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Old Mar 5, 2007, 9:35 AM   #1
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[suP]I'm a new user of a Nikon D50 and I have the lens it came with, an 18-55 MM lens and I purchased a Tamron 70-300 MM Macro lens. I will be taking courses soon, but need to know more about F Stop, aperture and iso. I take indoor sports photos of my kids and the higher the iso, the darker. This I understand. For indoor, what should I set my camera at and exactly what should the F Stop be? I want to get good clear, not blurry photos of the kids in action. Please help! The same for outdoor, although it's better outside for the light. Would a speed light help for indoor sports? [/suP]


[suP]Thanks, Tim[/suP]
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Old Mar 5, 2007, 12:16 PM   #2
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unfortunately you're probably not going to be able to get action shots indoors with the current lenses you have.

The key to action shots is getting a fast enough shutter speed while still maintaining a proper expossure (i.e. who cares if you have a 1/1000 shutter speed if the image is completely dark). Exposure is made up of 3 components: aperture (how wide an opening there is in the lens and thus how MUCH light gets in), shutter speeed - how long your sensor is exposed to the light and ISO - how sensitive your sensor is to the light that hits it. These 3 elements all compliment each other - when one of the 3 changes, the other two (or just one of the other two) must also change in order to keep the same exposure.

Aperture is measured in f-stops (ratio of the opening to the focal length of the lens). And the full stop values are 1, 1.4, 2.0, 2.8, 4.0, 5.6, 8.0, 11, 16, 22

The full stop values for ISO are 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200

Each 'stop' of shutter speed is a doubling - so 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125. 1/250,1/500,1/1000 etc.

Now let's say a proper exposure has values of F5.6, ISO 200 and shutter speed of 1/250. If you increase the aperture (and let more light in) you can either reduce the ISO, increase your shutter speed or both.

So let's say we change the aperture from 5.6 to 2.8 (that's 2 stops). We can now change the other two values by 2 stops and maintain the same exposure. So,

f5.6, ISO 200, 1/250

f2.8, ISO 100, 1/500

f2.8, ISO 200, 1/1000

all have the same exposure. Similarly, if we changed aperture to f11 (2 stops in the other direction) we could change the other values as follows:

f11, ISO 800, 1/250

f11, iso 400, 1/125

f11, iso 200, 1/60

So, now all 6 of these combinations give us the same exposure.Now, with sports or action, you need certain shutter speeds to stop motion. The type of motion will determine what shutter speed is needed. For example, freezing a bat on ball may require 1/2000 or 1/4000 shutter speed. A basketball layup may be only 1/250 at the peak. I general, I recommend 1/400 as a target shutter speed for freezing most motion - you still get hand blur, but not much blur in the trunk or head.

Now, the problem is: for say high school gymnasiums or below, getting that 1/400 shutter speed may require ISO 1600 AND f2.0 - sometimes even f1.8 lenses. Since your lenses are 5.6, that would only give you 1/50 shutter speed (5.6 is 2 2/3stops different than f 2.0). WAY too slow to stop action.

So, if you want to shoot indoor sports below the college level and you don't or can't use flash you most likely need a prime (non zoom) lens - like the 50mm or 85mm 1.8

The other alternative is to use flash. First you need to be sure flash is allowed (for instance during High School volleyball and gymnasticsin Ohio, flash is prohibited but it is allowed for wrestling or basketball). Then you need to be close enough - if using the on-board flash I'd say you want to be within 15 feet. If you go this route I suggest getting an external flash. But flash brings it's own set of problems: redeye, flash recycle time, etc.

What sports specifically (both indoors and out) are you trying to shoot?
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Old Mar 5, 2007, 1:05 PM   #3
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Hey John,

I'm shooting indoor soccer and basketball right now. I'm so new to the photgraphy world and I have no clue how to set the F stop and appeture. Can I manually set the shutter speed? I would raise the ISO for an action shot, but the f-stop is where Im confused and how to set. I see when I move the lens the f stop number changes. is it the higher the number the more faster the shutter speed? I can get a "decent" picture of my daugher kicking the ball, but it's a bit blurry. I know it's tough in a gym. Would a speed light help?

Thanks, Tim
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Old Mar 5, 2007, 1:34 PM   #4
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I really recommend you get a book from the library on photography if you're not taking the class any time soon. You need to get a grasp on the principles of photography - more so than can be covered in a post on a web site. A book will do a much better job. Once you understand the principles I outlined above (aperture, shutter speed, ISO) the manual will easily tell you how to adjust the values.

When you see the aperture change as you zoom, it's because the lens in question cannot maintain the same maximum aperture throughout the lens. It may be 3.5 with no zoom and 5.6 at full zoom (I can't remember the exact values for the specific lenses you have). Lenses capable of maintaining that constant value are bigger, heavier and more expensive. The pictures are blurry because of what I stated in my original post, you don't have a fast enough shutter speed. And you can't get a fast enough shutter speed because you max out the ISO and aperture.

So, your only 2 choices are to buy lenses suited for indoor sports - which means prime lenses with apertures of 2.0 or 1.8 or using a speelight. Read my originnal post to see the brief mention regarding the drawbacks to using a flash (is it allowed, flash recycle time, red eye).

For basketball, once you've read some material about exposure and such, this tutorial I put together might help you out:


Indoor soccer may be tougher because of the distances involved. Post an unedited photo from the soccer game with the exif information - shutter speed, iso, aperture, focal length - that information is imbedded in the photo and you should be able to view it in whatever software you use to edit your photos. From the photo, we should be able to tell what aperture value is required to get you a proper exposure and a decent shutter speed at your max ISO of 1600.
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Old Mar 5, 2007, 4:59 PM   #5
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njfiremegs wrote:
[sup]I take indoor sports photos of my kids and the higher the iso, the darker. This I understand. [/sup]
No, you don't (if I understand you correctly and you think a higher ISO speed makes an image darker).

You should not have any difference in the brightness or darkness of the image in the same lighting when you change ISO Speed, if you're settings are correct for the other two variables needed for proper exposure (aperture, shutter speed).

If you try to use a shutter speed that's too fast for the lighting, aperture and ISO speed, you'll get an underexposed (dark) image. If you try to use a shutter speed that's too slow for the aperture, lighting and ISO speed, you'll get an overexposed (too bright) image.

So, when you're using modes like Av (Aperture Value, a.k.a., Aperture Priority) and set your aperture, the camera's metering is trying to select a shutter speed that will result in properly exposing the image (so that it's not too dark or too bright).

If you use a mode like Tv (Time Value, a.k.a., Shutter Priority) and select a shutter speed, the camera will try to open or close the aperture iris to let in the correct amount of light to properly expose the image.

But, it can only open up the aperture so far (based on your lens specs). So, if you try to set a shutter speed that's too fast for the largest available aperture (smallest available f/stop number), ISO speed and lighting, you'll get an underexposed image (and most cameras will flash the aperture or shutter speed in the viewfinder to let you know you're trying to exceed the capabilities of the lens you're using when that happens).

You can set both the Aperture and Shutter Speed using Manual Exposure. But, you still need to keep exposure in mind (using the meter in the viewfinder to see how your choices are impacting exposure).

ISO speed (how sensitive the film or sensor is to light), and Aperture (this is the iris opening in the lens that works similar to the pupils in your eyes by opening and closing with your f/stop setting) work together to get you a properly exposed image.

If the aperture is opened up wider (smaller f/stop numbers) more light gets in, so the sensor or film gets exposed "faster" for the same lighting and film or sensor sensitivity (that's the ISO speed part.

Your lens will have limitations (largest available aperture, represented by the smallest available f/stop number) that restricts the aperture you can use (which also restricts the shutter speed you can use for proper exposure for any given lighting an ISO speed).

That's one reason that a brighter (a.k.a., faster) lens with larger available apertures (represented by smaller f/stop numbers) is larger, heavier and more expensive. They are able to let in more light, allowing you to use faster shutter speeds for any given lighting level and ISO speed.

To get a better understanding of how these parameters work together (aperture, ISO speed, lighting, shutter speed) to control exposure, see this handy onine calculator. Note that film speed in the calculator is the same thing as ISO speed:


Any good book on basic photography will also include information on exposure (and the same concepts that apply to film also apply to digital).

Note that aperture will also impact Depth of Field. So, there are tradeoffs (you will have a shallower DOF when you use a larger aperture (smaller f/stop number).

See this handy online Depth of Field Calculator for more on how aperture, focus distance and focal length impact Depth of Field (how much of the scene is in focus as you get further away from your focus point).:


The lenses you have are not suitable for indoor sports without a flash. You need brighter lenses (larger available apertures, represented by smaller available f/stop numbers) so that you can get faster shutter speeds for any given lighting and ISO speed (and still have a properly exposed image).

If you're on a tight budget, get a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 AF (D) lens for starters. It's around $100. Then, use your feet for zoom (moving closer or further away to change your desired framing). This 50mm f/1.8 lens is more than 4 times as bright as your 18-55mm kit lens would be at the same focal length (f/2 is exactly 4 times as bright as f/5.6, which would be close to the largest available aperture at 50mm with the kit lens).

That would allow shutter speeds more than 4 times as fast for the same lighting and ISO speed for the same exposure (how bright or dark the image is)..

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Old Mar 6, 2007, 5:30 PM   #6
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Njfiremegs - Once you come off AUTO, then you need to understand the relationship between ISO - APERTURE and SHUTTER SPEED.

I bought a beginners type book to help me grasp it and I have since passed the book onto an other newbie.

The good thing about digital is that you can shoot as much as you want, so even with your kit, take 100 pics and even with fast action, you may just get lucky and have a few keepers.

Try setting your camera onto the SPORTS mode and just see what kind of ISO/Aperture/shutter speed the camera automatically selects - that will give you an idea of how fast you can expect to get your shutter within the environment that you find yourself.
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Old Mar 6, 2007, 7:04 PM   #7
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norm smith wrote:
Try setting your camera onto the SPORTS mode and just see what kind of ISO/Aperture/shutter speed the camera automatically selects - that will give you an idea of how fast you can expect to get your shutter within the environment that you find yourself.
Typically the sports mode will not go up to the full range of ISO settings in the camera. I know in the Canon DSLRs it stops at ISO 400- way too slow for indoor sports.

For the outdoor, good light,sports, sports mode isn't a bad way to start since you typically won't need more than ISO 400. But for indoors, it's an exercise in futility. Just a forwarning.

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