I'm new to the site and also new to shooting sports. Most of my experience is in studio portrait photography - where the lighting and exposure is (usually) nicely controlled. A few months ago, a new magazine started up in my (rural) area for the local high school athletes. 9 x 12, full glossy color and free to the athletes and parents (it's ad-sponsored). While talking to the local rep about advertising, I mentioned that I am an amateur photographer and offered to help her out if she could use me.
So, I've shot a number of events for them and I'm struggling. The local rep (who also takes pictures for the magazine) is very happy with my work, but the main editor/publisher has been very critical - not so much of the "content" but of the quality of my images. He says they're too dark and too noisy for printing in the magazine. He's also commented that some of them aren't sharp enough.
Here are some images that I've taken and submitted to the magazine:
D700, 80-200, f/2.8, 1/800, ISO 3200, no post-processing
D700, 80-200, f/2.8, 1/250, ISO 5000, no post-processing
D700, 80-200, f/2.8, 1/640, ISO 3200, +5 EV, LR4 NR & AutoTone
D700, 70-200, f/2.8, 1/500, ISO 2500, LR4 NR & AutoTone
D700, 70-200, f/2.8, 1/500, ISO 2500, LR4 NR & AutoTone
My typical basketball settings are:
- AF-C: Release
- AF-S: Release
- Focus Track: 4
- ActiveD: Normal
- HighISONR: High - I know it slows my burst but hasn't been a problem yet, and I'm paranoid about noise!
- Metering: Spot
- Focus Mode: Single Point / Continuous
- ISO: fixed (adjusted for the gym that I'm shooting in)
- WB: preset via gray card (with extra pic of gray card for LR adjustments later)
- I shoot RAW (editor wants me to shoot jpeg but I can't bring myself to do it, so I export to jpeg via LR to send to him).
As you can see in my images above, I tend to stay around 2500-3200 ISO. I'd like to go higher so that I can bump up my shutter speed a bit, but the photos seem to become too noisy and dark when I try it (and I'm not able to salvage them in LR). The local rep shoots with a D7000 & 80-200 in jpeg mode. The editor set up her camera for her so all she has to do is use her WB dome, set her ISO (usually around 5000) and start shooting - and he's happy with the pics she sends him (she doesn't do any post-processing other than cropping the pics).
I have lurked in this forum for a while and I've read quite a few posts (and tried to apply what I learned). I feel like my D700 should be able to give me better images at a higher ISO, but it's not working for me, so I figured I'd see if anyone could help me out. Thanks in advance!!
#1. "RE: Need Some Indoor Sports Advice" | In response to Reply # 0JosephK Nikonian since 17th Apr 2006Fri 28-Dec-12 03:33 AM
The wrestling shot looks good for exposure.
The first is a little darker than expected.
The rest look OK on a monitor. However, that means that they are a little dark for printing and need to be lightened.
If you need to shoot at ISO 6400 to get the shutter speeds, then you need to shoot at ISO 6400. Just make sure you are not under-exposing the shots.
One of the things that I carried over from my D200 to the D700 was to dial in +0.3 EV when shooting the high ISOs to help eat the noise.
I would turn off the Active-D as that can mess with the exposures. For indoor sports I would not expect a dynamic range problem.
Seattle, WA, USA
D700, D200, D70S, 24-70mm f/2.8, VR 70-200mm f/2.8 II,
50mm f/1.4 D, 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR, 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5 DX
#3. "RE: Need Some Indoor Sports Advice" | In response to Reply # 2bellnier Registered since 18th Jul 2006Fri 28-Dec-12 02:14 PM
Hi Dave. +1 to the previous comments.
I'd like to add that the photos you show here could all use some tweaking in terms of crop, etc. Too often player's feet are missing where they shouldn't be..crop tighter or looser. Other pics could use some straightening of horizontals/verticals...
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#4. "RE: Need Some Indoor Sports Advice" | In response to Reply # 0
In general your photos look pretty good to me. I recently posted information on the regimen that has worked well for me in shooting basketball games with my D700 for almost four years. In case you didn’t see it I am repeating the gist of it below in the hope that at least some of it will prove beneficial to you.
I make a custom white balance setting for the gym lighting using the Preset Manual procedure described in the D700 User's Manual. I use a white coffee filter held in place over the end of the lens with a rubber band and point the camera toward the overhead lights when releasing the shutter. It isn’t high tech, but it works and the price is right!
I set the exposure manually using fixed values for shutter speed, f-stop, and ISO. For a first-time visit to a gym I may start with settings of 1/500, f/2.8, and ISO 3200. Then I take test shots of the players as they are warming up and tweak the exposure settings based on what the histogram is showing. I maintain a shutter speed at least 1/500 to stop action. To minimize noise at high ISOs I try to nail the exposure. Under-exposure is to be avoided. Noise hides in the darker areas.
1. Active D-Lighting: Off.
2. High ISO NR: Off.
3. Metering: Matrix
For dealing with noise at high ISOs I find that the noise reduction function of Adobe Camera RAW works very well. When I formerly shot JPEGs I used Noise Ninja to good effect.
I use Continuous high speed (5 frames per second)
For AF operation I use the following settings:
1. Focus mode: C (Continuous-servo AF) via switch on front of camera
2. AF-C Priority Selection: Release + focus
3. AF-Area Mode: Dynamic AF via switch on back of camera. Custom setting: 9 points
4. Focus Tracking with Lock-On: Off
Basketball is a vertical game, and almost all of the shots I take are vertically oriented.
1. Almost all of the time I use the shutter release button to focus. I tried using the AF-ON button on the back and found it to be awkward. I employ the AF-ON button only when I want to pre-focus on a subject.
2. I follow the action wherever it goes.
3. If you're using a lens with VR turn the VR off. You don't need it at the high shutter speeds employed for shooting basketball.
4. I used to shoot JPEGs only. A year ago I switched to shooting RAW only, and I don’t intend to go back. I think that you’re wise to stick with RAW in spite of what the editor wants you to do.
In shooting basketball games I hardly ever shoot at ISO values as low as you. I don’t use any lens diaphragm opening larger than f/2.8, and at a typical 1/500 shutter speed in the gyms in this area, my ISO settings are normally in the range of ISO 3,200 minimum to ISO 8,000 maximum. For a long time I was hesitant about going above 6,400, and I prefer to not exceed 6,400, but now I’ll push it as high as 12,800 if the situation calls for it.
Don’t be surprised if you receive responses that differ from mine. Not everybody works the same way. Some of this stuff you have to evaluate for yourself to find what works best for you.
Be sure to post some of your future results.
#5. "RE: Need Some Indoor Sports Advice" | In response to Reply # 4Fri 28-Dec-12 08:07 PM | edited Fri 28-Dec-12 08:10 PM by dave351
Thanks Bob, I did indeed see your post before - most informative. I think our settings are pretty similar except for highISONR and focus mode. I'll give dynamic focus mode a try tonight if I get a chance.
"Noise hides in the darker areas" So to clarify something, I have been trying to keep the ISO down to avoid noise in the photos, with the tradeoff that I'm getting underexposed photos. What I should be doing is to raise the ISO to get correct exposure, and deal with the ISO noise in post-process? In other words, noise from high ISO is better than noise from underexposure? Does that question make sense?
I'll post a few pics from tonight's games when I get home. Thanks again!
#7. "RE: Need Some Indoor Sports Advice" | In response to Reply # 5Fri 28-Dec-12 09:11 PM
>"Noise hides in the darker areas" So to clarify
>something, I have been trying to keep the ISO down to avoid
>noise in the photos, with the tradeoff that I'm getting
>underexposed photos. What I should be doing is to raise the
>ISO to get correct exposure, and deal with the ISO noise in
>post-process? In other words, noise from high ISO is better
>than noise from underexposure? Does that question make
Yes. The goal is to raise the ISO high enough to obtain proper exposure. With CS6 and Lightroom you have very good tools to deal with whatever noise ensues. I don’t use Noise Ninja anymore now that I have found the noise reduction function of ACR to be as good as it is.
#8. "RE: Need Some Indoor Sports Advice" | In response to Reply # 7Sat 29-Dec-12 02:06 AM
Just got home, sorting through the images now. I ended up shooting at 1/500 & 6400 ISO and around +0.7 EV. I tried a few times to bump up to 1/640 but it was just way too dark. With the few pictures I've looked at so far, I'm able to remove most of the ISO noise with around 60-75 Luminance and 25 color noise reduction in LR.
The gym I shot in tonight had the old-style phasing lights where a continuous burst gives different colors in each subsequent picture... so this is going to take a while to pick my keepers. I'll post a couple here when I get done. Thanks again to everyone!
#9. "RE: Need Some Indoor Sports Advice" | In response to Reply # 8Sat 29-Dec-12 04:17 AM
>Just got home, sorting through the images now. I ended up
>shooting at 1/500 & 6400 ISO and around +0.7 EV. I tried a
>few times to bump up to 1/640 but it was just way too dark.
>With the few pictures I've looked at so far, I'm able to
>remove most of the ISO noise with around 60-75 Luminance and
>25 color noise reduction in LR.
>The gym I shot in tonight had the old-style phasing lights
>where a continuous burst gives different colors in each
>subsequent picture... so this is going to take a while to pick
>my keepers. I'll post a couple here when I get done. Thanks
>again to everyone!
The type of lighting system you describe is one of the most difficult to deal with. Not only is there color and exposure variation from frame to frame but also variation across an individual frame. I normally boycott gyms that have that kind of lighting system, because It’s just too much hassle to try to come up with decent results. Fortunately there are enough gyms in my vicinity with updated lighting systems that I am able to do that.
I am wondering why the need to apply +0.7 exposure compensation. When I manually set fixed values for shutter speed, f-stop, and ISO in gyms I have never found it necessary to additionally apply exposure compensation. During the course of a game I periodically monitor my histogram and sometimes find it advisable to tweak the f-stop or ISO setting to obtain correct exposure, but I have never used the exposure compensation button in such instances.
I thought some more about this subject and decided to consult my D700 User’s Manual. On page 128 it says this about Exposure Compensation: “In exposure mode M, only the exposure information shown in the electronic analog display is affected; shutter speed and aperture do not change.” I just checked the operation of my D700 in Manual mode and found this to be true. The conclusion I draw from this is that using the Exposure Compensation button when you are operating in Manual mode does nothing to change exposure. If you’re operating in Manual mode and want to change exposure you’ll have to change the shutter speed, f-stop, or ISO or a combination of the three. The Exposure Compensation button won’t do it for you.
#10. "RE: Need Some Indoor Sports Advice" | In response to Reply # 9Sat 29-Dec-12 04:43 AM | edited Sat 29-Dec-12 04:44 AM by dave351
I didn't think the exposure compensation did anything in M mode, but at a game a while back I thought it brightened my pics a bit. So, I just tested it in my office... and you are absolutely correct. I took two pics, one at 0 and another at +5.0, and they're the same in the viewfinder with the exact same histogram. Thanks for showing me the error of my ways!
I understand what you're saying about the bad gym lighting. Given the rural area that I'm in (and that the magazine covers), I have to visit a few of these gyms, but as I learn which are the really bad ones, I will try to catch the teams that I need when they're playing at a better gym. Unfortunately, I didn't have that option tonight. I had no idea the lights could cause variation across individual frames. That explains a lot with some of the horrible images I'm dealing with. Good thing I don't have any hair left to pull out!
Here are a couple pictures from tonight. Both pics were with D700, 70-200, 1/500, f/2.8, ISO 6400.
On average, I ended up using more luminance NR on the girls pics than the guys in LR (around 30ish for the guys and 60ish for the girls). The guy shooting the layup in this picture looks like he has a noisy face, but it's actually just bad acne scarring. I'm still sorting through them and I can upload more if you'd like. These 2 that I uploaded above are probably my best out of ~800 between both games.
#11. "RE: Need Some Indoor Sports Advice" | In response to Reply # 10Sat 29-Dec-12 06:23 AM
I hope that the shock of moving up to ISO 6,400 land wasn't too much for your system to handle! Now that you've made the move you may find yourself scooting up to ISO 12,800 before you know it!
In your two shots I think that you got good results. It looks like you were able to deal with noise successfully, and I don't see evidence of the atrocious lighting that characterizes some of the worse gyms. It's somewhat a matter of personal taste, but the images may benefit from a tad more sharpening.
Post more photos if you are so inclined.
I use ACR with Elements 10, and to reduce noise I usually use a luminance value around 30 on a scale of zero to 100.
Hopefully you'll soon have your fussy editor smiling!
#12. "RE: Need Some Indoor Sports Advice" | In response to Reply # 11Sat 29-Dec-12 06:45 AM | edited Sat 29-Dec-12 06:45 AM by dave351
By ISO 12,800, do you mean H0.3 on the D700? I took a couple pics at that ISO tonight (in an effort to bump up to 1/640) and the noise was horrible - at least in my viewfinder. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to clean the pictures up enough so I chickened out and went back to 6400 lol. I'll post a few more pics tomorrow.
Do you think the pictures appear to need more sharpening because I overdid it on the noise reduction in Lightroom? Is there any advantage to using NR in ACR vs LR? Coming from my portrait/fashion background, I am a horrible pixel peeper. I think I have to settle for the fact that I'm not going to get the kind of tack-sharp images in sports that I do in the studio - at least with my current gear and skill level. But noise still hurts!!
#13. "RE: Need Some Indoor Sports Advice" | In response to Reply # 12Sat 29-Dec-12 07:42 AM
Hi 0.3 is "only" ISO 8,000. Hi 0.7 is ISO 10, 000. Hi 1.0 is 12,800. I haven't tried Hi 2.0 (ISO 25,600) yet. Even I chicken out when thinking of using that setting! I wouldn't be intimidated by what you see in the viewfinder at ISO 8,000. I've shot many games at both 8,000 and 10,000 (not as many at 12,800) and lived to tell about it!
A luminance setting of 30 to reduce noise should not be excessive. I was using 70 at one time, and I think that that was pushing the envelope a bit. It was brought to my attention that my images looked too smooth at that setting. It isn't necessary to push the luminance setting high enough to remove all noise and thereby remove a lot of image detail in the process.
You can be grateful that you have a D700 which produces relatively noise-free images in low light environments.
I don't use Lightroom, but I suspect that the noise removal function in LR is pretty much the same as it is in ACR.
#14. "RE: Need Some Indoor Sports Advice" | In response to Reply # 13Sun 30-Dec-12 09:01 AM
Sorry to take so long in getting back... after you mentioned ISO 25,600, I had to spend the day hyperventilating into a paper bag.
Anyway, here is a sample of the noise I'm getting at 6400. I made a close crop so that would be visible on the smaller image (original and processed).
Higher resolution of the SOOC version here.
I realize she looks a bit soft. As jbloom pointed out, I'm framing my shots "loose" most of the time. In this case, the player in the photo is tiny in the overall scene (Original Image here). I realize if I was tighter on her, she would probably be a little sharper. Hopefully I'll get better as I get used to shooting moving targets.
I learned with models that too much "skin fix" made them look like porcelain dolls, and over time I was able to get my method down to "fix the skin but keep the pores." Then again, processing model photos didn't involve the use of NR (thankfully!). Working with sports photos is an entirely different animal to me - I feel like I'm learning to ride a bike all over again. Do you think I used too much NR on her?
If you want to see a sample of the magazine, here is a link to the online version. On the main page, you'll see two magazines at the top - the "Dream Team" edition is the one the editor produces (and photographs for) on his own. The "State Champions" edition is the one I started shooting for a few weeks ago. In that edition, my pictures are on pages 13, 18-19, 22-27 & 34-39. If breaking any forum rules by linking this, please let me know and I'll remove this paragraph!
#15. "RE: Need Some Indoor Sports Advice" | In response to Reply # 14reuben Nikonian since 21st Jan 2004Sun 30-Dec-12 09:34 AM
You're getting close to the porcelain doll look. Reducing noise often means reducing detail, although some tools are better than others. Look at the difference in the letters on the ball. Also the ball itself - no detail. Same for the eyes and eyebrows, jersey on her shoulder.
Now, this is bordering on pixel peeping, so it's easy to argue that we've gone too far, but you're obviously aware of the issues.
For most newspapers, both print and online, they'd be fine without the NR. For a glossy magazine I'm not surprised that they have a higher standard. For prints I'd try to clean them up without going too far.
If you can light the court, or at least part of it, that will help a lot. You can also suggest that the editor buy the lights and/or a used D3s and see how he reacts. It probably won't be a nice reaction, but then he might start to understand the issues. How much does he know about photography, specifically shooting at venues like that? Ask the rep for his opinion of the editor and his criticism. He's probably heard this before.
I'd set A4 to 1 or 0 (off).
The editor might want to check his speeling on page 31 of the Dream Team edition. Assuming he likes the basketball images in that edition, how were they shot? Who shot them?
#16. "RE: Need Some Indoor Sports Advice" | In response to Reply # 15Sun 30-Dec-12 09:49 AM
I definitely see what you mean... I didn't even notice how nice and smooth the ball is. It would be almost comical... if it wasn't my picture!
The edition of the magazine that I am shooting for covers roughly 20 high school teams so I don't think it's going to be possible to put lights in every venue. I've been at a few games where another photographer is standing next to me using a speedlight on camera, but I'm not a fan of that.
Nice catch on the spelling! The Dream Team edition is his - he shoots most of the photos himself. I haven't shot with him, but from what I was told, he shoots with 2 cameras (I think both D700s). He hand-holds one and the other he has on the floor with a remote to trigger a few seconds after he triggers his main body. That's how he gets the wide shots from down low.
I have a question about A4. With a sport like basketball, wouldn't I benefit from a longer focus lock in case someone runs past my point of focus? If I'm trying to get a layup and a player or ref runs past me, won't I lose time trying to re-focus, whereas if I had focus lock on, I'd be able to lock on faster once the obstruction made it past me? I'm not challenging your advice, merely trying to understand the principle.
#17. "RE: Need Some Indoor Sports Advice" | In response to Reply # 16reuben Nikonian since 21st Jan 2004Sun 30-Dec-12 11:01 AM
So - ask him what his settings are, and make similar adjustments in your camera. If he's both critical AND a photographer he should have volunteered this info. In addition to standard aperture/shutter speed/ISO, ask about +/-EV, in-camera noise reduction, ADL, in-camera curves, etc. And postprocessing.
He may not like it, but many Nikons can save their settings to a CF card and be copied into another camera. Then just store them as a custom setting, change personal stuff like the copyright, and give that a shot.
Just a couple of speedlights will work for half the court, but he may not like that look, further angering him.
A4 - the problem is that they're often moving more or less toward you, and quite fast. You'll get a lot of backfocused images in this case since the AF system will wait before refocusing. By the time the AF system refocuses they've moved 5 feet and your DOF won't cover that, especially given the 1/3 - 2/3 rule of thumb. I'm currently setting it to 0/off and getting more keepers than with it on 1.
If they're moving laterally to you (more or less in the focal plane) setting A4 to 2 or above would work as you describe.
#18. "RE: Need Some Indoor Sports Advice" | In response to Reply # 17Sun 30-Dec-12 11:29 AM
Makes sense, I didn't think,about the fact that they are often moving towards me rather than laterally. I'll try backing off in the A4 and see how it works.
He's not the most communicative guy - I have to get info through the local rep because he won't answer my questions. I'll keep trying.
#19. "RE: Need Some Indoor Sports Advice" | In response to Reply # 18Fri 11-Jan-13 09:15 PM
I wanted to stop in and say a big thanks to all of the great advice & tips! I have been continuing to shoot several nights/week. I'm starting to get more comfortable shooting at HI0.3 - my blood pressure is usually back to normal by halftime now. It was also very helpful to turn off ActiveD and Focus Lock.
I'm off to shoot a game in a couple minutes and I'll try to post a few pics when I get back. I'm still far from "good" - especially when I compare my shots to all of the excellent photos in this forum - but hopefully I'll keep getting better with time.
#6. "RE: Need Some Indoor Sports Advice" | In response to Reply # 0
I'm not really seeing significant problems with your images. One thing that occurs to me, though, is that the editor may be asking his production staff to crop them a lot. Some of your images are pretty loose (lots of space around the main subjects.) Does the magazine usually publish photos with a tight crop? If so, noise and unsharpness can get magnified to a degree that may be a problem. If that's the case, getting tighter shots in-camera may be the cure. If you can get a copy of the magazine, perhaps you can suss out what their desired style is and try to frame shots that meet it, maximizing the quality.
Your comment about high-ISO NR leaves me a bit perplexed. NR is not applied to the raw data, so if you are shooting raw and processing in LR there is no reason to have high-ISO NR turned on.
Can you get a few sample image files from the local rep? Then you can compare to what you have been providing and perhaps get some sense of the specific issues the editor has with your stuff.
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Connecticut High School Sports Photos
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