Do you want to get better photos of your favorite student athletes at night games? This blog will help you when photographing night games played at high schools with the limited lighting in those stadiums.
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Most amateur cameras don’t go to a high enough ISO to be able to freeze action with a fast shutter speed. Also, most kits don’t usually come with fast telephoto lenses. The widest aperture is often F5.6 when at full zoom with a 200 or 300mm lens. A fast telephoto lens would open up to F2.8, but they are very expensive.
I shoot with a Canon 5D Mk III. The ISO is an amazingly fast 25,600! My second camera is the 5D Mk II with a top ISO of 6400. The newer MkIII allows me to shoot at faster shutter speeds. My lenses are not ideal for sports photography. I purchased lenses for my commercial photography business. I am not a paid sports photographer, so I didn’t need a lens stronger than 200mm or fast lenses for night shooting. I normally light my own scenes. I use a 70 – 200mm F4 lens. The 100 – 300 zoom would be a better lens to cover the size of a football field (maybe next year). If your lens has IS (Image Stabilizer) turn it off. The IS is used to reduce camera movement when using slow shutter speeds. I use my second camera with the 24 – 105 F4 lens to capture action that comes up close to me or for any wide angle shots like the fans, the band or the cheer leaders.
Most amateur cameras have a sports setting on the mode dial. This will give you the fastest shutter speed possible with the available light. I use the Tv mode (time value). Nikon may call it S (shutter priority). With either of these modes you pick the shutter speed to freeze the action and the camera automatically chooses the aperture for the best exposure. I usually shoot at 1/640 second.
On my commercial assignment I always shoot RAW and set the picture style to Neutral (N) which renders a rather flat, unsaturated image that I then enhance in Photoshop. To save time in post production I set my camera to JPEG, Standard picture style, which is the default setting. This setting adds contrast and saturation so the image looks better right out of the camera. The JPEG file will be only 6 – 7 MB where the raw image is 22MB. Shooting JPEGs saves a lot of hard drive space when you are shooting 700 – 1,000 photos of one game, saving more than 8 GB of hard drive space! I use auto white balance (AWB) so I don’t have to worry about the changing color of light during the dusk to night transition at about 7:00 PM. Set your focus to AI Servo. The lens will constantly adjust the focus distance while the shutter button is depressed. One setting I changed that is more advanced is the focus detection spots. The default on the 5D Mk III is 61 points which is too wide causing me to focus on a foreground object and not the action in the center of my photo (see the photo above). So I set the focus to a smaller 9 point rectangle that I can move to 6 different places when time allows. Be sure to set the dive to multiple exposures. The Canon 5D mk III will do 5 shots per second which increases your chances of capturing the unexpected, like a fumble.
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Anticipation and Timing
Anticipate where the action is going to be. Position yourself at the right spot for the next play. Is it a running down, or a passing down. Punts, kickoffs and goal line stances all require a different position on the field to capture the action. Timing is critical. The action is fast. Don’t miss that interception because you didn’t press the shutter button. So, if you want to know how to shoot better football photos at night get the best camera you can afford and practice. Maybe start with a peewee game. Smaller athletes move slower. You will have to get permission from the athletics director to get on the field for a high school varsity game.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]