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I am very new to photography and trying to improve my skills (I don't even know if I have creativity required for photography).

I captured some shots of sports. The link to my album (just 6 pics) is below:

https://www.flickr.com/gp/139480818@N07/6Vx67u

My photos are very grainy because I had to choose higher ISO value to compensate faster shutter speed. Even after post-processing the images (in RawTherapee), they look really bad.

I am looking for some suggestions, what can I improve in future to capture better pics of such events (basically I want to know where did I make mistakes). How could I have better exposure at faster shutter speed?

PS: All the information about my lens, camera, parameters etc is present under each image at Flickr.

Camera: Nikon D5600

Lens: Nikon 55-300mm, VR

Software: RawThreapee

Any tips about what would be the suitable metering mode for my pics?

  • @PhilipKendall: Because I wanted more depth of field. Secondly, I was around 50-100m away from the persons. In one of the pics (with 2 kids), I have used f/8 also but that also doesn't look much better. – skm Jan 16 '18 at 11:54
  • Are you asking specifically about outdoor daytime soccer/football or are you considering other sports scenarios like night or indoors? – Greg Glockner Jun 10 at 5:42
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Sports photography usually require two things: a long focal length and a wide aperture.

The long lens is required to shoot action a long way away.

The wide aperture is used for two purposes:

  1. Letting in enough light (it won't always be bright sunshine; weather, being indoors and daylight will affect the amount of natural light available to you) so you can use a fast shutter speed freezing action and not having to compensate on ISO.
  2. Depth of field between the subject and the background providing a nice seperation to remove distractions, especially when focussing on a single subject.

As the goalposts have been moved (pun INTENDED and something arguably to discuss in meta), I'd shoot using a form of spot metering to meter against the subject, with a continuous focus to allow the subject to be tracked.

As mentioned in the comments, you were shooting at around 300mm @ f/11.. You're part way there. Have another go, but shoot at your widest aperture instead.

(There are lots of other things sports photographers consider such as focus systems, FPS/continuous shooting, monopods to support heavy lenses, weather sealing and shooting multiple bodies to use multiple lenses at once. But that's a question for another day.)

  • Thaks, I will try wide aperture next time. I am not a professional photographer (and not aiming to be) so cannot afford to buy equipments exclusively for sports photography. – skm Jan 16 '18 at 12:26
  • What would be the suitable metering mode for this situation (I mean related to my pics)? I think, I chose matrix metering. – skm Jan 16 '18 at 12:56
  • I am asking related to light metering. The options are more or less common in most of the cameras (Spot Metering, Centre Weight Metering, Matrix Metering). – skm Jan 16 '18 at 13:08
  • @skm Realised that, so deleted my comment ;) I'm not a Nikon shooter so no idea what matrix metering is (i'll have a google) but personally I'd go for a spot metering, so it should meter on your subject. – Crazy Dino Jan 16 '18 at 13:09
  • But I think that spot metering is difficult in this situation since the subject is moving randomly/fast. But Matrix metering is also not ideal for my situation since the background has dark trees (just thinking about it). – skm Jan 16 '18 at 13:12
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Selecting an appropriate aperture

When shooting sports in low light you're not going to be able to shoot at f/11. Most of us use f/2.8 lenses and shoot wide open. We do this not only because it helps isolate our subject(s) from backgrounds that are often cluttered but also because we need the "speed" of the wide aperture to allow a fast enough shutter speed. I typically shoot night/indoor sports using Manual exposure mode at ISO 3200-5000, f/2.8 (or wider with a faster prime lens), and 1/500-1/1250 second.

enter image description here
EOS 7D Mark II + EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II, ISO 2500, 120mm, f/2.8, 1/800 second.

How do I meter night sports?

Any tips about what would be the suitable metering mode for my pics?

A comment from the O.P. to another question:

What would be the suitable metering mode for this situation (I mean related to my pics)? I think, I chose matrix metering.

and

But I think that spot metering is difficult in this situation since the subject is moving randomly/fast. But Matrix metering is also not ideal for my situation since the background has dark trees (just thinking about it).

Under fixed lighting sources such as found in gymnasiums, hockey rinks, stadiums at night, etc. One usually sets the exposure (Tv, Av, ISO) manually using the light meter as a guide.

In most sport activities, one of the teams is wearing white jerseys. Ideally, one should expose so that the white jerseys are right at, but not past, the point of saturation. One can use any of the metering modes as long as one understands how that mode "sees" what parts of the scene and how that will affect the metering result. With "Evaluative" metering (Canon's more or less equivalent to Nikon's "Matrix" metering), when shooting night sports outdoors I tend to start with settings at about -1 stop exposure compensation. If spot metering the white jerseys, they should be somewhere between about +1 1/2 to +2.

Be aware that different areas of the field of play may be lit to different brightnesses. The end zones at most high school football stadiums, for example, tend to be darker than areas closer to the 50 yard line. There can be notable exceptions, though. Before you even start shooting, look at the field critically. Are there obvious "hot" spots? Darker areas?

I recently shot at the first game held in a brand new stadium. They'd spent what they needed to get pretty good lighting. But whoever installed it had not properly aimed each one to evenly light the entire field. Some of the lights were centered on the stands across the field and even on the trees behind and above the stands. Some were pointed almost straight down into the stands directly beneath them. In some places there were too many pointed at the same spot on the field while other areas of the field were not getting enough light. While standing on the sideline during a break in third quarter action I mentioned what I had observed to the assistant principal for the host school. He's also a former coach so is somewhat familiar with lighting requirements required by the state athletic association. He had not noticed it before, but once he started looking at it critically, he could see it quite clearly with his unaided eyes! He immediately turned to the principal standing nearby and told her to remind him to get the lighting contractor back out to properly aim the lights. We'll see in two years when we return to that venue if they sorted it out or not.

There's a lot of experience involved in metering difficult lighting situations to understand exactly how the camera you are using meters a scene in each of the metering modes. Not all cameras are the same, especially with "Matrix" or "Evaluative" type metering that can use sophisticated "libraries" of different lighting scenarios loaded in the camera's firmware to compare what is metered to the internal database and adjust the result based on which scenario more closely matches the metered scene. One camera's "spot" or "partial" metering area may be larger or smaller than another, even in the same brand. Higher end models tend to have smaller "spot" metering areas than lower models. If a camera does not have a "spot" metering mode, the "partial" metering area tends to be a bit smaller than the "partial" metering area in cameras that do have a "spot" mode. "Spot" metering modes can run anywhere from about 1-4% of the total frame. "Partial" metering modes vary anywhere from 6% to 10% or more of the frame. The size of "spot" and "partial" metering areas sometimes will vary when using Live View as compared to the viewfinder with the same camera.

Regardless of which metering mode one uses, one should check initial results using the histogram and "blinkies" available in the camera's image review functions. Since I usually shoot raw and have a bit of headroom with the raw files, I tend to adjust manual exposure until the white jerseys have just a few small spots scattered over a jersey blinking with an overexposure warning. If the entire jersey is solidly blinking, it's overexposed and you'll lose the details. The nice thing about using raw files is that you can pull the highlights back a bit without darkening the midtones in post processing. You can also cut off the threshold for the black level so that everything in the dark background outside the stadium goes to solid black. You also have the luxury of using an HSL tool to remove the purple/blue cast that white jerseys made from certain popular materials will show under artificial lighting. With most in-camera contrast controls, you have to choose one or the other (less contrast to pull back the highlights, more contrast to crush the blacks).

In most of the places I shoot regularly, I already know what works for those lights. I keep a "cheat sheet" on an index card in my bag for places I shoot occasionally. If I discover after the fact while doing post processing that I was exposing a little "hot" or a little "dark" at a particular venue, I'll make a note on my card for the next time. I still check initial results. On more than one occasion what had worked in the past at a particular venue was not giving the results I expected. Places do sometimes update or replace their lighting.

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The most obvious thing is that you chose to use f/11 for your photos. At least according to the EXIF data on this image, your lens had a maximum aperture value of f/5.1 at this focal length. By using that kind of aperture, you get two stops worth of exposure and therefore you could drop your ISO by two stops.

You say in a comment that you wanted more depth of field, but I think you would have had enough at f/5.6. Using a depth of field calculator shows that 200mm, f/5.6 and a subject distance of 10 m has a depth of field of a metre or so, which should be sufficient for individual photos.

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