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Help PLEASE with setting up my Camera to take better pictures.


Tierrat

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Hello To All,
I was just wondering if I can maybe get a little help with setting up my camera to take pictures of a high school Volleyball team.
As some of you may know or not that high schools sports a lot of the time are on there own as far as raising money for there sport. So last year I dusted off my wife’s camera and began to take pictures. I did a lot of research on the web on how to set up my camera to take the best shots possible.
I got this bright idea to put all the pictures on a disc and to sell them to the parents to raise some money for the team. I was not really sure how this was going to go over. And to my surprise EVERY parent on the team purchased a cd. Well my daughter has graduated and is in college now, so I was just going to watch now. A lot of the parents have approached me and asked if I was going to be taking pictures again this year. They all love the idea of looking through hundreds of pictures for just the right one of there child. So I decided to once again start taking pictures this year.
What I am asking is I take so many pictures and I am really not happy with most of them, but when I get luck I can catch a great picture. I am asking PLEASE someone with experience in taking pictures if they can help me set up my camera so that I can get some better action shots.
The camera I am using is a Canon EOS Rebel XS, with a SIGMA APO DG 70-200mm 1:2.8 II Macro HSM lens. The lens seems good but I really don’t know if I am using it right.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and any help will be appreciated.
 

Tom Mann

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What's the light level? Are the games outdoors, during the bright hours of the day, around sundown or in the evening, or are they indoors in a gym?

For sports, low light is your mortal enemy.

Tom M
 

Tom Mann

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One more thing ... there are a zillion ways one can either partially or completely muck up a set of sports photos. I have no idea which aspects of the photos you previously took were the most disappointing to you, and hence, which to concentrate on. Of course, I could ask you to describe the problems in words, but, to be honest, from long experience, I've learned that the best (ie, most accurate and quickest way) to convey such information is to ask to see a representative sample (ie, a couple of dozen) of similar pictures you have taken in the past. If this is possible, things will progress much faster. Are some pictures posted anywhere on the web? If you don't want the URL to be public knowledge, feel free to email me.

Also, how did you have your camera set up when you last did this? For example, did you use the "action" preset?

Did you press and hold the shutter release to get a string of shots closely spaced in time, or did you attempt to synchronize pressing the shutter with the peak of the action?

Cheers,

Tom M
 

Tierrat

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Tom
Thanks for replying, all the shots were done in the gym. As far as the setting go I have tried so many that I started to confuse myself. When there are home games I can pretty much go where I want, but away games I am in the stands. And YES I do hold down the shutter button to get a string of pictures. I have tried to do what the manual said but I am not happy with the results. Alot of the pictures come out blurry and every once in a while I get a great shot. This is my new computer so I dont have any old pictures on it, I have them saved on another hard drive. I am totally new to all this and have no idea how to set up the camera to take good pictures. I will dig out the old hard drive and upload some pictures if you would like to see some. Thanks for the help.
 

Tom Mann

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I'll get back to you in a couple of hours. Classes just started for the semester and I have to meet with a bunch of students.

Tom M
 

Tierrat

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Tom thanks for taking the time to help out, tomorrow night is the first game so any help will be appreciated.

Louie
 

Tom Mann

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Shooting fast-moving indoor sports in poorly lit gyms is one of THE most difficult tasks for any photographer, even pros.

Reliably knocking out one good shot after another in this situation takes years of general photographic experience, a deep knowledge of the sport and experience in photographing it, good equipment, and good access (particularly, shooting position and setting up ancillary equipment like large ceiling mounted strobes).

You will undoubtedly be able to find a huge number of websites that will have suggestions about how to get the best results, but, unfortunately, given that your 1st game is tomorrow, you don't have much time to read, evaluate and assimilate such material, let alone practice what you have just learned. I can assure you that it's much more than a matter of setting your camera up correctly once, and from then on, all you have to do is press the shutter to get machine gun bursts, LOL.

Here's my take on it. Your worst enemy when shooting in high school gyms will be blur and poorly timed shots. It won't be grain / digital noise; it won't be poor exposure; it won't be color. It will be blur and bad timing, pure and simple.

People can live with grain/noise. Shoot RAW, and Photoshop will be able to rescue shots that are underexposed by 2 or more stops. Color is nice, but given that the custodian isn't thinking about color photography when he buys replacement bulbs for the gym, there's probably a 90% chance that the color of the lighting will be just awful, so when you are starting out, just kiss off color and convert everything to black and white. Doing so will allow you to concentrate on what's really important: getting sharp, peak-action shots.

If you accept the above, then there are just three things that work against you getting sharp shots: subject movement, camera movement, and poor focus.

Subject and camera movement go hand-in-hand. Beat the first into submission with a high shutter speed, and you've probably also conquered the second. Shoot volleyball at under 1/250th of a second, and probably half of your shots will be blurred. Shoot at 1/1000th of a second, and probably only 10 or 15% will be ruined due to blurring.

So, the question is how to get such high shutter speeds. There are two factors: (a) use the widest lens opening that your lens has. In your case, use f/2.8 and keep it there for the whole night. The way to do this is to set your camera to "A" (Aperture priority mode). This is only one part of the equation, but not the whole story. You almost certainly will also need to use as high an ISO (...like the old ASA film speed) as you can. Here's where your equipment is going to limit you. I think that your camera only goes up to ISO 1600. Unfortunately, at this sensitivity, there will be an unacceptable amount of grain / noise, even for my tastes. My suggestion is that for your camera, use ISO = 800. Usually, going one stop less sensitive than the maximum on any camera makes a big improvement in the noise.

OK. The above settings have given you the best chance (the highest shutter speed) at controlling blur from subject and camera movement. You can't really do any better than this.


The next step is to reduce blur due to the image being out-of-focus (OOF). This can occur either because the distance you (or the camera) has set is wrong, or because the depth-of-field (DoF - range of distances over which you get good focus) is too thin.

Given that you absolutely must use your widest lens opening to get the fastest shutter speed possible to stop action, you are stuck with the DoF issue, so the best you can do is accurately nail the focus distance.

Unfortunately, autofocus is another area in which the performance of your camera is far below that of high end pro sports cameras like the $7000 Nikon D4s. Low end cameras (and lenses) just can't re-focus fast enough in autofocus mode to provide accurate focusing, shot-after-shot for the whole event.

The way around this is to switch to manual focusing. Focus on a point at the center of the net, and grab the focusing ring on your lens. Learn how many degrees of twist it takes to move the best focus point to the nearest end of the net, vs how many degrees it takes to bring the far end of the net into good focus. Put a couple of pieces of tape on the focusing ring to mark these positions. Then, when the action is hot, don't waste time trying to achieve the best focus using the viewfinder. Instead, just quickly twist the focusing ring by an appropriate amount using your muscle memory and maybe a glance at your pieces of masking tape on the ring.

Believe it or not, sports photographers have been focusing this way since the 1930's using cumbersome Speed Graphics and other press cameras where they absolutely must nail each shot because their editor only gave them a dozen pieces of cut film for the entire fight or game. If you flub a few with a digital camera, the consequences are nowhere near as bad.

Anyway, I've got to run. No one said that shooting this sort of action would be easy, but do what I recommend, and I'm sure you'll improve your success rate considerably (... at least after some practice time (which you don't have)).

Let us know how it goes.

Best regards,

Tom M.
 

Tierrat

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Tom
Thanks for taking time for such an in dept explanation about the workings of taking sports shots, Now assuming that I know what I am doing ( which I really dont ) I am sure that someone who does know about taking pictures they will fully understand what you are saying here. I am going to try and do what you have advised me to do but I am not really sure if I am going to be able to make the camera setting you advised. Today is the first of about 15 games so I am sure as time goes on the pictures will get better and better.

Once again Tom thank you so much for taking the time and explain to me how to be able to take some better pictures.

I will keep you updated on how things work out.
 

Tom Mann

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One of my problems is that I type very, very fast and before I know it, I've inundated people with too much info. My second problem is that I assume everyone wants to know the exact reasoning behind why they should do something. Mea Culpa!

Anyway, here's a much shorter summary of my previous post about shooting fast sports in a poorly lit gym:

1. Use your camera's "A" (ie, "aperture priority") mode.

2. Set the f-stop to 2.8 and leave it there for all action shots.

3. Set the ISO to 800 (or 1600 if you can stand more noise/grain).

4. Set your camera to produce and save both RAW (ie, CR2) AND JPG files. Only use the JPGs for quick evaluations. Only use the raws for post processing (eg, tweaking the exposure, contrast, etc.).

5. To give yourself an option, you can leave your camera set to color, but when you look at the shots on your computer, if the color looks wonky, don't waste effort on getting it right -- just convert your shots in post processing to B&W.

6. Set your camera / lens to manual focus, and pre-focus on areas in the court where action is likely to happen, eg, a couple of different spots along the net, the position for serves, etc.

7. It's a numbers game. Shoot plenty of shots. They cost nothing and no one ever has to (or should) see the rejects.

HTH,

Tom M
 

Tierrat

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Assuming I know what you are talking about ( which I really dont ) maybe you can give me just a little more help info how to make all these changes. They are a lot of buttons here and none say the things you are talking about. I am really sorry for being a pain but I really have know idea how to make these changes.
Thanks again Tom for the help.
 

Tom Mann

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Unfortunately, I'm a Nikon guy & don't own that camera. You're going to have to find someone who knows all the controls on that particular model or look it up yourself. Sorry,

Tom
 

Tierrat

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Thanks again I am getting ready to head out right now, thanks again Tom for all your help and I will let you know how things work out.
 

shbphoto

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I realize this is a slightly older thread, but I thought in case someone stumbles upon it in the future, like I did, it would be good to have this info.
To set ISO press button marked ISO and turn the wheel in front of the shutter button.

To set your camera to aperture priority mode turn the knob on the top of the camera to AV.

Turn the main dial while watching the f number on the LCD screen to adjust the aperture to 2.8 (or lowest number available.

To set quality (RAW+JPEG) first press the menu button on the back of the camera. The menu that appears on the back of the camera should have quality already select at the top. Using the arrows that surround the select button, use the one to the right to enter the quality setting to pick RAW+JPEG, or whatever quality selection you want to use (using the up or down arrow keys).

To set the camera to manual focus you use a switch on the lens.
 

Steve

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To expand on something Tom recommended, shooting RAW.
If you're going to shoot RAW don't use auto white balance.
Take a few test shots and use the setting that looks the best even if you're not 100% satisfied.
It will probably be tungsten or fluorescent
.
That way all your images are exactly the same.
When you open the image in your Raw editor you can make a single White Balance adjustment that will work on all the images.
If you use Photoshop you can batch correct all of them by editing just one.

You can also take some test shots for exposure, find a good combination of aperture and shutter speed and set your camera to manual with those settings.
That guarantees your shutter speed stays where it's set.

Be aware if your lens is f2.8 at 70mm the aperture will change to f5.6 or higher if you zoom to 200mm.
This will underexpose the image but guarantee you keep your shutter speed.
I wouldn't worry about that when shooting RAW , it has a greater dynamic range.
 

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