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aced19 Sep 16, 2010 12:30 AM

Football Help
This year I'm getting to shoot HS Football for the school. I've never shot football nor shot it with a flash. As we all know the lights are bad.
80-200mm f2.8
SB-600 Flash.
I shoot in Shutter mode and put ISO in auto from 400-3200. Have a HI which is 6400 but a lot of noise.
Also what mode would you shot in and how would you set up the flash settings(+ or - bump?) Just bought flash. So not that familiar with how to set it up yet.

I've read somewhere to keep it at 200mm at all times.
Here's a couple of pics.
How would you improve the shots?

With the EV +2, I thought that would brighten my photos.

Both pics shot with the same settings.
EV +2
Shutter mode with flash

Mark1616 Sep 16, 2010 4:29 AM

Welcome to Steve's.

Firstly, I would say that shutter priority is the worse to use for sports (apart from motorsport or something where you want to artificially slow down the shutter speed).

The problem is seen in your photos, you've set a shutter speed you hope to get but the aperture isn't wide enough/there isn't enough light, the ISO isn't high enough..... what ever the final outcome is under exposed photos. The exposure compensation won't work either for the above reasons, you can't beat physics.

With the settings you are using I would say that the lights are pretty dull, so the flash is the best choice. Fit it to a monopod below the camera to help with the faces and that will help lots. Shoot with manual settings.

Oh, in daylight, go for manual everything if possible, or at worse case use aperture priority. The problem with the latter is that you will not have a consistent exposure with the shirts, backgrounds etc affecting what the camera believes to be correctly exposed. You can often see a swing of 2+ stops if you are framing tight and one team is in white and the other in black.

Also use manual white balance again for consistency. Always frame tight, if you can't fill 3/4 of the frame in portrait orientation you are potentially too far away so wait longer.

JohnG Sep 16, 2010 8:45 AM

Mark has covered a lot. The other thing when shooting flash -drop that ISO. That's the whole benefit of flash. When I use flash I shoot at ISO 800. So,
Manual exposure
Aperture to f4
ISO to 800
Shutter speed to anywhere that gets your exposure meter about 2 1/2 stops below ambient. That will allow the flash to freeze the motion but still use some ambient light. Once you get further below that then the flash is the sole source of light. Here's a shot from last week, following that advice:

ronin2307 Sep 16, 2010 2:31 PM

JohnG one of these days I am going to beg you to explain the whole 2.5 stops below the ambient thing....again

JohnG Sep 16, 2010 3:04 PM


Originally Posted by ronin2307 (Post 1142311)
JohnG one of these days I am going to beg you to explain the whole 2.5 stops below the ambient thing....again

OK. I'm going to skip over how ISO, aperture and shutter speed work together to expose a photo (and how changing one requires changing another to keep same exposure). That's a separate discussion but you kind of need to understand it in order to understand this topic.

So - the whole X stops below ambient:
Let's say the proper exposure settings for a scene are ISO 3200, f2.8 and 1/400. The idea is - if you took the shot with those settings and no flash, your subject would be exposed properly (forget about shadows, background etc - just you're subject). When I say X stops below ambient what I mean is: drop the exposure settings on the camera - in this case let's say drop ISO from 3200 to 800. That right there is a 2-step drop in exposure. Take the photo now, without flash and it will be very underexposed - not black but very underexposed. Now when you add flash, the flash burst adds light and when you take the next shot the flash provides the necessary light so your subject is exposed properly.

So, what's so magical about 2-2.5 stops below? BECAUSE, the flash burst only lasts for about 1/1000-1/4000 of a second. So there is only enough light to fully capture an image for 1/1000-1/4000 of a second. So, even though the shutter may be open for 1/200 - plenty of time to show motion blur normally, there's only enough light for the sensor to record a good image for 1/1000-1/4000 of that time. So the flash freezes the motion. Now, the closer your camera is to exposing for ambient the more light is being captured during that entire 1/200 time. So you now start to see motion blur again (usually called ghosting when we talk about flash use). So, in our example, if you only dropped iso down to 1600 then you'd see ghosting in the images because there's enough ambient light for the sensor to record a decent image.

However - if you go too far below ambient then the flash must contribute 100% of the light - and everything that flash doesn't hit is black. So you end up not seeing any backround - and you start using full power on the flash.

That's the basic idea. In practice it gets a LITTLE more complicated because - given our example, if we just drop ISO from 3200 to 800 and turn on flash, our flash synch speed comes into play - so shutter speed drops (to 1/320 or 1/250 or 1/200 - whatever synch speed is for that camera) - which means you gain exposure back. SO you either have to lower ISO or aperture more. BUT, that's a good thing too - you can drop aperture down to say F4 instead of 2.8 - now you get sharper images and more in focus. But wait you say, now the background wont be as blurred. That's OK - the background is handled in many cases by the fall-off of light from the flash - that light doesn't hit the sidelines/ stands so they're darker. The light fall-off accomplishes what the wide aperture was accomplishing.

ronin2307 Sep 16, 2010 3:23 PM

thank you back to practice, practice, practice

JohnG Sep 16, 2010 3:52 PM


Originally Posted by ronin2307 (Post 1142330)
thank you back to practice, practice, practice

My suggestion: Practice, get feedback, practice, get feedback, practice, get feedback. Practice makes permanent, it doesn't make perfect. We can help you here. Fred Miranda has a slew of tremendous sports photogs - but it can be challenging to get them to comment and it's a bit of an ol' boys club there - shots by people in the "club" are praised regardless of whether they're good and some outstanding work by lesser known posters goes un-commented on. is a great place too - some talented shooters there as well and more likely to provide feedback. My advice is - as you're learning get as much input as you can from the different sites. That way you also find out different ideas and different approaches - some of which will fit your personal style better than others.

ronin2307 Sep 16, 2010 8:49 PM

stupid question: when you are measuring the ambient light, what do you go off of? grass?

JohnG Sep 16, 2010 9:00 PM

Actually I just tend to use the meter reading as I point at the players on the field. It's not an exact science. After the first few action shots I make adjustments.

aced19 Sep 16, 2010 11:14 PM

John G. thank you so much for the simple explanation.
Now what you said about flash sync speed.
Mine is 1/200 on a D90.
I have a override that allows higher flash sync speed. But I heard that if used its cuts your flash power. Is that true?
So these were taken with your settings given in above post.
manual mode
ISO 800
All photos untouched. Just cropped.
One last question. I'm showing a little blur in some photos.
Is that me? I didn't have my mono pod tonight. All free handed.
One last thing. I see my pics have greatly improved. Thanks JohnG.
Now how do I make them better?

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