Starting out in sports photography

Discussion in 'Sports' started by karen_oleary|1, Mar 30, 2009.

  1. I am an amateur photographer making my way to, hopefully, full time at some point in my life as this is my passion. I have a canon 20D and just purchased the canon 70-200 f2.8 lens. I went last week and shot my 12 year old nephew at "Ramp Riders". It's an indoor warehouse with flourescent lighting and ramps everywhere that they ride their bikes and go airborne and all kinds of wild stuff. I used my off camera flash with this. I got some good shots, but not near what I would liked to have gotten.
    I need some serious help with camera settings (ie should I use the sports mode) what should I be setting this lens on? Etc. Please help!!!
  2. Karen, from the nature of your question, ("should I use sports mode?"), I gather you are quite new to photography.
    Rather than asking what settings you should use, I would suggest that you learn the basics of exposure -- how light level, ISO, shutter speed, and aperture relate to one another. I like like the plumbing analogy of filling a bucket from a tap. The light level is akin to the water pressure at the tap; shutter speed is how long you leave the tap on; apertrure is how far you open the tap; and ISO is (inversely) how big the bucket is. Getting the right combination of exposure is akin to getting the bucket just full. See also
    Using flash is altering the light level (akin to adjusting the water pressure), but also introduces other complications such as balancing the direct light from the flash with the ambient (existing) light from the other sources, flash sync speed, colour of the flash compared to the colour of the ambient light, effective power of the flash over distance, etc. Flash is also very quick like a very short shutter speed for stopping motion. In the venue you mention - artficially lit, the light level will likely be quite low compared to outdoors, so flash is probably going to be a valuable tool.
    It's not simple - you have a learning curve to go through, but it will be worth it, and you will learn that sports, portait, scenic, etc. "modes" are not important.
    The camera and lens you have should be very good for sports. Study the manual thoroughly.
    Perhaps I have assumed too much from your question, and if so, I apologize. Specific photos and their problems with the "failures" would enable more specific answers. Cheers.
  3. Karen -
    First off - any type of aerial maneuver and flash is generally not a good combination. The last thing you want to do is cause a crash by blinding someone or distracting them with a flash.
    The f2.8 with the 20D should allow you to go to 1600 ISO which will allow you to shoot faster in low light.
    Use the Shutter speed preferred mode and a minimum speed of 1/250. The camera will do the rest.
  4. You didn't mention gelling your flash to try to match ambient. That said, it's very difficult to get good colors under fluorescent lighting.
    A lot of good info on using flash here:
  5. Karen - david Haas has great suggestions. May have to go above 1/250 to get stop actioon shots, but...! Practice the art of 'panning', moving/following yoour subject with your camera. Start panning following before subject gets to right spot and continue for a second after pressing the sutter. It's OK tohave some blur of the wheel spokes, actually better, to give a sense of motion. You'll probably get that at 1/250.
    Panning also will blur the background, also OK, since it will separate your subject from the BG(background). A wide aperture opening also contributes to this, whether panning or not. At f2.8 you have to track the rider carefully, keeping him/her in that focuing spot in the viewfinder. If you don't, well something else will be sharp!
    Practice, practice, and practice! Each sport seems to require a different sense of timing on your, the photographer's part. Learn to be very critical in reviewing your photos on the computer. If not in focus, trash them. No faces, no sale, generally.
  6. Karen -
    Steve is right on with the panning and faces and being critical of your shots. Sometimes if you get a great shot the face or lack of doesn't matter, but 99% of the time - the buyer wants the face.
    Also - learn the sport that you're shooting. Timing is everything. Learn to anticipate the action since you have to be there and press the shutter before you actually see the action. If you see the action in the viewfinder then press the shutter - it's too late.
  7. My 1st post.
    I have a similar question. I am UK based, and have zero camera knowledge, other than a passion to take photographs when at sporting events.

    I watch a lot of outdoor football (Soccer) and cricket (I am based in the UK!) and started off taking a basic 3x optical digital camera with me.

    I progressed to a Kodak 10x optical digital camera with a sports mode - and was shocked at some of the results I got - really good sports action shots (by a novices standard) - when in clear, sunny conditions

    Ive now progressed to a a Fuji Film Finepix s8000fd (18x Optical Zoom) so I can get even close from wherever I am sitting in the stadium....and when conditions are good, the pictures are good.

    However my photographs tend to be dull, and dark - especially when its cloudy, as the flash has little impact from where I sit! (There is no restriction on flash photography in the above sports that I mention)

    I spoke to one of the professional photographers at these venues, as I noted that none of them ever use 'flash' photography - yet get great results in poor light conditions.

    1. How do they do it?

    2. How can I best optimise the Fuji Film Finepix s8000fd

    3. Ive looked through the manual - boy its tough to understand some of the 'technical terms'!
    Appreciate any help - and apologies for the long-winded 1st post / plea for help!
  8. 1. How do they do it?
    For a start, High ISO (3200), fast glass like f/2.8 on the 300 and 400mm lenses.
    Hope this helps.
  9. 1st.....the power of a flash from a point and shoot style camera is going to be worthless at any more than a few feet. The pros use expensive glass that lets TONS of light in. Compare your aperture (lens opening) as a pinhole, to the pros being like a tunnel that a bus could drive through.

    Here is the reality of the situation..... close up, bright light, slower action, you might get OK shots....
    For anything really good, your going to find that camera very limiting. Now for what you CAN do to help.
    Again stick to brighter situations. If you cant, use the manual settings of the camera if it has them.
    1.) Turn up the ISO---this is the equivalent of film speed, and will expose the picture faster(but will sacrifice quality).
    2.) Stay as zoomed OUT as is possible (when you zoom in, the aperture will automatically close because its variable in a zoom lens, compared to a pro "prime" lens) / open the aperture as much as possible.....i.e. the lowest f2.8, f4 etc.
    3.) Use these settings to adjust for the fastest possible shutter speed that will allow for a good exposure, 1/250 minimum i would say for sports of any kind. If they aren’t sharp than nothing else matters.
    4.) you may be able to under expose (darker picture) and brighten it later in photo editing software, in order to keep the shutter speed a little faster, but again your camera will limit you here.
    If you really want to get decent shots at sports, you should think about a budget priced DSLR, with a good lens. I have been shooting sports for about 8 years now, and also started from a point and shoot. Even now with all the pro gear i can have issues in the worst situations. Sports is one of the toughest subject matters to shoot, because its always the worst conditions. If you can afford it, prepare yourself and GEAR as much as possible! if not than enjoy the challenge with what you have, and look for the pictures that ARE possible with your current gear. I hope this helped you a little, and good luck! I know your frustrations!
  10. Mike & Joshua - many thanks.
    Plenty for me to get my head around!

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