the game meter spots on the field around the light towers where the light is brightest and photograph near the bright spots when you can. They usually vary a lot on HS fields. Do not hesitate to mount a flash as I have very effectively shot printable pictures standing behind dark end zones using flash as long I was reasonably close to the back hitting the line near the goal line. I think one must have field access. I worked for a paper so I was allowed. I have recently done very well with action at ISO 6400 using a Canon 7D. A little post processing in LR helps. When shooting at 2.8 or wider you have to be very careful about DOF. A 250th is pretty slow but very effective when shooting head on like the guy at the goal line. Having said all that field conditions vary so you have to make on the spot decisions about exposure, ISO and shutter speed. To contradict what I said above somewhat I tried to get as close to the action as possible as the pictures are better. The attached picture was taken at 1/800, ISO 6400 with flash high speed sync in virtual darkness with a Canon 200 2.8 L lens bought in 1997. .
  6. A long time ago I did this for a living (SDSU). A few suggestions:
    1- 2.8 glass (300, 400mm)
    2- Monopod
    3- ISO 6400
    4- Shutter speed at least 1/500
    5- Look for peak action - catching the pass, not running for it
    6- Action coming toward you, as opposed to across from you
    If $$$ permit, switch to a Nikon D4 and play with the big boys.
    Good luck.
  7. Thank you for all the feedback, it is greatly appreciated. I can't wait to put it to the test this weekend for our superbowl.
  8. If you're new to this or to photography in general, one thing to look out for is how the dark background could affect your images. Depending on your camera mode and your composition a dark background (as compared to the light just on the players) would cause your camera to believe it needs far more light than is required. Setting negative exposure compensation to combat this would be key. Taking practice shots before the game begins should help you zero in on your settings.
  9. Used to shoot high school football for local newspapers back in the film days. Mostly had no choice but to shoot flash back then given the darkness of the fields and you couldn't push Tri-X with good results as easily as you can crank up the ISO today. I'd say you have little choice but to shoot wide open at 2.8 and set the ISO to at least 1600 better yet 3200 if your camera can handle it without excessive noise. (Keep in mind that noise that would be too much for a portrait can be acceptable in a sports picture.) You can use aperture priority, but you're probably better off with manual since white uniforms against a dark background (or the opposite) can easily throw off the meter.

    You definitely need to be on the field. Don't even bother otherwise. And most places wont' want you to use flash.
  10. I have also shot youth football for a while and getting successful shots at night really depends on your equipment. The newer the camera body, the better the noise reduction is at higher ISO settings. On the 70-200 2.8 you will get a lot of throw away shots at 2.8 because depth of field is so poor and quite a few at 3.2, 3.5 or 4.0. It goes without saying a 300mm 2.8 is a great solution but since it is thousands of dollars I will assume not many in here, including me, can afford that. I have a Canon 7D, same lens you mentioned, try to get what I can at 3200 ISO and go higher if lighting is just too poor for 3200. I rarely go all the way down to 1/250 sec because 90% of action will be out of focus. I have more success at about 1/400 and 1/500 sec. This equipment comes with its limitations at night. I am anxiously awaiting the next 7D model which is supposed to be available in mid to late 2014. Where the 7D maxes out at 6400 ISO, I believe the next version will go all the way up to 25,600 ISO which should then deliver nice images at 6400 and acceptable ones at 12,800. Those settings should allow for 4.0, 4.5 or even 5.6 at 1/500 sec or better and then the percentage of focus will be better. Unfortunately, the quality and percentage of success come down to the equipment you use. No magic answers if the camera and/or lens just can't get it done. Good Luck.

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