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What Shutter Speed to Freeze Action in Sports?

Greg Whitten , Feb 28, 2005; 11:49 a.m.

I recently shot some photos of my kids' basketball games using Eos 10D and flash. Had the camera in manual mode or in aperture priority mode. If you're asking "why" av / manual modes, the answer is that I wasn't thinking! Several of my shots were blurred, due I think to my shutter speed being too slow and relying too much on the flash to freeze the motion.

My question is, what are the general "rules of thumb" for the shutter speed necessary to freeze motion in people sports (not car racing)? With or without a flash?

Thanks.

Greg

Responses

Sean Noonan , Feb 28, 2005; 12:49 p.m.

Hi Greg,

Your shutter speed will need to vary by sport and your orientation to the action (head on vs. perdendicular), but a good rule of thumb is about 1/250 as a minimum to stop action without ghosting.

Regards,

Sean
www.stnphotography.com

Robert DiTommaso , Feb 28, 2005; 01:12 p.m.

Since you were shooting digital review the photos that stopped action well and see what the shutter speed was in the metadata. Also look at the problem photos and you will know what is too slow.

MILES FEIGENBAUM - DALLAS TEXAS , Feb 28, 2005; 02:10 p.m.

what iso speed was the cam set to?

quite often i'll shoot basketball at iso 1000 and a shutter of around 1/125th to 1/250th to show some blur , indicating action.

last week i shot from the cockpit, a 4 bladed twin engine turboprop spinning at 1850 rpm at 1/16,000th of a second and froze the blades and spinner like we were sitting in the hanger. i think the iso was set at around 400 or 800, i believe...

every gym is very different so you'll have to experiment. Quite often i'll shoot basketball without flash.

Greg Whitten , Feb 28, 2005; 04:41 p.m.

Thanks for your responses. I was shooting at "iso" 400 and 800 and just assumed that the flash would freeze the action. Next time I do this I need to get my brain out of portrait / landscape mode and into "their moving fast I need a fast shutter speed" mode!

Greg

Jim Gifford , Feb 28, 2005; 05:30 p.m.

The flash WILL freeze action when it is the predominant light source.

Most on-camera flashes run out of oomph at 15 feet or so. The falloff of illumination is proportional to the square of the distance from the flash. As distance increases, the flash provides less and less of the illumination on your subjects, and the relative contribution of ambient light therefore increases.

There are plenty of variables with which you can tinker. When you increase ISO, you also increase the range for effective flash illumination. As you open up your f-stop, you extend the flash range (but decrease the depth of field for in-focus elbows and knees during the rush to the hoop).

With people running, you can usually tame motion blur using 1/250 second or so. It's a matter of taste. Sometimes a little blur improves the impact of a sports shot.

On the other hand, I have pictures of my son playing soccer that were taken in aperture priority mode, and the shots of him in the shady side of the field are not much better than abstract art... all blur, all the time. The shots in direct sun are okay because the autoexposure circuitry would select a faster shutter speed, of course.

I could have fixed the blur problem by using shutter priority mode (In Canonese I believe that is Tv mode?) and letting the camera select the proper aperture... or by going to full manual and accepting a variety of properly exposed and underexposed (but blur-free!) shots.

I'm not fast enough to keep up with soccer players running from sun to shade if I'm using full manual mode. Some photographers -- better ones than I -- can do that.

At least in a gymnasium for basketball, you don't usually have wildly different light levels. Most gyms have consistently lousy light, all the time.

Be well,

MILES FEIGENBAUM - DALLAS TEXAS , Mar 03, 2005; 04:08 p.m.

Another thing to think about; if you speed up your shutter , you will get much darker backrounds and the entire shot can look very dingy and lifeless. I would vote for a HIGHER iso speed! That way you can keep the shutter down around 125th area for an overall better looking shot..

Michael Tuomey , Mar 05, 2005; 11:55 a.m.

Miles brings up an interesting consideration esp for indoor sports shooting where there is constant interplay between the need to shoot 1/250 at minimum to freeze action and avoiding underexposure. For me it's a rare shot that's improved with blur, unless it's deliberate panning. I shoot ap priority wide open and try to locate the sweet spots on the field of play where lighting is comparatively stronger. At these spots I try to snap out shots with reflexive composition. Fast auto focus helps a lot. Generally, I think results are best shooting with a short an exposure as possible, varying ISO to get the least noise/grain in the situation.

Good luck shooting!

Robert Sweet , Dec 25, 2010; 02:58 p.m.

Having shot hockey and basketball extensively, I shoot with TV priority, and boost the brightness or lighteness of the shot by 1 to 2 levels. This helps enhance the colors of the players jerseys and helps with the "lousy lighting" in both venues. Ultimately, I will also add light as needed in the post game processing of the shots. One critical element not mentioned in this thread, is having a card with the highest possible writing speed, I use a 90MB/sec card. Pricey, but does an amazing job.
Bob S

Robert Sweet , Dec 25, 2010; 03:01 p.m.

Having shot hockey and basketball extensively, I shoot with TV priority, and boost the brightness or lighteness of the shot by 1 to 2 levels. This helps enhance the colors of the players jerseys and helps with the "lousy lighting" in both venues. Ultimately, I will also add light as needed in the post game processing of the shots. One critical element not mentioned in this thread, is having a card with the highest possible writing speed, I use a 90MB/sec card. Pricey, but does an amazing job.
Bob S

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