View Full Version : Need help shooting night football games

09-16-2008, 05:36 AM
Hi guys, I'm new to photography and new to this site. I'm having trouble getting good photos of my son's football team during night games. The day shots are clear and bright, under the lights I get a lot of blur-many of the photos get deleted. I've talked to other photographers and everyone complains about the lighting, haven't gotten a lot of guidance.

I'm a fan of sony products and bought the best camera I could find, a DSLR a100. The lense I'm using is 4.5-5.6/75-300. I figured this would do the trick but now I realize this is one complicated beast.

So this is how I've set it up for night games:
ISO 1600
WB Flourescent
D-Range optimizer D-R+
Color Dec standard

Shutter 1000
Aperature F5.6

When I'm shooting I leave the dial on A. Any help would be appriciated.


09-16-2008, 12:03 PM
Is it motion blur or is the camera misfocusing? At 1/1000 sec SS I wouldn't think you'd be seeing much blur.

09-16-2008, 12:24 PM
Perhaps you could post a picture or two to show what the problem is. It's kind of hard to offer advice without examples

09-16-2008, 04:30 PM
If you are shooting in "A" mode or Aperture priority mode, when you slect 5.6 the camera selects the shutter speed. There is no way using a 5.6 aperture that you will be using a 1/1000 shutter speed, football fields are not lit that brightly. You might want to try "S" mode and set the shutter speed to 1/100 and see how that works, if the pictures are to dark you need a faster lens, (wider aperture) slower shutter speed or more light.

09-17-2008, 02:32 PM
I shoot with the A700 and the Tamron 70-300 at football and it is very hard to get unblurred images even with S mode and that lens aperture the only way to lose the blur is to have VERY dark images. I can stand on the sidelines and try and stand in as much a "lightpool" as I can, get shots of players when they are sitting up, or just starting to move. A 2.8 lens is the real answer! as it gets darker each Friday night now, I am done shooting by haltime till my new lens gets in. Go down to the Sony DSLR forum here and do some reading, we have talked about sports shooting on and off over the last month. and FYI Sparkie there has A100 and gets some very nice shots.

09-17-2008, 08:59 PM
Thanks for the replies. Here are a few photos taken with settings as mentioned above.

I've had similar problems with photographing volleyball and basketball games in poorly lit gyms.

http://images.photos.walmart.com/232323232%7Ffp43283%3Enu%3D3238%3E696%3E787%3EWSNR CG%3D3233539639933nu0mrj

http://images.photos.walmart.com/232323232%7Ffp43284%3Enu%3D3238%3E696%3E787%3EWSNR CG%3D323353963%3B358nu0mrj

http://images.photos.walmart.com/232323232%7Ffp43288%3Enu%3D3238%3E696%3E787%3EWSNR CG%3D32335395%3C%3A7%3B7nu0mrj

09-17-2008, 09:13 PM
It's just not a "fast" enough lens for the lighting conditions, need a dedicated flash unit, and / or faster glass. brace yourself firmly use the SSS, try and avoid tracking the action, shoot on set ups, players just starting to move, end of play. Indoor at most high schools and even colleges are badly light for photography. almost MUST have a fast quality lens, also remember high school Vball you CAN'T use flash!

09-17-2008, 09:44 PM
Yeah, not enough light. You need a faster lens (read: expensive). I don't think the shutter speed you listed earlier was accurate.

09-17-2008, 10:09 PM
He may be moving the lens with the action while shooting, it takes awhile to"hold tight"
yayaginy it looks like your down close, try moving under one of the light poles, let the action come to you, try and shoot when close and under max light for location. With lenses I have I can not shoot from half time on down with the darkness, unless I use the 50mm prime 1.7 which is not practical at all for action sports!

09-17-2008, 10:33 PM
I do follow the action too much-I coached these kids when they were in midget football. Yes I'm on the sideline. These photos are put on fanfare for all the kids to see/download. I tried to take some shots from the end zone but the lighting is brutal.

I'm going to buy an extension pole for the next game, that should help keep the camera steady. Also I'll monkey around with the settings. Thanks again for the help.

09-17-2008, 11:12 PM
The a100 has issues with ISO settings in excess of 800, so for a decent shot, that's the limit.

Factoring that into the lighting equation with what you have left ... shooting at less than 1/125 is going to giving you motion blur. People are moving pretty quick in football, until the pile up. So, basically, you know that you have two decent limitations to your shots ... all that is left is aperture.

Of course, even a 200mm f/2 limits the focus for anything other than the subject, when it is wide open. That means, if you are photographing the quarterback, he is the only one in focus, everyone else will not be, because of the shallow Depth of Field at that aperture.

Currently, the widest long SONY lens is the CZ 135mm f/1.8 ($1399). This is one hell of a piece of glass, though. The brightest lens in the length. On the A100, A200, A300, A350 or A700, it is effectively the same as a 200mm shot your would get on the new A900 or the old 35mm-film Minolta Maxxum 9 or 9000.

For a night or under-the-light shot, this is it. I don't shoot football, but I may be able to get to the local high school, Friday night, and see what I can get. The game is at 7:30PM, so the sun is gone.

Obviously, if this works ... I will post something .. if not, I will still post something but I'm blaming it on Frank. Sorry, Pal. :rolleyes:

The point being, you need light that you just don't have, so you need a light-grabbin' lens. Now, the CZ 135mm f/1.8 is the best, fastest to autofocus (AF) lens I have in my bag. It is also heavier (35 oz) than any other PRIME I own. After that, the next longer lens would be the TAMRON SP AF 180mm f/3.5 Di LD MACRO (32.5 oz) ($579) ... but, that lens is so slow to autofocus, I'd probably miss half the action using it, so I would have to elect to go with using it in manual focus (MF). Now, don't think that manual focus is bad or anything like that. It just takes a good eye ... and the help of a focusing grid, if at all possible. If not ... make sure your diopter adjustment on the viewfinder is "tuned up" for your eye. They really had another mission in mind, when they designed that lens, but it can work for this.

Cost-wise, the decision goes to the 180mm f/3.5 ... but, again, you have to manual focus for this particular use. It has a beautifully big manual focus grip so that is definitely an advantage doing that. You will have sure grip as you focus ... and believe it or not, it will be a minor adjustment, because in manual focus, the lens stays pretty much in the same focal area as you left it in. Only small adjustments will be needed, once you know the range you are working at. (Personally, this is the lens I would opt for and if it doesn't work for you, take it back ... just be fair and work with it. For the money, it is choice.) It is also one hell of a MACRO lens. LOL :D


Here's a Chicago bear I shot with it. Note the fluidity of the motion ... :rolleyes: The reason I posted this image was that I want to demonstrate the shallow DOF of this particular lens @ f/3.5 ... cool lookin', huh? Paw in focus, head is not.


I hope this is helpful. Night shots are the most expensive you will probably ever take ... well, next to astrophotography. Then, it's "to the moon, Alice!"

09-17-2008, 11:57 PM
I do follow the action too much-I coached these kids when they were in midget football. Yes I'm on the sideline. These photos are put on fanfare for all the kids to see/download. I tried to take some shots from the end zone but the lighting is brutal.

I'm going to buy an extension pole for the next game, that should help keep the camera steady. Also I'll monkey around with the settings. Thanks again for the help.

It's not going to help. You need faster glass, period.

09-19-2008, 10:17 AM
Get close, stay in the light, shoot early shoot often, shoot when players aren't moving, firm support, SSS, high ISO, shoot the huddle, the line up before the snap, coaches meeting with the boys during time outs,"move as close as you can" shoot the players watching on the sidelines, water breaks, during measurements when players are "standing around" not really action shots put some nice candid shots with any luck. I know it is frustrating but you should be able to get some "acceptable" shots if this is just for fun and sharing with the kids. These are all just options, the only answer IS bigger better faster glass, and I still need mine also LOL.

09-19-2008, 08:33 PM
Okay ... just got back from the game.

Man, that CZ 135mm f/1.8 ... awesome lens for this stuff ... but, you pay dearly.

Here's a straight-from-the-camera Touchdown sequence using the TAMRON SP AF 180mm f/3.5 Di LD 1:1 MACRO in manual focus.

EXIF Data: 180mm - f/4 - 1/200 sec - ISO-1600 - Manual Focus - Stadium Lighting


Yeah, the OTHER team ... they scored.

09-19-2008, 08:39 PM
Here's a couple from the A700 w/ CZ 135 f/1.8

EXIF Data (for both shots): 135mm - f/2 - 1/500 sec - ISO 1600 - Spot Focus - Stadium lighting





Did you miss that? Well then, how about BOTH? Pass & Completion!


Ah, the magic of Photomerge ... LOL :D

09-19-2008, 08:53 PM
I don't mean to rush you ... oh, yes I do!


EXIF Data: 135mm - f/2.8 - 1/250th sec - ISO-1600 - Spot Focus - Stadium Lighting

09-19-2008, 09:03 PM
Okay, class ... where's the blur? Yes, in your mind! At 1/200th ... there is none, unless the kicker is kicking.


EXIF Data: 180mm - f/4 - 1/200 sec - ISO-1600 - Manual Focus - Stadium Lighting

See the ball? Oops, look down by the kicker's rump! OMG! :eek:

09-19-2008, 09:06 PM
Nice work Don I just got back a little while ago from my game, had to wait for the daufghter to get out from band. Don't you just "love" what those stadium lights do to the grass colors LOL. I took the Tokina tonight, man does it eat up the light! may post if I have anything worth it.

09-19-2008, 09:15 PM
As you can tell, the 180mm f/3.5 is clearly darker than the CZ 135mm f/1.8. I wasn't expecting much different, but the TAMRON can hold its own, in that exposure level. It's a lot more work using it ... because you are manually focusing. If I had the "super fast to focus" Minolta AF 200mm f/2.8 (discontinued) and the Sony CZ 135mm f/1.8, I could have easily worked the field from where I was standing. The 70-200mm f/2.8 would have also been a good lens for the test, but, I don't have one ... yet. :(

It's usually better buying the brighter glass for this kind of activity. If you are planning on using it for a couple of seasons, depreciate the cost, and it will appear to easily pay for itself in great, "not missed" and focused shots.

Forget using an f/4-5.6 type lens ... just too dark. It was kind of close using the f/3.5 glass.

But, hey ... I gave it a shot. :)

BTW: You will notice than when you are shooting with 250th sec or faster, your lighting will constantly be changing, that is because these huge lights PULSATE at 60 cycles per second, so you will catch at different points in their cycle, where they will be dim and then bright. It's a weird effect, but that's what happens at high speed shutter.

Here's a decent kick sequence to shows the effect ...


you'd think it was white balance, but it's not. It's the nature of 60-cycle power.

Yeah, he also missed the darn ball! :( The kicking really was atrocious, on both sides, tonight.

Anyway, this is my first football game shoot ... comments? I hope it helped demonstrate ... the need for SPEED!

09-19-2008, 09:46 PM
OK here are some right from the camera, trimmed and cropped quick and resized to post and thats all. used my "new" Tokina 80-400mm 4.5-6 mostly in S mode auto ISO auto wb SSS on.
cycle rate on the lights of course, damn I should have known that, been trying to figure it all season LOL.

09-19-2008, 09:50 PM
as the night goes on, I only shot to the very start of second quarter

09-19-2008, 10:06 PM
Okay ... cough up the EXIF data ... let's make some sense of this

09-19-2008, 10:27 PM
lol man you guys just want want lol o.k. sorry be on the way

09-19-2008, 10:31 PM
Look ... we had a seriously injured player in the middle of the second quarter ... after that, I gave up. I snapped a few and white balanced the shot.



09-19-2008, 10:46 PM
Back board and c-collar not a good sign, always better safe then sorry.......any idea how he's doing?

09-19-2008, 10:57 PM
I hope this is o.k. quicker then reposting all the pics.
All shots are in standard scene mode with a 0 - +1 - +3 auto WB SSS on

#1 - pile up - 7:01 P.M. 100mm 1/125sec. f4.5 ISO.250 S mode spot meter.

#2 - cheerleaders - 7:05 P.M. 150mm 1/125sec. f5.0 ISO.250 S mode spot

#3 - #66 - 7:07 P.M. 230mm 1/100sec. f5.6 ISO.500 S mode spot meter

#4 - QB - 7:08 P.M. 230mm 1/100sec. f5.6 ISO.400 S mode spot meter

#5 - #53 - 7:16 P.M. 330mm 1/200sec. f5.6 ISO,1250 S mode spot meter

look at that ISO climbing!

09-19-2008, 11:04 PM
timeout - 7:22 P.M. 160mm 1/200sec. f5.0 ISO.1600 S mode spot meter

QB roll out - 7:24 P.M. 200mm 1/200sec. f5.0 ISO.1600 S mode spot meter

hike! - 7:35 P.M. 280mm 1/160sec. f5.6 ISO.1600 S mode spot meter

cheer guys - 7:39 P.M. 80mm 1/100sec. f4.5 ISO.1600 S mode spot meter

09-19-2008, 11:06 PM
No word on the injury. My son no longer is a high school student ... graduated back in 2007. There is no telling when or if I will hear anything further.

I could have stayed the whole game, but when the score got to Visitors 27 - Home 0, before half-time ... I kind of lost interest in the angry crowd. LOL

09-20-2008, 08:03 PM
Guys I drove into NYC to visit B&H camera yesterday to buy a lense. Unfort. they didn't have ANYTHING in stock with a 2.8A for my sony a100! New or used! I was shocked-this place is huge.

Anyway, Don the sharpness of your photos are really impressive. What lense would you recommend for that use with my camera? Where is the best place to order a lense online and get it in a few days? I'd like to have it by the next night game-Friday.

As always thanks for the help.


09-20-2008, 08:54 PM
Well, the sharpest lens is the SONY CZ 135mm f/1.8 (http://www.sonystyle.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10551&storeId=10151&langId=-1&productId=11040962) (<- click on link) hands down. Have SONY ship it to you, overnight.

With this lens, you will not be light starved if there is light! On the A100 it acts like a 200mm telephoto lens would on a 35mm-film camera.

It will spoil you for anything else, believe me. A freind of mine, from the Canon forum, "CW", suggested this lens a year ago ... I finally got it back in July ... and it turned out this shot:


After that, I was sold!

Good luck with your new lens. :D


09-23-2008, 06:27 AM
OK got the lense (CZ 135).

Settings I'm thinking of when the sun goes down:

ISO 1600
metering mode multi segment
AF wide
WB flourescent
D-range opt. D_R+

I'll try to shoot in S at 400 or more

If it's too dark I'll be shooting in A so i think the aperature sets the shutter speed right?

Would you tweak anything?


09-23-2008, 11:30 AM
Not sure if this is right wrong or better LOL but I have found in shooting soccer and football a few things seem to work better for me. ISO at auto, like all the Alpha's you get above 800 and it gets noisy, on auto some of my shots have been at 1000 and 1600 but don't "force" it that high if you don't need to. WB flourescent ISNT the best choice for stadium lights will give you a "funny" color cast, try AWB and see what you get, WB is NOT my strong area LOL. dark under the lights I think you will need to go to S - 500 to "freeze" the action, But I have never used the CZ lens, it is supposed to be amazing! S mode and high speed drive for sports action, wide AF DR or DR+ I use DR+ I like spot metering myself, with multi I "catch" other things as my focus point, but that may well just be me. hand held SSS ON! and post pics, Just my ideas not saying the best

09-23-2008, 05:00 PM
OK got the lense (CZ 135).

Settings I'm thinking of when the sun goes down:

ISO 1600
metering mode multi segment
AF wide
WB flourescent
D-range opt. D_R+

I'll try to shoot in S at 400 or more

If it's too dark I'll be shooting in A so i think the aperature sets the shutter speed right?

Would you tweak anything?



I'd play it a little different than what you are suggesting.

135mm @ f/2 or f/2.4 or f/2.8 (Whatever you can tolerate)
Speed at 250 - 350 - 500
ISO-800 or 1600 (Since it is an A100 ... stick with ISO-800)
AF Area = SPOT AF Area
WB = 4000K or AWB (see which works for you)
D-Range is fine with D_R+ (You also might try shutting it off ... just as a test)

Also, select DEC with your left knob and bump sharpness up to +3 and contrast to +3. We're going to make this bad boy work, tonight!

Camera Mode = "M" (You control the aperture and shutter speed. You will be close to the settings you will need, anyway ... as this is "night shooting", do not let the camera decide anything. You must stay in control of your exposure.

If the exposure is:

"too bright" ... tighten up the aperture a click or two.

"too dark" ... open the aperture. Then drop the speed a click. Try to stay away from aperture f/1.8, as the DOF really makes things a little too soft looking. This is more of an artistry setting than a partical one for this kind of shoot)

Remember, the lighting is effectively "constant" in this venue ... the camera should not NEED to adjust anything. Just stick with manual and make little changes.

Good luck ;)

Also, if you cannot get the shots with this lens, there isn't much else that will.

09-23-2008, 08:09 PM
Sean and Don-holy crap! Wow, my heads spinning. OK, I printed out your suggestions. The lens should be here tomorrow.

Thanks again for your help. If you've ever read the manual for this camera it absolutely sux. I've learned more in the two weeks I've been on this site than 2 years of reading the manual and experimenting with the camera.

I'll post some photos over the weekend.

09-24-2008, 01:18 PM
I tried to read the A700 manual, and I got the A700 field guide not bad for a beginer like me, but really not the best. I read and watched the forums here for a few months before I got the camera, and asked lots of questions since then. I have said before the forums here are some of the best I have seen, and are a great learning tool. Come on "down" to the Sony DSLR forum and read and hang out with us! next thing you know all of your spare time will involve shooting images, and changing settings!!

09-28-2008, 07:45 PM
I wonder how things worked out for 'YAYAGINKY'?

This was a pretty big move with glass. :cool:

09-28-2008, 07:51 PM
yea yayaginky, show us what ya shot, and what settings!!

10-01-2008, 07:08 PM
thanks for tips

10-30-2008, 09:03 PM
I would just like to offer a couple of thoughts.

I may have missed it in this thread, but first and foremost, I suggest shooting raw and ignoring the WB until you get home. I have shot in approximately 10 different high school stadiums, and the white balance is just a little (up to a lot) different in each of them. I'm not going to waste my time at the game trying to figure it out. Having post software like Lightroom makes this easier, since I can adjust the first photo, and sync the rest to get the required WB setting to all of the pictures.

As white balance at each field is different, so is the light intensity. I have a local school with lighting that rivals a major university, and I have more than one that is like shooting in the parking lot. I lower my expectations in the parking lot.

You can't beat fast glass, and ISO 3200.

I just bought a D300, and I haven't really proven myself worthy of it yet, but, eventually I will.

Photos, mostly taken with my now departed Pentax K10D can be seen at www.kbanes.net

10-30-2008, 09:33 PM
Hey "kbanes", welcome to the DCRP! The Nikon bunch will be happy to have a new club member.

Thanks for your comments and suggestions concenring the infamous "high school night shoot." It's always an exprensive challenge for parents of the footballer, to get those shots. Easily $2000-3000 more than most parents, when you toss in the obligatory glass.

Enjoy your time, here. Lots going on in Nikon-land, this year.

11-06-2008, 07:31 PM
Sorry I disappeared...working 2 jobs right now. I'm extremely happy with the photos now:



Very frustrated :(

Tried every setting in the book

After-with new lense






Number 78 is my son, he's getting recruited for a full ride (fingers are crossed)

Anyway, thanks again for the help, I've shot over 3k photos with the new lense and I've deleted very few due to poor quality.

Settings for night games:
A 1.8
S 400
Metering-multi segment
spot AF
ISO 1600
Auto White Balance
D-range D-R+
Contrast +2
Saturation +1
Sharpness +2

Shooting in M mode.

During one night game I talked to a guy who was field testing a brand new nikon prototype. This was a serious camera-his shutter speed was 8,000 in the first half and 25,000 in the second half. When he shot in continous mode it sounded like an automatic weapon going off. Didn't get the model # or price.

11-06-2008, 08:31 PM
More photos






11-06-2008, 08:39 PM
As you can see when we get near the end zone the lighting is really weak. I've been downloading into adobe photoshop 6, what other programs are out there that could brighten/sharpen some of these photos?

11-07-2008, 12:54 PM
Wow so what do you think good glass helps make good pictures, and great glass well speaks for itself eh. If you look in the Sony forum we have had a ongoing thread about adjusting for low light high ISO shots that has really improved on some of the images, worth checking it out.

11-07-2008, 01:21 PM
I am getting Red "X"s all over the place for images. Where are these coming from? Your photo-parser is doing a rather poor job. Only two images actually showed up for review.

YAYAGINKY, I would like to echo the idea of you coming on down to the SONY DSLR forum, when you get a chance.