wise to use higher ISO for night soccer shots?

Discussion in 'Sports' started by japster, Mar 19, 2010.

  1. Greetings to all the great folks perusing this site...
    I got my first chance to shoot some middle-schoolers playing soccer the other night. The game started in late afternoon and it was evening by the time they finished. The grass field was lit by 6 big banks of some type of flood light, not sure exactly what type. I was handholding the shots, using a Nikon D-300 with a 70-300 AF G VR f4.0 - f5.6 zoom lens. I used matrix metering and metered the exposure off the green grass in the middle of the field. If I remember correctly, I was shooting shutter preffered auto mode. I had the camera ISO set on 1000. Even using the max aperture on the 300mm zoom, I had to click all the way down to 1/60th to get correct exposure And about 1/2 the shots were shot about 1/2 stop below correct exposure. But I used these setting for pretty much all the shots since the lighting was unchanging, though the little subjects were running all over the place, back and forth, like crazy.
    My question is, looking back on the experience, would it have been wiser to select an even higher ISO on the Nikon D-300 for this type setup? I'm aware that a higher ISO can introduce more noise. But I'm thinking it would have allowed me to use substantially faster shutter speed, which would result in more shots with 'frozen' action. And a faster shutter speed would reduce the risk of blurred shots due to camera movement. In my case, these shots were purely for pleasure, not for clients, so it was acceptable to have some motion blur from the subjects moving.
    Any seasoned advice is appreciated!
    AP,
    Atlanta GA
     
  2. In short, yes. If you value the clear photo of the subject, and want to avoid that blur, then shooting at ISO 1600 (or even higher) can be worth the noise. Because noise is at its worst when you underexpose and push the image in post production, and blur is at its worst when you're below (for sports, certainly) 1/250 or 1/500th.

    Good noise reduction software will help, but not as much as a faster lens. A faster 200mm lens (shooting at f/2.8) would buy you four times the shutter speed at the same ISO. The resulting improvied sharpness would make it no big deal to crop in on the shot to approximate the framing of the 300mm lens.

    Night games are the worst, and the laws of physics are out to get you with slower lenses. Something has to give, and I'd take higher ISO noise over blurry subjects any time. You can do a lot with that noise afterwards, and if you're printing small enough, or just down-sampling for web viewing on the team's Facebook page, etc., a lot of that noise just plain doesn't matter at all. But blur always does.

    Good luck! Get all the good shots before the sun goes down. :)
     
  3. It is for this type of use that VR lenses offer absolutely no benefit, but of course, Nikon, most salesmen, and many on this site ignore this fact. Having said that, you are absolutely correct. Dial up the ISO until you get 1/250, and preferably 1/500s shutter speed. It is all very good and well to meter off the middle field, but then check your histogram on the rear LCD to see if you are close. This takes awhile to get used to doing. You first have to judge, from editting shots on your computer, which histogram reading delivers the best results. Some DSLRs prefer overexposure others prefer underexposure. Once you know this it is easy to adjust your exposure from the automatic settings.
     
  4. I would also suggest shooting in manual. Since the lighting isn't going to fluctuate..or at least it shouldn't for night games... you should try to get an approximate meter reading and try a few test shots at max ISO, lowest aperture number (huge benefit from f2.8 lenses) and see what shutter speed that gets you. I find that dark jerseys will throw off my sensor from time to time and make the camera think it won't be exposed correctly, when in fact it is just right or very close.
     
  5. The responses above to your post are all very good. I have a feeling, however, that no matter what ISO you use with your lens setup, it still won't be enough. Your lens is a great lens. It's just not that great for low light sports. It's just not fast enough. And as mentioned above, VR does not help with sports photography at all. For low light sports photography, the speed of the lens is very critical. High ISO combined with a fast lens is really the only way to capture low light sports action.
    This photo was shot with a D300 set at ISO 3200 using a 300mm f/2.8 lens.
    [​IMG]
     
  6. The responses above to your post are all very good. I have a feeling, however, that no matter what ISO you use with your lens setup, it still won't be enough. Your lens is a great lens. It's just not that great for low light sports. It's just not fast enough. And as mentioned above, VR does not help with sports photography at all. For low light sports photography, the speed of the lens is very critical. High ISO combined with a fast lens is really the only way to capture low light sports action.
    This photo was shot with a D300 set at ISO 3200 using a 300mm f/2.8 lens.
    [​IMG]
     
  7. Thank you for the very helpful comments and advice. Here is a sample pic from the 60 or so i shot that night....
    00W2t3-230729584.jpg
     
  8. That exposure isn't that far off at ISO 1000. I'm guessing that at 3200 you might have had some good, bright shots....maybe even at 1600. As has been pointed out, better to have a bit of noise and get a decent shutter speed. And I'm not sure why a couple of people said that VR is no good for sports. It seems to me that when the camera is moving as it will be in shooting soccer or football or hockey, the VR would come in very handy.
     
  9. These are all excellent recommendations and discussion. Trying to shoot soccer in a dark stadium is most challenging. Two additional tips:
    The first tip relates to how you position yourself on the field. Typically near the center of the field has better light, because the lighting stanchions are located nearer the middle of the field, thus more light is reflected from players nearer the light source. If they're close to you (though they typically always move 50 yards away from anywhere I happen to stand) that maximizes light reflectance. So, I position myself at the field edge nearest to the adjacent lighting stanchion (that is, it's right in line behind my back), and take photos of everything, but the best lighting will be when action comes nearby. This puts me where the light reflectance is relatively highest. In day games I'm usually beyond the attacked goal line of my favorite team seeing players face me. Night games, I tend to change position as above.
    One other point, if players are moving directly toward you, a lower shutter speed is acceptable. If they are moving laterally across your field of view, their speed will be faster and slower shutter speeds are less likely to freeze action.
    So, the best shots at night are where the movement of play comes toward me when I'm on the sideline in front of a lighting stanchion. Best of luck!
     

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