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Old Oct 16, 2005, 9:12 AM   #1
Timberland's Avatar
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Hi there,

I'm completely new (shooting for 3 months now) with DSLR photography. Last week it was the first time I tried to shoot some soccer. Unfortunately only about 4 of 150 shots were kind of sharp.

Today was my second attempt. And yet again, I shot about 150 photos and there wasn't a single one (tack) sharp.
What am I doing wrong. Please help me!

I'm shooting with a Canon 350D, Sigma 100-300 F4 lens (AI SERVO, Center focus point selected, tripod used).
Here are some examples:

1. 1/1250", F4, ISO 200


100% crop:



2. 1/2000", F4, ISO 200 (looks back focussed)



100% crop:



3. 1/2000", F4, ISO 200



100% crop:



4. 1/800", F4.5, ISO 200



100% crop:



Pleas help me!


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Old Oct 16, 2005, 3:25 PM   #2
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I'm not seeing anything... I don't think your photo siteallows linking... Just repost them here.


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Old Oct 17, 2005, 10:18 AM   #3
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I'm not an expert; I've only been shooting action shots for a little over a year, so take my advice with a grain of salt. In the first shot, what may have happened is that the subjects moved out of your focal plane. I have found that when subjects are moving toward me or away from me, it is more difficult to keep them in focus, especially with wider apertures. In the second shot, it looks like maybe the AF zeroed in on the people on the sidelines and the goal net instead of your subject. I shoot softball, and I've learned that the AF loves things like nets and chain-link fences. I guess that grid is just easy for it to grab onto.

Have you tried hand holding or using a monopod? It seems to me that using a tripod could be restrictive in sports photography. When you're shooting at 1000 or higher, you probably don't need a tripod; at least, that's my understanding.

Good luck. Maybe some of the experts will give you some more solid advice.
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Old Nov 2, 2005, 4:32 PM   #4
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What you should do is check for focusing problems. Its very simple. Set up a 12inch ruler on its edge. Set the camera on a tripod and shoot with the aperture fairly wide open, it can be a little closed but not to much. Set the camera so you are on the same plane as the ruler, in line with the 6 inch mark and the ruler is at a 45 degree angle to the camera. Focus on the 6 inch mark and take a shot. Check out the image on your computer and it should be sharp on the 6 inch mark and the DOF should fall off equally on both sides of that.

Do that several times without moving the camera and ruler. You should only take it out of focus and focus again on the same mark each time. The images should all be the same.
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Old Nov 3, 2005, 12:55 AM   #5
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I've just started shooting some sports photos myself with a new xt as well. I have been having the same frustration as you and I think a big part of it is that it's not easy shooting sports photos. The previous comments as to the whys of the out of focus make sense, and I'm going to recheck the focusing on my camera.

I think one thing that creates some of the problems is a habit I picked up using the digital point and shoot. Partially depressing the shutter to compensate for the lag time became a habit. I still find myself doing this. Once I decide that the "moment" is there and fire, the player have moved enough to be out of focus. Unfortunately, even when I try to depress in one motion, the 1/10 second time lag may be enough to have players move out of focus, depending on the DOF. Consider the fact that a world class sprinter covers an average of 1 meter in 1/10 second. The players may not be going that fast, but can easily cover half that distance and this may affect the focus as well.

Daytime outdoor sports at least have enought sun to allow you to increase the f-stops and increase the DOF. Another thing that helps a bit is prefocusing. Pick a spot where the action may occur (eg goalie or a free kick) and once focused on it, leave the camera in manual focus and wait for action to occur there.

I've done a bit of googling on the subject of sports photography and even the pros only expect 1 out of 20 to be keepers. Granted, their definition of keepers is different than mine. The attached link is to an article about Sports Illustrated's coverage of a Super Bowl. Somewhere in it, one of the editors notes that of the 11 staff photographers covering the game, not one of them got an in focus picture of a specific touchdown. If 11 pros miss a key moment, I have to accept that I'll get some less than stellar results most of the time.

Of course, I still hate knowing I captured the occasional great moment with a shot that is out of focus, or worse, some that have been in focus, but half the player was out of the shot. It really makes me appreciate the good shots I see posted or in the papers so much more. Those that got them had to work for them; they didn't just have better seats than me.


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Old Nov 3, 2005, 11:10 AM   #6
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Just by the aspect ratio it looks like these photos have been cropped. Makes it difficult to tell what the center point area was when the picture was taken. So, first off - please post original photos (resized of course but no cropping and for that matter no other adjustments). A second point to note is that as much as we'd like it to be the focus isn't precisely at the dot in the viewfinder - it's a little larger diameter than that and is controlled by identifying contrast within the focus area.

Second point - there is a lot of debate over whether to use all focus points or just center point. The challenge if you use only center point is you MUST keep that center point on target at all times - and that can be difficult. You might try using all focus points - I've had good success shooting football that way. I know others have had the opposite story. So, why not try both?

Finally, you don't by chance have a cheap $20 filter on that nice piece of glass do you? A cheap filter can reduce contrast which can cause some focus issues - just a thought.

Forgot one thing - at f4 with that lens I wouldn't expect much DOF - so it is unlikely say in the last photo the entire body would be in focus with him bent over so much. Same would be true of other shots that include player and the ball - sith a foot or more difference in depth of field both would not likely be in focus, so choosing and maintaining focus point is even more critical - or decrease aperture to get a larger DOF.
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Old Nov 6, 2005, 5:54 PM   #7
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I noticed that some "unintended" areas of your shot are in focus.

Try "prefocusing" on the feet, area by half-pressing the shutter, then compose your shot and press the last half way down.

Also, try to use F5.6 or higher to give you depth of field. You don't need 1/1250th shutter speed, you could live on about 1/500th.

I always shoot sports shutter priority. For soccer I'd use 1/500th. Then I adjust the ISO depending on the amount of light present, or if I want to force the shutter wider open (blur background) or stopped down (better depth of field, but also shows background).

Try cranking up your camera sharpness. I have mine set at +1, as Canon images look a little soft at default settings.

-- Terry

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