Sport Photography Technique

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Michael, Nov 1, 2003.

  1. Michael

    Michael Guest

    This post might be more appropriate for the
    newsgroup, but since there's a lot more activities in this group I
    will try it here.

    How can one get pin sharp pictures in soccer games? Right now I am
    using the continuous focus function of my camera to track a moving
    player. When I think there's a good action taking place, I will press
    the shutter. This technique has the disadvantage of panning the
    camera to follow a player. I use a speed of 1/1000 second or faster
    and the pictures still come out soft.

    Should I try to focus lock on a player and anticipate where he's going
    to move to. If he's moving from left to right in my viewfinder, the
    focusing distance wouldn't change much. When he enters the spot that
    I expect him to be, I will press the shutter. That way I will
    eliminate camera panning. It sounds like a more difficult technique.
    Is this right?

    Michael, Nov 1, 2003
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  2. Michael

    Robertwgross Guest

    First of all, you will get more specific advice if you identify your camera.
    Some cameras are awfully limited in features and some have terrible shutter
    lag. Next, are you using a tripod or a monopod?

    Next, you said that the pictures come out soft. If this is a digital camera,
    you might want to identify what ISO setting was used, since that will dictate
    the degree of color noise.

    Is the subject in focus?

    If you have a high enough ISO to support it, and if you have a fast enough lens
    (e.g. f/2) to support it, then push the shutter speed to as fast as it will go.

    Is this day or night? If night, is flash allowed or not?

    ---Bob Gross---
    Robertwgross, Nov 1, 2003
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  3. It can be tricky using that mode when players are running towards you. The
    lag between when you decide to take the image, and when the image is taken,
    can be milliseconds but draws the player out of focal range. Try shooting a
    more forgiving aperture, anticipate, and try shooting players running side
    on, rather than straight at you.

    Surfworx Photography, Nov 1, 2003
  4. Are'nt we hitting the weak point of digital here ?
    Claude Marcil, Nov 1, 2003
  5. (Top posted because previous replies were top posted...)

    It's actually a high severity usability defect that should have been fixed
    years ago. I argue that it's high severity since some missed shots may never
    get a second chance to be taken. And the half-press could still be allowed
    for a pre-focus, but the digital cameras must take the picture the
    instantaneous moment that the button is bottomed out without exception.

    Even today's cheapest 35mm zoom cameras don't have the shutter lag or focus
    lag usability defects that digital cameras are still shipping with. And
    that's just dicussing the camera usability alone.

    For 35mm, I find that when I press the button, as soon as the button bottoms
    out--snap flash (if enabled), and the picuture has been taken--any shutter
    lag is virtually "unmeasurable". The only lag for 35mm is the lag time it
    takes my finger to bottom out the button, but the camera itself does not
    control me and the whole picture taking process feels instantaneous.

    With digital cameras, I bottom out the button, wait a fraction of a
    second--but a fraction of a second is still noticeable and therefore
    measurable, flash (if enabled), picture taken sound occurs (if enabled), and
    I probably missed the exact shot I wanted by the time factor of the shutter
    lag. Plus, that lag is even longer if I didn't half-press the button before
    I bottomed out the button. Sorry, that's completely unacceptable from a
    usability standpoint, at least as far as I am concerned as a customer.
    Digital cameras are supposed to be an advancement in photo technology, so
    why does digital make me guess when the photo will actually be taken?

    I guess for now, I'll only be considering lower-end fixed-focus cameras and
    doing all the zoom operations I want in software (but NEVER using the camera
    digital zoom). As long as the focus lag/shutter lag usability defect
    persists, the optical zoom digital camera market will continue to lose me as
    a customer.
    Daniel W. Rouse Jr., Nov 1, 2003
  6. It seems to be a weak point of many digital cameras that is being
    addressed in the newer higher end models.

    It is also a problem, but somewhat less of a problem, in standard 35 mm

    Other than replacing your camera, I suggest two approaches.

    First, experiment with different film speed, shutter speed settings.
    You need to find the sweet spot for this use for your camera and the
    location you are shooting. Are you doing a night time event or daytime?

    Second, it might prove profitable to use a fixed distance setting.
    Learn to place yourself so you will be at that distance from the action and
    not try to focus on the moving action.

    While this may seem like a poor way of doing it, experience has proven
    that it works very well. You miss some action shoots, but not as many as
    you think, after you get good at it, and the ones you get are very often
    better than you thought possible.

    One last point. Using telephoto is a real temptation, but I suggest
    using it sparingly. Not only are the results often as you have noted, but
    the flat perspective removes much of the excitement of the moment. Wide
    angle can create some really exciting photos.

    Good Luck and have fun.
    Joseph Meehan, Nov 1, 2003
  7. Michael

    EarGuy Guest

    Questions I'd ask myself:

    Since you're able to set the shutter speed, I'm assuming you can also set
    the aperature. Are you shooting at the lens' sharpest aperature? Most
    lenses aren't "pin sharp" at maximum aperature; instead they're sharpest at
    f/8 or f/11. Try shooting a stationary object at the same distance as you
    would be at a soccer game.

    Are you using a filter? Many people use a skylight, haze, polarizer, or
    some such all the time. Some for effect, some for "lens protection." These
    filters will almost always soften your focus. Again, experiment.

    Are both front and back elements of your lens squeaky clean? Rubbing the
    fingerprint with your shirt doesn't count. Get lens papers and lens
    cleaning fluid.

    Even at 1/1000 shutter, a tripod or monopod will help. Do as I say, not as
    I do. I don't typically use a tripod. But I'm happy enough with shots that
    aren't pin sharp.

    If you're using an SLR, try to get your hands on a fixed focal length lens
    instead of a zoom. Even if it's just in the store, attach your camera to it
    and take a couple distant shots. Are they pin sharp? If so, it could be
    your lens.

    If you're still getting soft focus, it might be your technique. But I'm
    betting it's something with your lens. Try shooting non-moving stuff and
    see if you get pin-sharp then.

    Here's a few of my shots, which include sports.

    Earguy Dave

    When I think there's a good action taking place, I will press
    EarGuy, Nov 1, 2003
  8. Michael

    Michael Guest

    Thanks for all replying to my message. I have to apologize that I am
    using a 35mm camera and yet posting to this newsgroup. I am hoping
    that this discussion topic has an unversial appeal to many

    I use a Nikon N90S with a 80-200/f4.5-5.6 zoom lens for the soccer
    games. There is virtually no shutter lag and at times I even use the
    internal motor drive to take multiple frames per second. So, I don't
    think shutter lag is causing the soft pictures.

    The games are held in daytime, and typically I use Provia 400 films in
    my camera without any push processing. On a sunny day I typically can
    shoot at 1/1000 second or faster with f5.6. I also like to open up
    the aperture so that the background is less distracting.

    I don't think focusing is the issue here. Some of the pictures are
    taken where a player is moving from left to right in my viewfinder and
    so there isn't much distance change. And yet they come up soft.

    I hand hold my camera. I am hoping that with a 1/1000 second shutter
    speed I can get away with camera shake. I have a slow lens and so my
    equipment really isn't heavy. But I am not so sure about the panning
    motion. I don't know how much blurring it introduces to my pictures.

    Most of my pictures are taken at 200mm and that would amplify camera
    shake movement. Do I need to use a monopod to get sharper pictures?
    From what I have observed, it appears monopods are used with 300mm
    lens or longer. Most sport photographers tend to hand hold 200mm lens
    or shorter?
    Michael, Nov 1, 2003
  9. While the two (35 and digital) share many of the same problems, they
    each have their own.

    It would be helpful if you could put on or two of the photos on a web
    page where we could take a look. Then it would be digital. ;-)
    Joseph Meehan, Nov 1, 2003
  10. Michael

    Michael Guest

    Here are three pictures that I took recently. I used a Nikon Super
    Coolscan 4000 ED scanner to scan the slides. There is a slight
    mangnification of these pictures due to cropping.

    Be careful with the URL's. They could be broken into two lines when
    you view this message. It should be a single line instead.

    Michael, Nov 1, 2003
  11. It looks to me that the shutter speed is fast enough by the aperture is
    too wide. You seem to have a rather shallow depth of focus. Focus is
    accurate, but it is not coving the whole subject.

    Hard to tell without seeing the original but I will make a few other

    Not aparent, but camera vibration of shake
    Lens problem, maybe a shifted element or a finger print on the front or
    back elements.
    You may have better looking results if you allow a slower shutter speed
    to intentionally include some blur called by movement. Many action photos
    look better if they are not totally frozen.
    Problem printing.
    Joseph Meehan, Nov 1, 2003
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