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btrips Sep 13, 2007 10:35 PM

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That should be first attempt @ football!!:-)

Canon 30d with Sigma 70-200 2.8 with Sigma 1.4 TC.

They don't seem to be very sharp out of the camera with or with out the TC. Do you have sharpen upall digital pics or maybe my 30d needs tuned up. I have had this camera for 8 months, every pic seems soft. Is this normal, is the camera defective or do I just need to learn how to PP? Any help would be appreciated.


btrips Sep 13, 2007 10:36 PM

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btrips Sep 13, 2007 10:39 PM

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Then a lens change to a Canon 85mm 1.8 for volleyball. This gym is just big enough for two courts with very little side room to take pics from. Lighting cycles really bad fromone frame to the next. This is the best one. This is also my first attempt at volleyball.

Any and all suggestions are welcome.

Thanks for looking!

btrips Sep 13, 2007 10:42 PM

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One more football, touchdown run.

Trojansoc Sep 14, 2007 7:23 AM

Nicely done. Great job of capturing action moments. The timing on the volleyball shot is wonderful,although I would have liked to see her face more. I'm finding out that volleyball is really tough to shoot well because of the speed of the game and the difficulty of anticipating shooting angles.

The best of the football shots is #4. You did a good job of getting the face of both principal players in the shot, the action is strong, and the shot is well taken. #2 is also good, just not as good as #4. #1 is the only shot where the softness issue you mention jumps out. How heavy was your crop?

I use USM, at a fairly conservative level, on just about everything.

JohnG Sep 14, 2007 8:26 AM


the exif information is not in the images. What settings were you using on the football pictures (exposure mode, focus mode, # of focus points)?

To answer your question - yes, USM will benefit 99.9% of your photos from a DSLR.

#1 is definitely not in focus. The others it's difficult to tell from small image files if the issue is that you didn't use USM or if the issue is again a mis-focus.

The framing is good and exposure is pretty good but you should definitely try some USM to see if that will correct the softness.

Also - please post the settings for the football shots. And, if you don't mind - post an un-edited version of one of the shots (besides #1) - just resized for display so we can see how much of a crop was done.

The volleyball shot is nice - good exposure and sharp. Timing is a bit late but that's REALLY tough - the only way to get your timing down is to practice. For a first time in both sports these are pretty good!

btrips Sep 14, 2007 11:18 AM

John G

Thanks for looking. Now how do i resize and keep the exif. I have been using PS elements and resizing for the web. The first shot was cropped a lot it was about 35yds away. I know it was really out of reach. but it was there. Also do you have basic settings to start from with USM. There are the three choices and I do not fully understand what or why I need to use.

Also your pics are always so sharp/crisp they really pop out at you, do you have to do alot of PP to get them that way? As a rookie I am just trying find how far I still have to go!:-)



JohnG Sep 14, 2007 12:30 PM

btrips wrote:

Also your pics are always so sharp/crisp they really pop out at you, do you have to do alot of PP to get them that way?
Thank you, but I can assure you the first images I took of football did NOT pop out at you.

I improved in large part because I sought feedback from more advanced sports shooters in forums. I learned quickly that the right gear is important in sports shooting. I also took (and still take) a lot of lumps on the quality of my photos. Fortunately some photographers were good enough to take the time to give me pointers. Of all the genres I think sports shooting is the most difficult to get good advice on. I'll be honest - most pro sports shooters are VERY elitist. Very few seem willing to help out people just getting started. I think a large part of it is fear - fear that if there are too many people who know how to do this they could lose their job some day. It's probably not a baseless fear either. If you look at the number of studio photogs compared to sports photogs for a given area - there's a huge difference. There aren't many sports shooting jobs out there.

Anyway - making photos POP. The most important part is to get high quality results OUT OF THE CAMERA. Here are the keys to that:
  1. The first criteria is a good lens. Like it or not, quality optics make a HUGE difference to quality of a photo - especially a sports photo. So, the lens has to produce sharp photos. Especially at telephoto lengths where consumer lenses really start to get poor.[/*]
  2. Second, shallow DOF. Part of what makes images POP is not only is the subject sharp but nothing else is. That's what makes the subject jump out at the viewer. Notice I didn't necessarily say you need 2.8 - only that shallow DOF is necessary. I've seen shots from the Canon 70-200 f4 that blow away anything I've ever done with my 120-300 2.8. Why? The lens is sharper, it was used in a way to maximize the dof and the focus was dead on.[/*]
  3. Nail the focus. There are several parts to this. First - the camera. Don't let anyone fool you - the camera plays a huge part in this - especially with subjects moving toward you. - cross type and high precision focus points aren't a gimmick they make a difference too. The lens - lenses with an external focus motor will focus faster. This makes a huge difference when Servo focusing is being used. Technique - you gotta keep that focus point on an area of contrast as the subject moves.[/*]
  4. Filling the frame with the action. Sure I occasionally get a photo sharp enough I can crop heavily - but it's a bonus. Without question - if your subject is filling the frame the focus will be more accurate. This may be the toughest part - NOT taking photos of good action simply because it's too far away and being patient until the action is close.[/*]
  5. Shooting position. Invariably you want to shoot from a low position - this makes your subjects appear larger and it also ensures you get a better angle of their face. You always want to be at least at their eye level - preferably lower. THis means kneelin, sitting or even laying down. But it also means you put yourself in the position to catch interesting action. Take football - for a given series, what type of shot do you want to take? Quarterback? Hand-off? Running back or quarterback coming toward the sideline? Runner coming through the line? Receiver making the catch? Lineman blocking? Linebacker? Especially with only a 70-200 at your disposal your shooting position will change - you can't get all these types of shots from the same shooting position.[/*]
  6. Anticipate the action - OK, I still remember the first football game I shot - I set myself up and was shooting everything /everyone close to the ball. The problem was I wasn't in the best location. And as I mentioned above, there are different types of action and with only 200mm you need to change your position to get it. For instance - want a photo of the QB in the pocket ready to pass? You probably want to be just behind the line of scrimmage - less linemen in your way. But, after he hands it of to the running back the back is past your position so not very interesting. etc.[/*]
  7. Practice, practice, practice. [/*]
  8. Get feedback - honest feedback. Some people think I'm too critical of people's work - that may be true. But I know that's how I got better - honest feedback. Where did I screw up and what could I do differently. All any of us have to do is pick up a copy of sports illustrated or look at or even a local big newspaper to see we aren't all that great - YET. Yes it makes a difference they're using the best equipment. But equipment like what you have is still top notch.[/*]
  9. practice practice practice - shoot the sport you're interested in every chance you get - at least once a week. Put into practice the advice you got ffrom posting the last week's pictures. You're not going to make significant strides shooting a couple sporting evenets a month - especially if they're different sports. Each sport has their nuances. After you have a dozen or so sporting events under your belt it becomes easier to adapt. [/*]
  10. Proper exposure in camera - expose for faces. Nail the exposure in camera - rather than fixing it in PP. Faces, IMO are the only thing that really matter - forget blowing highlights in the sky or on uniforms. Get the faces right. Now, I've had some problems going TOO far and faces being overexposed. SO, I mean dead on exposed properly. You may have to do some levels work to adjust darks but the less work you need to do to get faces to look right the better the end shot will be.[/*]
  11. Proper white balance in-camera. Especially if not shooting RAW - man nothing makes a photo look dull like removing color casts and the like.[/*]
  12. Proper use of noise reduction. OK, first a tie-back - if you nail the exposure of the faces in-camera you'll have less noise. The little noise that is left should be properly removed. The idea is to remove just enough to make the photo look good. The biggest mistake I see is people apply it way too heavily. Either they don't know what they're doing with noise removal or they screwed up the exposure - and adjusting the exposure in PP brought out way too much noise. Noise reduction is like staining wood (not really but work with me on this :G) - apply too much stain and you can no longer see the grain of the wood. So, if you get your exposure right you have less noise to start with and if you remove JUST ENOUGH (not all, but just enough) you'll still have some texture left in your photo. It's immediately noticable on skin (can't see hair or muscle anymore - it's just a plastic doll) and grass - no longer blades of grass but a plastic sheet. In other words it looks fake.
After all that - THEN post processing comes into play. A good pro gets some great images right out of the camera. For 99% of sports shooters though - you'll be lucky if 1 out of 100 images is great right out of the camera. Good post processing will improve just about any shot you take. Proper cropping, levels/dodging (necessary if you didn't or couldn't get a great exposure out of the camera) and USM are critical on every sports shot if you want them to pop. I'll try and remember when I get home tonight to look up my USM values. Everybody is different and there are thousands of combinations you could use to get good results. But I can at least give you what I use as a starting point. You can then experiment and find values that give you a look that you like.

I'm sure Mark will chuckle at another long winded post by me but I hope you find all this useful. Keep at it, keep doing it regularly and keep looking for honest feedback (here and elsewhere) and you'll improve. Just about every regular poster here will agree that approach works wonders.

btrips Sep 17, 2007 2:04 PM

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As far as the football pics go I did not save the originals. None of my triplets play football. I was just there to try it and practice. From now on I will save the originals, just did'nt think about it at the time. Rookie!! Anyway here is a soccer shot straight from the camera, just resized.

I think I may not be getting the focus lokced on. All of my shots have been hand held. Maybe I need to use a monopod? If you have some spare time, I post my pics aton smugmug at they all seem to be a little soft.

By the way, thank you for taking time to respond! I have along way to go and you have been a great help. I have printed off yourtip sheetson basketball and soccer and whatever else that seems beneficial.


btrips Sep 17, 2007 2:10 PM

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Sorry that was a cropped photo. Does cropping remove exif data?

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