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Old Dec 11, 2011, 11:54 AM   #1
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Default Poor exposure and poor focus problems

Attached are several shots taken at a recent basketball game. The results are poor and I am trying to decide if I have an equipment problem.

Photos 4064 (1), and (2) I was standing at the corner of the baseline just off the court for the opening jump ball. I was shooting in shutter priority set at 1/350 and aperture of f2.8 using a 7D canon camera and a canon 70-200mm f2.8 lens, one shot AF, and center point metering and single point center focus point.

I probably should have tried using manual aperture and shutter speed to avoid having uniform colors influence metering. I will do that at the next game.

EXIF for photo 4064 (1,2) as stated above with a focal length of 140mm. I used Aperture to brighten and Noise Ninja for NR in the processed photo. The focus is definitely not sharp.

Similarly photos 4084 (1 and 2) same exif as above with a focal length of 140mm

I also took a test shot (0178) with my 40D body using a Canon 85mm f1.8 USM lens ---exif: shutter priority 1/400, f2, ISO 3200, focal length 85mm. I was standing under the basket just behind the baseline.

This photo, with a completely different set of equipment, leaves a lot to be desired in my view. The only common factor in the photos is the "nut" at the end of the camera.

Given my equipment, and the apparent brightness of the gym I would have expected much better shots and can't explain why I'm not getting them.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
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Old Dec 11, 2011, 12:43 PM   #2
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One thing you may want to be aware of when posting here, is it looks like you exceeded the maximum allowed sizes for those images.

When you use the Manage Attachments feature (paperclip icon) to insert images, you'll see the maximum allowed sizes on the page you use to browse and upload images.

The longest side should be no longer than 1024 pixels, and the file size should be no larger than 253.9KB.

Most of the time, if you downsize images so that they're within the allowed dimensions (longest side of 1024 pixels or shorter), and use a JPEG compression (Quality) setting of around 80 to 85 percent (or around 8 on a 1 to 10 scale), you'll be within the allowed file size, too.

If you exceed the maximum allowed size (for either dimensions or file size), the forums software will still try to let you attach them. But, it will resize and recompress the images (and the algorithms leave something to be desired, so that can result in softer images). The EXIF will also be stripped out at the same time.

I can tell that the forums software did resize and recompress those images, so they exceeded the allowed limit for dimensions or file size.

So, it's a good idea to make sure images are no larger than 1024 pixels on their longest side, with a file size no larger than 253KB to prevent them from being resized and recompressed with the EXIF stripped out (and that will usually make them look softer, too, as the algorithms are not very good).

As long as they're within the allowed limits for dimensions and file size, the forums software will not attempt to modify them.

Note that to my eyes, it looks like you may have brightened them a tiny bit too much (the processed images look like they have some hot spots on some faces on my display). Also note that when you brighten images in post processing, that increases noise levels (just as if you're used an even higher ISO speed to begin with). That also tends to reduce dynamic range (which may explain some of the effects I'm seeing).

So, the Noise Ninja NR algorithms may have destroyed more detail trying to remove the increased noise after you brightened them. Are you shooting JPEG? If so, you may want to check your Noise Reduction settings, as the in camera noise reduction is probably softening the images some, too; and you may be better off doing more of it in Post Processing. But, I'd try to get the exposure better to start with to help out in that area.

Hopefully, some of our Sports Shooters will chime in with thoughts on other reasons they may not be as desired (perhaps due to a very shallow DOF contributing, etc.). But, I did notice the forums software is probably causing them to look a bit softer since it recompressed them.

Here's a screen showing the maximum sizes I was talking about that you'll see when attaching images here. It's best to stick within those sizes (file size no larger than 253.9KB, longest dimension of 1024 pixels or shorter) to prevent the forums software from modifying your images.

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Old Dec 11, 2011, 1:22 PM   #3
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Thanks for the response. I tried to size the photos according to the prescribed table but apparently didn't do a very good job. In any event the photos as displayed in your response do not look much different from the ones on my computer, so while the algorithms may have impacted the images, the problem I was trying to illustrate is quite apparent.
When I use Noise Ninja to reduce noise, I do that prior to adjusting the exposure. Does that mitigate the impact of Noise Ninja? FYI I shoot in Raw.
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Old Dec 11, 2011, 1:35 PM   #4
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The noise is still going to be worse in underexposed areas (it's just more noticeable after you brighten them). So, underexposing is usually not a great idea, as that can lead to more noise (and loss of detail from noise reduction, whether in camera shooting jpeg or using third party tools in post processing when shooting in jpeg or raw), as well as decreased dynamic range. Also, even if you don't use Noise Reduction, the noise from underexposure is going to destroy detail anyway.

But, some of it may just be Depth of Field. For example, I suspect the first shot was locking on the side of a player closer to the camera, so the further away face was a bit softer; and in some others, it probably locked on the middle of a body and the closer face was a bit softer. If you're framing tightly, that came happen using wider aperture settings, as DOF can be fairly shallow.

You may want to check your AF just to make sure you don't need to use your camera's micro adjustment features to better turn AF Accuracy for a given lens. Here's one popular method using a downloadable chart you can print:


Note that sometimes a camera's AF sensors will react differently depending on lighting temperature. So, just because it's dead on in the lighting you're testing in, doesn't mean it will be dead on in another lighting.

From what I can see, some of them look like they may be focused a tad in front of your intended subject, and some of them look like they be focused a tad behind your intended subject. So, I don't see an obvious pattern showing it's out in any way. I suspect it's just because you're using a center AF point and DOF is shallow enough to cause a bit of softness in some areas of the images, since the AF point being locked on is probably not close enough to the same distance as the players faces in some shots.

Shutter speed may also be contributing some if their is any rapid movement. Although 1/350 to 1/400 second freezes a lot of motion, it's not going to freeze all of it. So, it's more of a compromise setting (balancing noise levels from higher ISO speeds with motion blur from rapid movement), and 1/350 was probably a bit on the slow side.

Perhaps others can see a pattern (or cause) I'm missing and chime in.


I just noticed where you said "one shot AF". Have you tried using Continuous? Your subjects may be moving some in between when you lock focus and when the camera takes the shot. So, you may be better off using Continuous AF instead (AI Servo Mode with Canon models), making sure to half press the shutter button a moment or so ahead of time when possible to give it time to lock on and "settle in" some before shooting, as sometimes the first photo in a set may be a tad off if you don't give it a bit of time.
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Old Dec 11, 2011, 2:29 PM   #5
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I would probably go with evaluative metering in the case of an indoor gym- as the lighting is pretty consistent- even if it means a few test shots first to check metering- and especially if I had a fast/wide aperture lens,shooting wide open.
Tracking subjects running around with centre weighted metering can be difficult... and can give exposure mischiefs.
A slightly higher shutter speed may be desirable also- even if it means an increase in iso setting. These images here do seem noisy- though under-exposure will always exaggerate that effect.
As JimC mentions- continuous auto-focus might help also...
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Old Dec 11, 2011, 2:45 PM   #6
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I'd suggest using Manual Exposure for Gyms, using a minimum shutter speed of around 1/400.

Then, dial in Aperture and ISO speed for correct exposure using test shots and looking at the playback images and histogram until you get it correct. Usually, around 1/400, ISO 3200 and f/2.8; or 1/400, ISO 1600 and f/2 are good starting points. But, it looks like that gym was a bit darker, so you may need to use a wider aperture or higher ISO speed with it.

For example, that last shot at 1/400, ISO 3200 and f/2 looked about right.

That way (using manual exposure), the exposure is usually fairly consistent in most gym lighting. Whereas when you're trying to use metering, the exposure can be influenced by uniform color, lights in the frame, etc.; and you'll tend to get relatively inconsistent exposure trying to shoot that way (or at least that's been my experience with the little shooting I've done in gym lighting).

In any event, I always avoid using Shutter Priority when shooting action that I want to freeze (as it sounds like you were using for those). That's because you can easily "run out of aperture" and get underexposed images when the camera can't open up the aperture far enough for the shutter speed and ISO speed you have dialed in. I only use Shutter Priority if I want to deliberately slow down shutter speeds (for example, to enhance the impact of motion when panning with a car). If you really want to use the camera's metering to control exposure (which I'd advise against in most gym lighting), I'd go Aperture Priority instead.

For gyms, I stick to manual exposure using a minimum shutter speed of 1/400 second (and you'll still see a bit of motion blur from rapid hand/foot movement at 1/400).
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Old Dec 12, 2011, 7:02 PM   #7
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I'm just off to bed so only skimmed Jim's last post but that looks about right.

Tv for action where you want to artificially slow the shutter down but leave the camera to control exposure, Av for where you want the shutter as fast as possible with the camera controlling exposure, M for you taking control and setting things how you want.

For indoor sports I always use M unless the court/gym has some crazy hot spots, for outdoor sports I always use M unless conditions are changing lots (clouds moving).

Aim for 1/400+ shutter speeds, you can't get rid of motion blur in post production but you can do something about the noise.

When working with high ISO you need to nail the exposure, if you are trying to lighten photos in post production then you will just bring in more noise.

Lastly, you said you were in AF single, get that to AI Servo, it will help a lot and this is exactly what that focus mode is designed for.
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