I am shooting a little league football game at night under the field lights for the first time amd I have a few questions to ask.

I will be using the Canon EOS 60D camera with a Canon 24-70mm 1:2.8 L lens and a Canon 580EX Speedlite .

I'm looking for some tips about ISO speed and shutter speed (I obviously will have to experiment with various combinations of both). I intend to use autofocus and the manual shutter mode.

In the old days (with film), it was risky using too fast an ISO setting because of the grain problem. I hear that this may not be a problem with digital cameras. Is that true? Also, how important is the Speedlite when I will be far from the action?


4 Answers 4


Night-time action is the toughest conditions to shoot in but luckily, modern DSLRs are the best tools for this.

You will have to stack the odd on your side to get a reasonable rate of keepers by:

  • Using a high ISO. It is safe to use ISO 800 on all current DSLRs for even large prints but you can get away with higher sensitivities, depending on your intended print size. Take a few sample shots in advance to see what each ISO looks like.
  • Use a high frame-rate in continuous drive.
  • Leave the flash off. Not only it will extremely rarely reach the players, it will slow down your frame-rate and - if it ever reaches - it will bother players.
  • Use continuous autofocus ('AI Servo AF' on Canon) or practice manual focusing a lot.
  • The shutter-speed should be high (1/1000s or faster) to freeze action which the high ISO will let you do but you will also need to open up your aperture, probably to its maximum F/2.8.

Buy or rent a longer lens. My wife employs 3 sports photographers who cover football regularly and even with their privileged location, 70mm is rarely enough reach to capture worthy shots. The tool of choice is the Canon EF 70-200mm F/2.8L. No need to pay extra for the stabilized version as you need fast shutter-speeds.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Why not link to the product at the Canon website or at least a review of it? \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Sep 6, 2012 at 17:11
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Which one? Canon has almost one per country! Neocamera switches contents depending on the visitor's country and has instant translation in 42 languages. \$\endgroup\$
    – Itai
    Commented Sep 6, 2012 at 17:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ is that an EF or an EF-S lens \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 17, 2012 at 5:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @dam check the link and you'll see :-) it's an ef mount lens. As of sep 2012 there are no ef-s L lenses so the name is a give away. \$\endgroup\$
    – Francesco
    Commented Sep 17, 2012 at 7:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Francesco Indeed, but people who do not go to the links may be confused. The link is what made me wonder \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 17, 2012 at 7:45

First of all you should understand the differences between the analog and digital camera. Film cameras are totally different from the digital cameras since the latter have a digital image sensor in it. Because of the image sensors they are capable of capturing impossible (for film) shots. Part of your question is: do digital cameras show noise at high ISO (like grain in film)?

The reason behind those grains is the heat produced in the sensors. But as the size of the sensor in the DSLRs is large so the noise (grains) produced is reduced. Use of higher ISOs doesn't affect your photo quality up to a certain extent. A possible suggestion is that you should not go beyond 800.

Shooting from distance the speedlight will not help you, since the range is not enough to cover a football ground. I must suggest that you meter your camera to the part of the ground where the intensity of the light is high so that you can click sharp photos. You will get fast shutter speeds and so it may happen that ISO 400 can be enough. Also aperture should be set to the maximum so that you maximize the amount of light reaching the sensor.

The best thing you can do is to use continous frame mode but for that as I have already mentioned you that to fix your camera to that part of the ground where the intensity of the light is maximum.


The 24-70 is probably too short, most folks tend to use a 70-200. Here is a link to an excellent link by David Hobby on his strobist site about exactly this, using a flash to shoot a school football game.


His first tip is "avoid using the flash as long as you can" by shooting in the first quarter while the sun is still up. This is easier now (mid-September) than it will be later in the Fall as the sun goes down earlier as the year changes.


These suggestions are great and I would add another tip...

Keep the camera very still when taking pictures. You may want to support your arms in some way to provide additional support if you do not have a stand. This will reduce blur in your images. I often lean against a fence or sit with my elbows resting on my knees.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If you're shooting a 1/400s or faster (as you need to be for sports) then the camera is effectively "still" anyway. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philip Kendall
    Commented Oct 14, 2016 at 17:29

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