When shooting sports I regularly have some incorrect exposed shots. Usually they are overexposed rather than underexposed. I thought it might be due to sticky aperture blades but after some testing I couldn't find any faults there.

Could it be that in some shots the camera simply doesn't get enough time to calculate and set the correct exposure?

I'm using the camera in A (aperture priority) mode with auto-iso selection on a Nikon D7100 and 70-200 f2.8 VRII lens, and centered weighed metering.

Is manual exposure to be preferred for sports?

Here is an example:

Correctle exposed


  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ Outdoors or indoors ? Some more details on conditions (sport, weather/sun/clouds stable or not, etc...) ? If indoors, artificial lighting could be a cause. \$\endgroup\$
    – FredP
    Oct 10, 2014 at 11:54
  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ Please post some sample images with EXIF data. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philip Kendall
    Oct 10, 2014 at 11:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ The camera has plenty of time to calculate the exposure (for example during the eons of time it takes for the mirror to flip up), so the probable reason is that the camera has too little information (too few metering points) to calculate the correct exposure, or that the lighting is too complicated to automatically determine a good exposure. \$\endgroup\$
    – Guffa
    Oct 10, 2014 at 14:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ I shoot Canon, so this may be irrelevant. Is the exposure being calculated at the time you capture the image? It's possible that you are half depressing the shutter and then recomposing before fully pressing (panning, for example) to take the picture - where the camera may have already metered for exposure at the beginning of the pan (which may have, in your example, been a darker area). Someone familiar with the D7100 will correct me if that model does not allow exposure lock settings. \$\endgroup\$
    – db9dreamer
    Oct 10, 2014 at 14:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you are shooting under typical artificial lights used at sports venues, the problem is probably in the lights. They tend to flicker at either 60hz or 120hz, and the peak is often several stops brighter than the valley. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Oct 11, 2014 at 18:39

2 Answers 2


To answer your basic questions: yes, you should use manual in this situation. Most times when you're shooting in an area with constant, even lighting and you want to maintain exposure between images, use manual.

Your camera is correctly metering, but your camera is oblivious to what it is photographing. Looking at your shots, I'm guessing you had some light cloud cover that day - the sun does not look harsh, the shadows are well diffused. To your eye, that's a pretty even lighting element, but your camera doesn't have the sort of information that you do. It doesn't know what the sky is like, all it sees is what is in the frame. With a high zoom factor, you're cropping out the rest and giving it just little bits. It's seeing what it sees and doing the best it can with what you gave it.

In the future, take a few practice shots before the action starts. Check that exposure is right in the histogram and shoot away. Make sure your histograms are still nice and healthy a few minutes later and adjust as needed. This approach will give you a much more consistent set of photos then metering each shot.


Everything looks fine to me, the player in focus looks correctly exposed, the background is off but you used center weighted metering - so the camera looks only at the center and lets the background fall where it falls.

If you want the camera to look both at the foreground and background and try to get good exposure on both you need what Nikon calls "matrix metering"

If light is constant you can get much more control using manual mode, you set the exposure the way you like it before the game and all the pictures came out with the same exposure


If the light isn't constant - for example if clouds are moving in and out or if it's late and the sun start to set - you will not have time to both monitor exposure and follow the action so you're better off with one of the auto modes.

  • \$\begingroup\$ It really doesn't take a lot of time to keep track of exposure. You can keep an eye on the light meter and occasionally check the histogram or peek at an image to make sure that the exposure remains where you want it. It's a good idea to do that even if you think the light isn't changing. \$\endgroup\$
    – Caleb
    Oct 13, 2014 at 14:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Caleb - sometimes the action is pretty fast and clouds can move fast too - I missed shots because of moving clouds \$\endgroup\$
    – Nir
    Oct 13, 2014 at 17:49

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