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Indoor Sports Photography

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Frankman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Indoor Sports Photography
    Posted: 13 January 2012 at 23:51
Many of you will instantly recognise Magnus' (Swede66) icehockey shots on Dyxum. Magnus has perfected the art of indoor sports photography in challenging environments, and in thei article, he shares a few of his "trade secrets". Please enjoy the read and feel free to ask questions - that way we all learn!

Many thanks for the article Magnus.

Cheers, Frank


Introduction   

I have always been interested in sports. From the age of 6 I have played football (soccer), baseball, cross country skiing, hockey, golf, bandy and floorball in organized leagues. I have also tried speedskating, slalom, curling, bowling and tennis.

Now, having photography as main hobby I have tried to combine my interest for sports with my photography. I try to see my son play football and tennis regularly and I always bring my camera bag. During winter Iím fortunate to be one of the appointed game photographers for our local bandy team which plays in the 2nd highest division and also have a rinkside badge to Allsvenskan, which is the 2nd highest hockeyleague in Sweden. I havenít tried to shoot another team than my favourite team Leksand though but Iím tempted to try an away game some day soon.

My bandy shots are mostly used on the team website and my hockey shots are used for various publications but also sold.

Ramblings you think, not really, my point with this introduction is, that having played a certain sport is a huge advantage and makes it easier to get the shots you want, that stands out from the others. To know where the action is gonna happen is critical to get the good shots. Trying to follow the game only will make you trigger the shutter a fraction to late and miss the key moments instead of anticipating situations and trusting your instincts.

In this article Iím going to concentrate on shooting indoors. I hope that you will find this interesting.

The gear:   
Cameras:     A77 and a700 A77. The a77 is the main camera for its high frame rate, focus and tracking capabilities
     
Lenses:      Sony 70-200 2,8G, CZ 24-70 2,8, Minolta 300 4G and Sigma 10-20
I mainly use the 70-200 but the other lenses also see some use in certain situations.

I never use a tripod or monopod at indoor venues as they are useless in what I do but at more static sports I can see it could be of use, especially when trying to get specific situations in a game like a tennis/volleyballplayer serving in low light etc.

Bring everything you got in memory cards!!!

The Settings:
I always shoot in manual but use auto white balance. Typically I have the following settings:

     A77     F 2,8-3,5 and ISO 1000 to get speeds at 1/ 250-350. I havenít really shot that much with this camera so thereís still much to learn and up till now Iím still experimenting between AF-S and AF-C. Finally I donít use the 12 fps mode but rather the 10 fps mode and shoot bursts of 3-6 shots
     
     A700     F 2,8-3,5 and ISO 800 to get speeds at 1/250-350. I only use the AF-S since the AF-C is to slow on the a700 and shoot bursts of 3-5 shots.

Finding the right settings can be tricky since the light varies at indoor arenas. Always be at the venue in time for the warmup which is the perfect opportunity to find the right settings.


During the game I always try to aim at the faces of the players as different colored jerseys etc can fool the metering if you donít shoot in manual. Another advantage of aiming at faces is that, IMHO, a face in the adds so much more to the picture. A sports photo without a face is less interesting. Of course there are exceptions to this but in most cases you need to get a face in the frame. Some players have very funny or ďspeakingĒ facial expressions when skating or shooting and if you get those in the picture you have a keeper.

I also try to decide beforehand what I want from the game, is there a special player I want to follow, do I want to experiment with motion-blur or do I just want to get as many good action shots as possible. Lately I have tried to get at least some wideangle shots from every game, if you do it right, you get a very different and interesting shot. For these shots the a700 gets to see some action and is very dependable.

I would like to go back to the gear. When shooting indoor sports you need good lenses with large aperture capabilities like my Sony 70-200 2,8 or lenses like the Minolta 200 2,8G or 300 2,8G. For fast paced sports itís also very useful to have high speed focussing lenses like the Sony SSM or Minolta HS lenses. There are other 70-200 2,8 lenses on the market but I have only tried an old Sigma which wasnít very good and the Minolta 80-200 HS 2,8G that was almost as good as the Sony Iíve got now. You can of course use less specialized lenses for shooting sports but it will be harder and you will have to compromise as less light will hit the sensor. If you donít want crank up your ISO you can actually turn this into an advantage and add another element into you shots. I talk about motion blur which is a great effect in sports photography, it takes a lot of practising but it adds so much if done correctly. Otherwise, look for situations where players are slow enough to get a decent shot, know the limitations of your equipment and wait for the right moment.

Post processing:

I always shoot in RAW. During my first screening in Adobe Bridge, I delete everything without a face, thatís not sharp, shots with cut legs/sticks/heads or just boring pictures. Be hard on yourself here or you will end up with lots of similar shots. Thatís nothing but a waste of space. In Camera Raw I adjust white balance if necessary then exposure. In Photoshop I crop if needed, use levels to get the black really black, adds a little color and finally adjust brightness. Sometimes I need to remove some noise, especially after shooting on higher ISO in smaller arenas but thatís it! Remember when editing high ISO shots that you must be careful when sharpening as you will also increase visible noise. Reducing the size also reduces the noise after sharpening can be applied with caution!

I have probably forgotten something but feel free to post any question you may have and I will try to answer with the best of my knowledge. Thanks for reading and I hope you have learnt something.

Some Results:

Static moment in the game


Wide Angle shot


Making it just a little more interesting with motion blur


Facial expressions




Peak action

*** Sony A850 * A700 * Minolta 5D and other stuff ***
 



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revdocjim View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote revdocjim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 January 2012 at 00:08
Thanks Magnus. Your hockey shots are always a pleasure to view and your explanations are great. I have been using the same cameras (A700 and now A77) for lots of indoor sports so there's lots I can relate to.

Actually I'm jealous of your settings because of the great lighting. My main indoor sports are volleyball and basketball. These games are in high school gyms so the lighting is inconsistent and even in the best settings nothing close to a professional hockey arena. The result is that in almost all of my games f/2.8 is simply not fast enough. I have ended up having to use my 85/1.4 at f/2.2 or in really dark gyms f/2 which is obviously not ideal. I had hoped the A77 would have better high ISO performance to make f/2.8 usable but alas... The other issue with gym lighting is that it cycles through all the colors 60 times a second so with fast shutter speeds the colors will vary widely from frame to frame. This makes for a lot of work in PP to get consistent colors in the final product.

Anyway, thanks for the great article. (Oh BTW, a minor detail but isn't the second fastest mode on the A77 8fps rather than 10fps?)
Gallery A7S, A7Rii, Batis 18/2.8, 25/2 Sony 35/2.8, 55/1.8, 90/2.8M, 24-105/4, Minolta 135STF, 200/2.8 Blog
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Frankman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 January 2012 at 00:40
Hi Jim - yes you are correct, the A77 shoots at 12, 8 and 3 FPS in the various modes.

I agree that Magnus is fortunate to have good lighting for these games, affording him the luxury of higher shutter speeds at moderate ISO. In a way, shooting pro games is easier than amateur indoor sport because the lighting is so much better in the former.

Jim, what sort of shutter speeds and ISO are you shooting when your aperture is f2.2?

Cheers, Frank
*** Sony A850 * A700 * Minolta 5D and other stuff ***
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Post Options Post Options   Quote revdocjim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 January 2012 at 03:00
In my kids' home gym I shoot at ISO2500 and get shutter speeds between 1/400s and 1/800s for night games. Here is last night's gallery: http://www.pbase.com/revdocjim/bbb11yokota2 As you can see, even after PP my colors are all over the place. I could take more time but I shoot 2-4 games a week and tend to rush through PP a bit.
Gallery A7S, A7Rii, Batis 18/2.8, 25/2 Sony 35/2.8, 55/1.8, 90/2.8M, 24-105/4, Minolta 135STF, 200/2.8 Blog
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Asiir Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 January 2012 at 23:06
Originally posted by revdocjim revdocjim wrote:

The other issue with gym lighting is that it cycles through all the colors 60 times a second so with fast shutter speeds the colors will vary widely from frame to frame. This makes for a lot of work in PP to get consistent colors in the final product.

I didn't realize this but it is very handy to know.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Asiir Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 January 2012 at 23:15
Excellent article, Magnus. Thanks for posting.
 



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Post Options Post Options   Quote brettania Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 January 2012 at 08:07
Very comprehensive, Magnus. TFS
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Swede66 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 January 2012 at 11:02
@Jim, Do you use any noise removal software. I think your shots looks so "clean" for have been shot @ ISO250?



I would like to add some shots that didn't fit in the original article.

First 2 shots from a dimly lit hall. Some friends and me plays some floorball every monday night and one night I brought my camera.

1. ISO 1600 - f2.8 and 1/250

DSC00157 by Swede66, on Flickr

2. ISO 1600 - f2.8 and 1/200

DSC00259 by Swede66, on Flickr

3. Some more motion blur from a bandygame

IFK Ršttvik vs ÷rebro by Swede66, on Flickr

4. another static moment

#34 Hanses by Swede66, on Flickr
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Post Options Post Options   Quote @Jetsplace Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 January 2012 at 02:13
Great article Impressive shots with those shutterspeeds.

Just a question.. Why shoot on manual and not shutterspeed preference?
As I shoot soccergames of my sons my preference settings are auto WB but also auto Iso but with the shutter fixed on 1/500 or something around that.
Or probably it is a silly question because most likely I already know the answer... in the icehall the light probably remains the same while outside with the soccer it is constantly changing. On manual I had or overexposed or underexposed pictures with sun on and off and I was constantly switching settings but on S - with auto iso it was more or less balanced.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote madtownkeith Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 January 2012 at 15:00
Great hockey shots. Wish I had that kind of light for my kids' indoor sports, but I know I wouldn't take advantage of it the way you do.

A couple questions for you about settings on the a77, and your focus point. What focus point/mode are you using? Do you stick with the center AF point, or do you pick one that would be closer to the faces in your compositions? I've always struggled with this - the camera seems to do best in terms of tracking the action using the center AF spot, but then you end up with faces that are slightly out of focus.

Also, how are you activating auto focus? Do you use the AF button on the back, or do you just go with the shutter.

And any further thoughts on single shot AF vs continuous?

Thanks again!
a77, Sigma 18-250, Sony 35 1.8, Sigma 70-200 HSM II, Rokinon 85 1.4, and other gear constantly on rotation :)
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Swede66 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 January 2012 at 18:12
@Jetsplace. You're right, the light changes not very much through the areas I cover with my 70-200 in the arena. If I want to shoot something off the ice I just change to aperture priority. During summer I also shoot some soccer and I use aperture priority most of the times.

@madtownkeith, I'm still experimenting a little about what autofocus to use. So far, center focus point works best but to get closer without cropping to much I would like to learn to use the zone AF function better. It's very easy to use the centerpoint AF though, then crop the uninteresting parts made possible by the high resolution results the a77 produce.

I use the shutter and the continous AF works really well so I rarely use single shot AF during a game.


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Post Options Post Options   Quote madtownkeith Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 January 2012 at 21:22
Thanks Magnus. I've tried the zone focusing a bit too, but haven't decided if I like it better than center point AF.

I did finally bite the bullet on the Sony 70-200 2.8 today, so interested to see how much better it does than my current Sigma 70-200 2.8 HSM. Hopefully, the focus limiter will really help with continuous AF.
a77, Sigma 18-250, Sony 35 1.8, Sigma 70-200 HSM II, Rokinon 85 1.4, and other gear constantly on rotation :)
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Shinebox Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 February 2013 at 13:54
Those shots are nice a crisp. I just posted a question asking for some help on this type of sports shooting. I seemed to have gotten some slightly soft shots while at an indoor roller derby event. I was using the Tamron 70-200 f2.8 with aperture at 2.8 ISO anywhere around 800-1250 depending on shots and zoom range. Single point auto focus continuous mode. All pics were a bit soft and not sharp. I mean they weren't bad but i would not certainly be happy if i was gettting paid.
Not sure if it was the lens or what. I have gotten great results at outdoor soccer games with this camera lens combo (A77 and Tammy).
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Swede66 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 March 2013 at 09:07
@madtownkeith, how do you like your 70-200G?

@Shinebox, a couple of questions: the softness you get in the shots, do you think it's motionblur or are they just slightly off focus. I have never been to a roller derby so I really don't know much about it so I was thinking would it help to prefocus?

The second thing, maybe your lens is a bit soft at aperture 2.8, compare with your shots taken at the soccergames but compare only with those at F2.8.

I would imagine that you get shutterspeeds in around 1/250-1/350 @ 2.8 and ISO around 1000, which I think would be enough but have you tried with faster shutterspeeds?
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