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I use an Olympus om10 to shoot at Mavs games and I use Fuji film 400!

Recently I’ve been taking in game photos but unfortunately the pictures haven’t been turning out so well! Here is an example picture.

example basketball photo

I have a manual adapter and I try to aim to shoot in 500/1000s and usually there isn’t very good lighting.

Is there anything I can do to improve the blurriness of this pictures without the aid of more light? Unfortunately I’m not able to use my flash during games so if that’s the case I’ll stop using film for games!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ There are no examples attached. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 3 at 9:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, what are the lens specs (aperture/focal length)? This said, 400ISO for indoors is a bit low... \$\endgroup\$
    – xenoid
    Mar 3 at 10:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Relevant: photo.stackexchange.com/q/91965/9161 \$\endgroup\$ Mar 4 at 14:10

3 Answers 3

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My first SLR was an OM-10. Loved it. That's good you have the manual adapter.

Looking at your photo, I think you are using a telephoto lens. There is a rule, that you can hand hold a lens at 1 over the focal length. So, if you are using a 135mm lens, you should shoot shutter speeds faster than 1/135 sec. However, this is for static situations, like photographing a landscape or a bird sitting in a tree.

Looking at the blur, I think it looks like there is a top-left-to-bottom-right blur. Especially the "Tissot" sign, but also many places. This means that you were panning the camera, following the action. Under these conditions, 1/500th of a second is apparently not enough.

Sounds like you have a digital camera too. Set it up with the same focal length, shutter speed and ISO. Take a picture with the camera on a tripod. Then take several more while you pan the camera at different rates. Compare all these. I think you will be surprised at the amount of blur.

Lastly, next time you are at a sporting event, try using a tripod, or at least some support like the back of a chair or a wall. Focus on holding the camera still. Press the shutter at the instant where the speed of action is slowest, like during a jump shot, as osullic suggested above. And also, do try some fast B&W film. It's fun! Yes, it will be grainy but it will look great.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It looks like OP is shooting from an ordinary spectator's seat. Their neighbors in nearby seats aren't likely to be too agreeable to your suggestion of using a tripod at the next event. \$\endgroup\$
    – The Photon
    Mar 4 at 6:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ Monopod could work quite well though. \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Mar 4 at 14:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Tripods & monopods are not allowed into these kinds of venues for ticket paying guests sitting in the seats. Credentialed media are sometimes allowed monopods. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Mar 10 at 3:03
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You don't tell which focal length and shutter speed you have used for the example photo you have posted, but I think it is obvious from your example, that the shutter speed is not short enough. The image shows both sign of camera shake and that the subject you are photographing is moving too fast to be 'frozen' in the exposure. In general, indoor action photography with an ISO 400 film sounds too optimistic to me. In the film era, sport photographers would in your situation likely have used an ISO 1600 film, perhaps even pushed to 3200 and combined that with a very large aperture lens.

The image might also be out of focus (difficult to tell), but there are at least clear signs of camera shake in the writing on the basket post. It is perhaps easiest to see in "CASINOS & RESORTS", where you can easily see that the letters are not just blurry, but that there is a kind of mirror or shadow effect, where two separate and independently relatively sharp images are slightly shifted and overlapping. The only reasonable explanation is that you have jerked the camera during exposure in a jagging motion, holding the camera relatively steady at two different spots, but moved it in between during exposure.

Looking at the two players on and closest to the ball, there are also very clear signs of motion blur, e.g:

  • In the number 77 on the back of the player in the black suit. The blur is obviously directional, much longer and also continuous as opposed to the shorter and jagged blur around the text on the basket post. The black player's torso must have moved in the same direction during the exposure.

  • The black clothed players legs are at least close to eachother in the focal plane, but the right leg is much sharper than the left leg. This can not be caused by an out-of focus issue or camera shake, but can only be caused by the player moving the left leg during exposure, while holding the right leg relatively steady.

  • Looking at the white clothed player, the armband on the left arm is quite sharp, while the left hand and the entire right arm are blurry. That can also only be explained by the player moving some parts of the body during the exposure.

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(Note: This answer was written before the example photo was visible.)

Why are your photos coming out blurry? Shutter speeds of 1/500 second or even faster are quite sufficient (in almost all normal situations) to avoid blur due to camera shake, and should also be able to stop the action, especially for jump shots, etc, where the player is not actually moving a huge amount at the precise moment of their shot. As a first guess, I wonder if the blur you are seeing is because you are missing focus? Of course, with a manual focus camera (and especially at large apertures), you have to take some care around accurate focusing.

Always though, my first thought is around exposure. Inadequately exposed photos is the easiest way to "fail" in photography in my opinion, and particularly with film photography. Shooting indoor sports is obviously not a super bright environment – the light levels might be somewhere around EV 7. If you are restricting yourself to 1/500 second exposures, then you are going to need wide apertures to get enough light to your film – especially with ISO 400 film. Indeed, I doubt your film is getting enough light. How are you metering the scenes? Just using the camera's built-in meter?

Personally, I love film photography, but I'd skip it for sports; I'd use my digital camera instead. But if you just want to experiment and have some fun, try using some black & white film – Ilford Delta 3200 or Kodak T-MAX 3200 – whichever you can find cheapest. It will be grainy, but with some care around focusing, you should definitely be able to get nice, interesting results.

Just to finish, I'm going to attach here an example sports photo I took on film – this was at the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004. I don't remember exact details, but I think this was possibly on ISO 100 film, probably using a 100/2.8 lens, and also probably shot at 1/500 second. The action is stopped by the fast shutter speed.

Photo of Sprinters at Athens 2004

Alternatively, sometimes motion blur can be used as a feature of the photo.

Photo of blurred track cyclists

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