View Full Version : How to deal with low light action shots

05-28-2011, 02:36 AM
I was asked to take some action shots of a friends dogs yesterday and the location he picked was relativly dark. Below is one of the best photos I obtained.

This is about 70% of the original photo and the settings were: ISO800 1/250 f5.6

The others were mainly blurred or out of focus.

If I had a faster lens I could have reduced the aperture but that would reduce the depth of field.
The smallest aperture on my lens at this zoom setting was f5.6

This morning I thought to myself I could have used a flash but would this have been the way to go or is there something else I could have done?

05-28-2011, 04:02 AM
Not a bad result.
In fact, you seem to have a good understanding for the problem. There isn't much you can do except to get a faster lens such as a constant F/2.8, then your shutter speed would be 1/1000 (at F/2.8) instead of F/5.6.
A flash would give you better result assuming it's not out of reach.
Or you can set to higer ISO. That will give you sharper shot but more grainy images.

05-28-2011, 05:58 AM
Or change the location of the shoot next time. Explain photography 101 to your friend before you go out.

05-28-2011, 06:15 AM
Looks pretty decent based on the constraints. As has been noted action photography in particular is often a balance of compromises. Dark or mixed light and animals are probably the worst. At least at athletic events the area of action and direction can be somewhat predicted, but animals tend to dart much more randomly. I have been facing those same challenges as I try to catch my hawk family in flight. I sure would love to get f8 & 1/640 shots, but really don't want to go above ISO 800. Under the leaf canopy that would require ISO3200.

05-28-2011, 07:22 AM
Thanks for the replys and your answers confirmed my suspicions.
I worked up to ISO 800 and decided it was to be my maximium and at anything less than 1/250th I had movement blur. I think the f5.6 was a bit shallow as well as anything at a slight angle had some part of the dogs out of focus. This would have been a problem with a F2.8 lens unless I used it to my advantage and moved around more so the dog was jumping more at me? Something to think about next time and may have improved the first photo attached. I suppose this could then cause other problems.

Or change the location of the shoot next time. Explain photography 101 to your friend before you go out.
These are gun dogs and he wanted them in a Gun dog sort of enviroment for his website. I think it would have worked on a sunny day as a couple more stops would have been OK. But as you say he does not understand photography and I was lead to belive were were taking some photos of the dogs sitting or standing not in action.

For the second lot of photos we moved to a more open area and that made all the difference ISO400 1/320th F7.1:

I was just supprised that a slightly overcast day had such an effect; I have only taken static photos with this camera so far.

Dark or mixed light and animals are probably the worst. The photos of the second dog were harder as it was a black labrador

05-28-2011, 07:57 AM
Yeah, they aren't bad considering. If you want better results you are just going to have to pick your lighting a little better. You could always go with a strobist-style lighting kit. Assuming the dogs are pretty well trained it shouldn't be hard to get them to repeat behaviors till you get the perfect shot.

05-28-2011, 03:42 PM
The last shot is great. You should be happy with it. I expect a black dog to be harder, the same problem as a human with dark complexion.
Now that you consider anything less than 5.6 is too shallow and anything higher than ISO800 is unacceptable, the only thing left is to improve on lighting. Either a flash or change location as suggested already.
You have to give your friend a crash course in lighting. 'Slightly' overcast sky doesn't have much effect on our eyes because they are connected to a brain but for a camera and a lens it's different.

05-31-2011, 04:52 AM
The last shot is great.

Thanks for the comment Tim; the few people I show my photos to all like that one as well.

06-07-2011, 10:42 PM
You could also experiment with panning your camera and see how you like that. It will also help to blur out the background a bit if this is something that you are interested in. Great shot.

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