I’m an amateur and just starting shooting my grandsons hockey. I’m using Nikon 18-300 f3.5 lens. My settings were 1/1000 f9 iso 5000 as it’s dark inside. Focus mode AF-C and dynamic area mode. The players’ faces are really blurry. Where it’s a fast paced game, what do I have to do to get the faces in focus. Thank you.

[1]: https://i.sstatic.net/GK2uS.jpg

Picture to show photo is not sharp but blurry


1 Answer 1


The photo is not that blurry. The face is a little blurry because the focus is set in front of the face. The hockey stick and the glove holding it are the sharpest things in the frame, and they are closer to the camera than the player's face. With the mask over the face, it will be difficult to get the camera to focus exactly on the face. But using a specific AF point and placing it on the head of the subject instead of using Dynamic Area mode, which tends to latch on to the nearest thing to the camera, should help in that respect.

For how to diagnose and correct issues with blurry images please see How do I diagnose the source of blurry photos? The accepted answer contains many links to questions here at Photography SE that include more details and corrective suggestions for the myriad number of factors that can make an image look blurry. Many of those things aren't directly related to autofocus errors, but can be traced back to exposure issues or camera and/or subject movement.

The main problem with this photo is that it is underexposed. The camera settings let the camera decide how bright it thought the photo should be. Since there's a lot of white ice in the frame, the camera assumed that all of that ice was supposed to be what is rendered as "medium bright", halfway between totally dark (black) and totally bright (white). You need to tell the camera that most of the frame should be much brighter than "medium" by using exposure compensation to tell it you want all of that ice to be +1 to +1.5 stops brighter than "medium".

Just increasing exposure/brightness will make the image look much better. I also increased contrast and color saturation a tad and applied a bit of sharpening.

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Decompressing a jpeg, editing it, then recompressing it as another jpeg added some blur due to compression. This is most noticeable in the area around the lettering on the jersey. With the original raw file even more could be done. I almost always save my files in raw format so that I have more flexibility when processing them later. Raw image files are larger, so they take more memory card space and more hard drive space to store. Saving raw files can limit the number of frames in a high speed burst before the camera slows down as it is waiting for the larger amount of data to be written to the memory card. Learning to discipline yourself to be more selective of the precise moments when you shoot a short burst, rather than just "spraying and praying" for several seconds can help to overcome this limitation.

For more about how postprocessing raw image files can help improve your results when shooting sports in dimly lit venues, please see: Lots of noise in my hockey pictures. What am I doing wrong?

To shoot it that bright, instead of increasing the brightness (and image noise along with it) in post, you need to let more light into the camera. Which leads directly to the next point.

After using exposure compensation to tell the camera how to meter for the bright background (the ice), you also need to open up the aperture to allow more light through the lens. When your subjects are moving in low light you usually should open the lens' aperture as wide as it will go. With your 18-300mm lens, it varies from f/3.5 at 18mm to f/6.3 at 300mm.

I'd probably set ISO and S ("shutter speed") manually and set the aperture to f/5 or f/5.6. If your camera does not offer exposure compensation with Manual exposure mode, then adjust ISO until the meter shows you are between 1 and 1.5 stops overexposed when metering the ice in the rink. This will make the ice a nice bright white instead of a drab, dreary medium gray.

When you're zoomed out for wider shots it will use those settings. When you zoom in to 300mm it will use f/6.3, since that's the widest it can go at that point. You'll then need to brighten those shots a bit in post. Again, raw files will give you the most flexibility and better image quality when brightening in post, but even jpegs can be brightened 1/3 to 2/3 stops in post without any serious degrading of image quality. You'll probably want to increase contrast just a smidgen as well to compensate for raising the brightness of a jpeg.

Ultimately, a faster lens with a wider maximum aperture is the way to go. Something like a 70-200mm f/2.8 or even a 70-200mm f/4 would allow you to open the aperture to capture much more light at the same exposure time (shutter speed). F/2.8 allows over 8X as much light into the camera in the same amount of time as f/9 does, and over 4X as much light as f/6.3 does. F/4 allows over 2X as much light as f/6.3 and over 4X as much as f/9. Even f/6.3 allows 2X as much light to pass through the lens as f/9 does. But constant aperture zoom lenses can be expensive, especially good ones that also focus quickly and accurately.


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