Help Needed, Indoor Sports Photography

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by heron88, Dec 11, 2008.

  1. heron88 macrumors 6502

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    Jun 16, 2008
    #1
    I am the basketball photographer for my school and I really need some tips on how to achieve clear, well lit shot indoors. Any advice as far as shooting mode, flash, ISO, etc. is greatly appreciated.

    I am shooting with a Nikon D80 and using a 18-135mm nikon lens.

    Thanks
     
  2. Grimace macrumors 68040

    Grimace

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    #2
    That is a very slow lens (f/5.6) at 135mm so you're going to have to jack up the ISO (try 800+) to get a fast enough shutter speed.
     
  3. Foxtrot Oscar macrumors member

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    #3
    You could always save for a faster lens, something with VR. Or ask Santana Claus.

    Wouldn't have thought you would need to use a flash in a well lit gym.

    Get in there and practice. No one setting is going to work in every situation.

    Fox
     
  4. heron88 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #4
    So even f3.5 is too slow? What kind of aperture should I be looking at that would be fast enough? f2.8? I shot the first game of our season a couple hours ago, took about 200 pics at 1250 ISO and the only clarity I got was when the players were right in front of my camera and the flash actually reached them.
     
  5. Grimace macrumors 68040

    Grimace

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    #5
    You're only going to get f/3.5 toward the 18mm end of that lens. Above 70mm or so, it's going to be f/5.6.

    Prime lenses are the best -- fast apertures and razor sharp images. I'd invest in an 85mm, 105mm, or 135mm.
     
  6. CATinHAWAII macrumors member

    CATinHAWAII

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    #6
    i'd have to second the above,, i got a 24-70, and it's great, 2.8, but always wanted to get "closer" to the action, so even though it's fast, more reach is great, or all you will do is to try and get closer to the action, and that could be dangerous... dont want to get run over by someone, not the least of your equiptment...:eek:
     
  7. oblomow macrumors 68020

    oblomow

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    #7
    Agreed. I have shot a lot of pictures at our kids sport. The 85mm (1.8) is great for this. Perfect length, at fast enough. Mind you, you would still have to shoot at 1600asa if it's indoor.
     
  8. termina3 macrumors 65816

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    #8
    Do you have access to strobes? Like as in Alien Bees or an Elinchrom setup (not a flashgun)?

    If so, put the strobes in the corners of the arena, pointed mostly up but slightly in (if you have one strobe, put it in any corner; if you have two, set them up kitty-corner). Obviously you have to fire them wirelessly. The strobes help a lot -- more than having a fast lens will (imagine having strobes AND a D3 AND a fast lens -- ISO drops to ~400). But you'll only get one well-exposed frame per flash recycle.

    This works better in low-ceiling'ded arenas and ones with white walls or ceilings; otherwise you'll get a colorcast of whatever the ceiling is. Also be aware that this setup will throw shadows.

    If you're going to stick with what you've got, focus on shots where there's little to no movement. Free throws, point guard setting up a play, hanging after a dunk, etc.
     
  9. luminosity macrumors 65816

    luminosity

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    #9
    I've shot indoor sports half a dozen times over the past couple months, and my best work has been done with my cheap 50mm 1.8 AF-D lens, though my 2.8 80-200 really came through for me yesterday.

    I actively avoid using a flash, and have yet to use it in an indoor sports setting. You need speed, and so you need to get some glass that will give it to you.

    You also need to have a feel for where and when to position yourself. A lot of it is luck, of course. I've gotten a number of lucky shots recently, and I don't think skill had much to do with it.

    With the D300, I can also bump the ISO up to 2000 and get usable shots, which helps.
     
  10. heron88 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #10
    Thanks for all the help guys.

    Looks like I'll have to find a faster lens.
     
  11. wheelhot macrumors 68000

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    #11
    I thought for indoor sports photography you must prevent the use of flash at all cost cause it might disrupt the players concentration?

    Like some user says, get a prime lens cause prime usually have wider aperture then zoom lens or you could get a wide aperture and zoom lens, that would be expensive. I heard that for indoor sports photography its best to get lenses which has aperture f/2 and lower (lower number like 1 and etc.)
     
  12. Edge100 macrumors 68000

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    #12
    Yes. While it's becoming easier to shoot indoor sports with slower lenses these days (due to better high ISO performance of modern DSLRs), you'll still get the best performance with f/2.8 and below (and even f/2.8 is pushing it).

    Unless you know that the venue has good lighting, the best plan is an f/2.0 or faster prime (85mm is great for basketball and volleyball; maybe 135mm if you are on a FF camera or need a bit more reach on a 1.5x/1.6x or 1.3x crop sensor body). Canon makes two tremendous examples that are widely used for this purpose: the 85 f/1.8 and the 135 f/2.0L; I'm sure Nikon has something similar.

    Not to hijack the thread, but as I continue to grow as a photographer, I'm coming to realize how absolutely indispensible are fast, sharp prime lenses. You just can't beat 'em.
     
  13. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #13
    strobist.blogspot.com has some articles about lighting a school gym for BB with small off-camera flashes. If you've got budget, Google "Arena lighting"- three Pocket Wizards and two strobes in the rafters won't blind the players and tends to do wonders since you pretty-much kill any weird ambient light and onboard flashes from all the P&S cameras in the crowd.
     
  14. termina3 macrumors 65816

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    #14
    Hardly anyone notices if the flashes are firing to up the ambient light. Strobes in the rafters, in corners, etc. will not distract players; this is essentially what SI does time after time.

    Having a flashgun mounted on your camera can distract though, and many coaches, players, and refs will hate the photog who hates them.

    x2
     
  15. uMac macrumors 6502

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    #15
    Alright, lets get realistic here...

    One - for sports you need to have a fast shutter speed, and if your in a gym for highschool or what not you can't blind players with continual flashes (seriously, try shooting a flash or two off every 5-10 seconds and see how annoyed people will be).

    Two - your using a D80 (I do too), your going to need at least f/2.8 or lower. Reason, beyond ISO400 the D80 has a habit of producing too much grain for action shots (grain is not good for action - unless there is a lot of it and you mean to add it).

    Go Prime, Zooming in and out can be done with cropping.
    50mm f1.4, 50mm f1.8, or 85mm 1.4 should be your main options (some people mentioned them already). If your far away from the action, or close-ups are what you going for than 105mm f2.8 can be an good second lens for that situation. There is also f/1.2 option I use but its rare and pricey, so your stuck with those other lens options.

    At the end of the day realize that without pro-gear your going to have trouble getting 'pro' results, your pictures will still be awesome, but you wont get that last 5% quality that people who spend ten of thousands of dollars on, but with the above mentioned lens and your D80, 95% aint bad!
     
  16. coachingguy macrumors 6502a

    coachingguy

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    #16
    I shoot high school sports all of the time, football, volleyball, basketball, wrestling, track n' field etc...

    Most districts don't have the money to buy those good lens's. I've got a Canon 30d with a Tamron 70-300 on it. I found that if you shoot 1200 - 1600 @ 160 - 200, you should be fine.

    I take all the sport pictures for the yearbook and local newspapers.

    In addition, very few high schools allow flash photography during indoor sporting events.

    Attached is a shot I took at the state volleyball tourny.

    Coachingguy
     

    Attached Files:

  17. termina3 macrumors 65816

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    #17
    This is getting to the point of absurdity...

    WHAT I AM DESCRIBING IS NOT FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY.

    The "flashes" are not direct; they are hardly noticeable. And any player who is at all focused on the game won't notice at all. Most fans don't notice until I point it out to them–the flash is too indirect and its duration is too short.

    What I'm describing is the poor man's version of what the professional major league photographers use. Instead of mounting true arena lights in catwalks and rafters, I suggest putting strobes 12+ feet up on lightstands in the corners of the arena, with the lights aimed at the ceiling and wall (AWAY from the players, to further reduce any "direct" light).

    These flashes are triggered via RF, not an optical sensor. There is no flash emanating from the camera itself. -> no direct flash. no distraction.

    That said, if you've got the money for a nice ƒ2.8 lens go for it. The lens is more versatile than the lights, and even good entry-level lights won't be able to make up for slow glass on a body that doesn't have great high-ISO tolerance.

    Ideally, you'd be shooting ƒ/2.8 (or better) on a D3 with true arena lighting... but seeing how money is a limited resource...
     
  18. coachingguy macrumors 6502a

    coachingguy

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    #18
    Obviously you are talking about something you've never done. I've spoken to many professional sports photographers and they are not setting anything up on catwalks, strobbing or anything. They use fast fixed lenses and high speed. They also anticipate the shots ahead of time. High School gym/arena lighting is no where near as good as the professional arenas/stadiums. The shot I posted was a the Xcel center and I was able to shoot at 800 & 1000 instead of 1200 & 1600 like I normally have to do.

    Try walking into a high school and setting up strobes in the corners of gym, that will not play well.

    Your suggestions are good, not practical.

    Coachingguy
     
  19. Grimace macrumors 68040

    Grimace

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    #19
    Simply put, the most reliable method is to have good long primes. Adding extra lighting is doable, but it isn't always easy or convenient for following the action around.

    85mm is about the furthest away you want to be. f/1.4 would be ideal.
    135mm f/2 prime lenses are known for amazing image quality.
    200mm f/2.8 primes are great lenses and not very heavy.

    300mm f/4 lenses get a bit slow inside. I'd crop a 200mm image first.
     
  20. FortyTwo macrumors newbie

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    Dec 13, 2008
    #20
    The lens issue can come down to budget:

    $1500 70-200 2.8 lens
    $100 50mm 1.8 lens
    Lots of places to be in between.

    Alternatively, and for now, crank up the ISO. Get some friends together and do test shots of the gym under its normal lighting conditions. Test every different ISO you have. You'll need to have a fast shutter speed to freeze the action. Takes the test to a computer and see what you can get away wit for the type of media you'll use. In some cases, I've been able to use 1600 ISO on a D80 and after noise reduction, had very usable images.

    Try shooting in either aperture or shutter priority. Use the test shooting time to get an idea of the setting you'll need. I would either use your lowest aperture or a shutter speed at about 1/200 give or take. The camera will adjust exposure for you. Consider also, whether to shoot in matrix or center weighted metering. Your specific lighting conditions, and the way you shoot, will determine whats best for you.

    Good luck!
     
  21. James L macrumors 6502a

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    #21

    Wow, ignorance is bliss I guess. Strobes are used in pro sports photography all the time. Spend some time googling it.
     
  22. termina3 macrumors 65816

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    #22
    In professional venues strobes are often already set up... http://photography-on-the.net/forum/archive/index.php/t-278748.html

    The company I work for does it for almost every indoor sports event we shoot (that is, whenever we have time or opportunity to set them up), in addition to mounting a remote camera either over the net or hoop.

    Refs or coaches will occasionally notice and might complain, but those complaints are easily set aside when we explain that our setup is similar to what Sports Illustrated uses. Then they think it's cool.

    Thank you!
     
  23. termina3 macrumors 65816

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    #23
    From the Salt Lake Tribune (http://166.70.44.68/blogs/trent/2006/11/utah-jazz-lighting-the-arena/)

    The rest of the article is about arena lighting, but since that's apparently so hard to handle...
     
  24. wheezy macrumors 65816

    wheezy

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    #24
    135 F2

    85 F1.8

    The 1.8 is much more affordable compared to the 135. I own the Canon 135 F2 and it's terrific indoors and would be good at a basketball game, but only on tighter images. At the far end of the court you'd get some good shots to crop.

    Are you generally stationary or do you follow up and down court somewhat?

    On-camera Flash will never give you a decent picture for what you're trying to do, at least not what you're imagining in your minds eye before you take the shot. A fast prime is the way to go.
     
  25. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    #25
    Likely your work will be reproduced as small scale images. So don't worry so much about "noise". It will go away when the image is down sampled. Likewise don't worry about extreme sharpness either. Use the highest ISO setting you have wit the lens wide open (even if that is only f/5.6)

    But the #1 rule to remember is that everything that goes up in the air, be it a player or a ball, goes up, stops at the peak the starts going down again. Shoot while the subject is up in the air and stopped, at the peak of the arc. This is there the action is best. You might also pan with the subject and freeze motion that way too.

    You can try and do that with a high frame rate but that just leaves the result to pure luck. You might get to bad shots one a 1/10th second to early and another 1/10th second to late. Best to get just one good shot than 10 rejects.

    Get in as close at you can and you are going to need to have a feel for the game s that you will know when "something" is about to happen and can catch it and not 0.1 seconds eraly or late. It's not easy.

    You would be better off with an f/2.8 lens or maybe and even faster one. Not only will this redice the DOF but your flash's maximum distance is determined solely by the lens Aperture and the ISO. That f/2.8 lens will dramatically extend the range of you flash. I have an 85mm f/1.8 that I like for indoors, I mostly don't even need a flash with that lens.
     

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