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Advice on camera settings

Alan Russo , Feb 15, 2008; 11:15 p.m.

Hi - I shot my first basketball game yesterday (outdoors) at work, and while I was really happy with the composition, I was disappointed to see that the shots were all a bit soft. This was exacerbated when I converted from RAW to JPEG to share with the guys on the team.

I was using a Canon 5D, Tv priority 1/500. ISO 500. The lens was a 70-200mm f/2.8L. The apertures were in the 4-5.6 range, with a polarized filter to cut down on the sun's glare.

What settings would you typically use to get tack-sharp action photos with acceptable depth of field? I'd like the aperture to be narrow enough so that the the 2-3 players relevant to the action will all be sharp, not just the ball or the one player I focused on. How high would you go on ISO when shooting outdoors as to not have too much grain?

Thanks for the advice!



David Haas , Feb 16, 2008; 06:10 a.m.

Alan -

An example photo might help but here's what I would do...

ISO no higher than 400. Autofocus center point / continuous server mode. Shutter speed 1/500 aperture 5.6

What program are you using to covert to JPEG?


William W , Feb 16, 2008; 07:44 p.m.

>>> I was disappointed to see that the shots were all a bit soft <<< (AR)

Please analyse (or post examples) and accurately define `soft`:

1. Focus in front or behind key subject / photographer reaction time / inappropriate AF procedure

2. Slight subject movements (1/500 might just be too slow)

3. Underexposure / inappropriate AE

4. Too shallow DoF / FL too long

5. Camera jitter (yes, I read Tv = 1/500)

6. OoF on near shots only / AF selection at 3m to infinity

7. Inferior PF

8. Combination of any or all.

Please reconfirm the lens is: EF 70 to 200F2.8L USM (i.e. not IS version)

A few image examples might help comments.

>>> What settings would you typically use to get tack-sharp action photos with acceptable depth of field? <<< (AR)

I should be happy with 1/500sec in most instances for BBall, but being outside I think I would most likely use 1/640 or even 1/800

The DoF when working this lens is greatly dependent upon the SD (Subject Distance) and the Focal length.

I know that previous statement is obvious: what I am meaning is the awareness of this fact is very important.

I have mental `go` and `no go` areas etched into my brain, as I use exactly this lens, usually at F2.8 or F3.5, for swimming events.

This is why I am, without image evidence, I am leaning towards a DoF and or an Auto Focus issue which is bothering you: rather than the lens being `soft` or something else.

Just for clarification, and as an example:

From my rules which I commit to memory:

At 200mm I need to work at 20 to 25 ft for the Half Shot on a 5D (Vertical Framed Image)

My `rules` tell me I have DoF @ F2.8 = 6 inches, and then add 3 inches for each stop, thus:

F2.8 = 6

F4.0 = 9

F5.6 = 12

F 8.0 = 15

At F8 it is probably more DoF, especially at 25 ft, but I hardly use F8, and at F2.8 @ 20ft I have probably less DoF: understand these are my rules` and are my shooting `guide` only, from using a 200mm on a film SLR covering sports.

The point is you can see there is not much to play with at F4: and this fact, combined with a little AF issue could just be the causes of your concerns.


Alan Russo , Feb 16, 2008; 11:12 p.m.

William/David, Thank you for your responses. I am using Photoshop Elements 6.0 to do my conversions. The lens is a 70-200 f/2.8L with IS, which was on in mode 1 (X & Y stablization). Attached are 2 images which are examples of what I'm experiencing. The first is converted to max quality JPEG, resized to allow for posting here. It's a shot I like taken from about 20-25 feet away as one of the guys muscles though for a lay up. The second is a crop of his face and part of his hand with the image at 100% magnification. Here is where you can see what I mean by soft. When I take portraits or architecture or landscape photos, the images are tack sharp at 100%, and prints are very satisfying. Obviously - movement is negligible, and I often use a tripod. While it may not be possible to get exactly that same quality of image, I've seen lots sharper than what I took! Image 1: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bikecrazy/2270676208/ Image 2: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bikecrazy/2270676272/ Your advice is appreciated! Alan

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