I am using a Canon 70d with 18-55mm lens to capture fast moving action (volleyball) indoors. Lack of light was a problem, so I tried different settings but the pictures still are a bit dark. I am not sure I was doing things correctly or not. Another option I have is to buy a 18-200mm lens. Please help me to choose the correct settings - I know the 70d has lot of options to do this kind of job.

  • \$\begingroup\$ 18-200 won't help you unless it allows for a wider aperture. Get as close as you can. Gymnasiums have terrible lighting. Use your lowest f setting, put your ISO as high you can comfortably set it, and see how fast you can shoot. If you want to drastically improve your photos, you should invest in a good off-camera flash. Action shots in low light is never a good thing, best solution - use a flash to get the lighting you need! \$\endgroup\$ Jul 7, 2015 at 5:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MitchGoshorn You should turn that into an answer, but be aware there's no way that most volleyball matches will let you use a flash. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philip Kendall
    Jul 7, 2015 at 7:52

3 Answers 3


Unfortunately, this isn't a problem you can fix with settings on your camera. While a lot of situations aren't about the gear, this is one that is - there's just no way that either your 18-55 or 18-200 will be able to get any sort of reasonable sports photos indoors.

Look for a lens which is at least f/2.8 or faster - the classic sports lens is the 70-200 f/2.8. For a cheaper option, look at primes, but you're obviously giving up flexibility to do that.


The problem is that indoors you've got lower light conditions, and with sports being fast-moving you need a fast shutter speed to "freeze" the action. You'll typically be shooting far above 1/focal length speeds, so stabilization of any kind is not going to be particularly helpful.

The first thing you should consider is cranking up your ISO, shooting RAW, and worrying about noise reduction in post. Yes, iso 3200 or 6400 may not be perfectly pretty. But a noisy clear shot is easier to massage in post into something you like than a motion-blurred noise-free shot. You'll also want the RAW if the gym lights are the kind that cycle and give you a different white balance value every frame in burst mode.

Obviously, you want to burst shoot (short controlled bursts are best--you still need to precisely time your shots), and learning how to do back-button autofocus can help you get just that tiny bit faster on AF lock that you're going to need.

And you need a different lens and NOT an 18-200. Not only does the 18-55 not have enough reach in most cases, it's also a "slow" f/3.5-5.6 lens (the 18-200 is an f/4-5.6, so even slower, which is why it won't help for sports). Most sports shooting folks would use an f/2.8 lens (e.g., a 70-200 f/2.8L lens), but if you don't have the cash for a 70-200/2.8, then a fast prime may work for you, although this will obviously limit your framing capabilities. The two most common recommendations you'll find for this kind of shooting on a budget for Canon are the EF 85/1.8 USM and its identical twin cousin, the EF 100/2 USM. The reach, the fast max. aperture, and the USM are the key points here, since both of these lenses use the higher-end ring-type USM. Together with the large max. aperture, this aids on giving you fast, snappy, accurate AF lock.

You will also want to consider whether or not you can add light via off-camera flash, but venue rules are venue rules, and this may not be possible.


When shooting sports or action Indoors which happens to be, “Not a professionally lit sports event”, you have to consider the following;

Number One - Aperture

The wider the aperture, the more light you have to freeze the frame and keep your images lit as brightly as possible My bare minimum recommendations for such events for camera such as the Canon 70D will be;

  • The Canon 70-200mm F/2.8 Version 1 which can be purchased for around $1200
  • The Canon 135mm f/2.0 Prime Lens, cost of around $1000 - This may be fixed, but it will allow 2x the light of a f/2.8 Lens
  • any wider than this, and it can become a problem for the Camera to find the correct focal point due to the narrow DOF.

Number Two - Stabilisation.

This is the key to ensuring sharper and brighter images whilst hand holding the camera. At most events, Tripods and Monopods will be a No no! therefore, you need to from the outset, find areas where you can rest your camera, lean against a wall, pillar, post.. all with the purpose of steadying yourself so much so that you can get steady shots

Number Three - ISO

Most Cameras can easily be pushed to 800/1600 with usable images direct from the camera, however, higher Noise levels from higher ISO can be corrected in Lightroom.

Number Four - Shoot only in RAW

  • You will find it easier to correct the Noise Levels
  • As you will be shooting under mixed ighting conditions, the white balance will be very easy to correct
  • and finally, if you have to increase the the shutter speed to freeze the frame, don’t be scared to go to Manual exposure and increase the shutter speed enough so that the camera is actually under exposed by 1 stop.

  • this is can easily be correct in Lightroom, but does mean that you freeze the shot.

Number Five - Shoot in Aperture Priority Mode for the majority of the shots

Appreciating that this may be totally against the principles of action photography, but you are not outside, but indoors with bad lighting and you now need to take full advantage of the Len’s maximum exposure.

The way to do this is to

  • first set the dial to maximum Aperture


  • start to increased the shutter speed to where you ideally need it to be

if at this stage, you are under exposed,

  • start increasing the ISO until the exposure is correct

Bare in mind what we discussed in Number four, it is okay to under expose by 1 stop. and correct in Lightroom later. Therefore, once the correct exposure has been achieved, increase the Shutter to bring the camera to 1 stop of under exposure.

Other settings for the Canon 70D; keep the camera in AI Servo and burst mode.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Stabilisation - if you're shooting volleyball, you're shooting at a bare minimum 1/400s. At that shutter speed, stabilisation shouldn't be too important. Shooting mode - indoor sports are one of the few places I use full manual. You don't want the camera deciding to drop the shutter speed just because someone wearing a white uniform is taking up the frame. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philip Kendall
    Jul 7, 2015 at 13:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Underexposing to keep ISO lower will eventually result in more noise after post-processing correction than using correct ISO would, see Is it better to shoot with a higher ISO, or use lower ISO and raise the exposure in post-processing? \$\endgroup\$
    – Imre
    Jul 7, 2015 at 14:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Since the answer says "start increasing the ISO until the exposure is correct, I assume that the comment about underexposing and correcting in post-processing is meant to cover the case where the camera's own ISO adjustment is already at the limit. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Jul 7, 2015 at 14:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Non-L lenses on a crop sensor that may be of interest: the 100 f/2 and 85/1.8 \$\endgroup\$
    – OnBreak.
    Oct 17, 2018 at 16:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Imre Sometime you have to trade noise to get a Tv short enough to reduce the amount of motion blur to acceptable levels. It's always a tradeoff shooting action in low light. With some cameras, there seems to be a threshold above which the same Tv/Av reduce the amount of detail more than using NR in post when using a lower ISO does. I find that anything past ISO 6400 with my Canon EOS 7D Mark II looks worse, in terms of loss of detail, than shooting at ISO 3200 or ISO 6400 and pushing the exposure/applying more NR in post. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Oct 17, 2018 at 20:36

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