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09-16-2008, 08:54 PM   #1
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Help with sports/action photography

Hi all: My son plays college lacrosse, and in three weeks he will have a series of round-robin tournament games during fall break here in our hometown - what a DEAL!!

I have a K10D and a DA55~300, as well as a decent monopod. (other stuff here - About Me)

Would all you action photogs kindly recommend default settings (assume light overcast weather if you comment on light/exposure - I will deal with EV conversions), positioning, capturing action in a moving sport - perhaps trap focus, auto.c vs. auto.s - anything you would recommend!!

Hoping for ONE priintable shot as a Christmas present.

Many thanks in advance.


09-17-2008, 08:11 AM   #2
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Not sure what position he plays but these are recommended settings:

* AF continuous.
* JPEG unless you're doing a posed portrait (individual/group) then RAW.
* +2/3 EV (best to be over; you can always recover vs under, where there is nothing to recover from, LR, PS or similar) the printers can help you here.
* Spot metering, always on the face unless they're in a group aim 1/3 in then.
* Nothing slower than 1/500 when action is moving unless coming at you the nothing slower than 1/250. So you're either using Tv set at 1/500, Shuter and Aperture priority- AE or full manual. Full manual settings: you can take a quick read for approx setting thru your camera/lens by focusing at the location on the inside of you palm.
* SR OFF when panning.

Positioning: (not sure which position he plays, for these shots SR can be ON)

If you can be around the net left, right and behind, if he's the goalie then a few shot from the opposite end is good.
* WB you can use the appropriate preset.

I think that's about it? This is my experience from shooting Hockey.
09-17-2008, 09:17 AM   #3
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howcome you turn off SR when panning?
09-17-2008, 09:37 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Shaloot! Quote
howcome you turn off SR when panning?
The SR tries to compensate for the movement and you end up get a frame of streaks

09-17-2008, 09:55 AM   #5
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I presume these are outdoor events? What time of day?

I have had reasonable success shooting night-time events under lights and in gyms with a 135 f/2.8 or a 50 f/1.4 lens. I had to do ISO 1600 to get a usable shutter speed.

I have gotten to where I really like using the P-Shift with +1/3 to +2/3, and shift as light conditions allow to try to get a bit more DOF.
09-17-2008, 01:59 PM   #6
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I'll throw in.

RAW (especially if you're not experienced at action stuff, you will have greater PP latitude, and the speed isn't that much different).

Don't be afraid to boost your ISO to gain a higher shutter speed. Lacrosse is fast.

AFC, but i like to use a focus lock button in case my AF is hunting (you lock it when you get a decent focus).

Try to shoot where the lights are.

Don't be afraid to get down as close to the field as you can.

Remember to get some bench/warmup/team shots as well.

I always shoot full manual (except AF, obviously). IF you don't feel comfortable i would switch to TV.

That's all I've got for now. Check your first couple dozen shots and adjust after that.

Oh, most of all have fun!!!!
09-17-2008, 05:27 PM   #7
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My settings for rugby (late afternoon winter)-
TAv - speed min 1/500 if you can, aperture probably whatever your min is with the 55-300. The ISO is then set by the camera.
Exposure comp - on my 20 I always have -0.5. But it may depend upon the colour/darkness of the uniform. Try a few and check your histogram.
AFC - centre point
Drive mode - Hi continuous. When you take a shot, hold your finger down for a bit after so you get another couple of shots. If they're moving hold the AF button down too.
I use the rear AF button to focus and turn it off the shutter release button, that way I can operate the two separately.
SR on a monopod - I'm still undecided, have tried both (in very uncontrolled conditions) but haven't noticed a difference. With a fast shutter on a pod you shouldn't need it anyway.
Get the light in their faces if you can. Facial expressions are great!
Get a few "safe" shots as well - breaks in the action etc.

Good luck.
09-17-2008, 05:27 PM   #8
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Here's some motivation for you (ignore camera manufacturer lol)

Fairfield University Stags vs University of Vermont Catamounts

Bellarmine University Knights vs University of Vermont Catamounts

09-17-2008, 11:43 PM   #9
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Arena Lacross I assume??
1. shoot on Manual and shoot groups of photos. For example shoot only at one end once you've got all your settings dialed in. Do that for a few minutes. Don't forget that if you're going to be a "photographer" you are no longer a spectator. It does not matter if they score at the other end. You already missed that shot. Look at the other goalie or whoever is left in your end and cature the emotion on their face. Once you have a bunch of good photos for one location move on to the next. If you try to shoot the whole arena your lighting is going to be all over the place and you'll be lucky to get that one good shot.

2. Shoot the highest f-stop you can get away with - try to keep it around f5 if possible. Shooting a sporting event at 2.8 is a recipe for blurry photos. F4 might be OK but aim high.

3. 1/500 should do the trick. you can freeze their legs at 1/400 but arms and sticks move faster than legs. Be concious of when the sticks will be held still enough to stay clear. you probably need closer to 1/1000 to freeze the sticks during a shot

4. to contradict other advice given earlier in this thread - do not over expose by 2/3 but rather under-expose by 1/3. Unless there is a lot of true black surfaces around it is easy to recover light from an area under-exposed. Once an area is blown out it is gone for ever. This also allows you to shoot higher shutter speeds to freeze the action in a low-light setting. Also arena boards are bright white plastic and walls and stands are often white/grey so you've got a big area to blow out. Its best to wait until you're at your computer before you make the decision to blow out a section of photo

5. If you have to shoot ISO1600 just put the camera away and enjoy the game. the K10d does not do well enough at that ISO to make an enlarged print

Have fun
09-18-2008, 04:44 AM   #10
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I shoot differently than the methods mentioned here. I've been told I should not shoot how I do but it works for me. I tried a different method once and nothing came out right so I went back to my screwy way of doing things and I think I get pretty good results. This is u16 - u19 boys soccer. They move pretty quickly.

I shoot in SV mode. I do this because I have the smaller increments of ISO I can use, rather than having to set it to one, then if conditions change, having to stop and reset. If I'm shooting at 400, and a cloud moves in I can go to 560 if that is enough, rather than having to jump to 800. I have the other dial set to adjust the aperture. I try to keep the aperture between f6.7 and 9.5 for greater dof in case I miss the precise focus. It gives me a little wiggle room. I adjust these two settings to give me a shutter speed of 1/500 or faster.

I set focus to AFC and shoot in burst mode. I use select focus, set to the lower center point and keep the point focused on the ground at the player's feet. I do this because bodies shift and I may find myself with a shot of the trees in the background nice and sharp but the player a big blur.

Like I said, it's probably not THE recommended method but it works for me. Last weekend I got more keepers than I knew what to do with.
09-18-2008, 06:43 AM   #11
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Best thing to do is practice first and learn how to anticipate the action in the sport you are shooting.

Bursting some shots is nice at first, but you then end up with a lot of needless shots to sort through. Get used to the action in the sport you are shooting, and you'll nail "the shot" more often than not.
09-18-2008, 06:44 AM   #12
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Lots of good advice here for you Monochrome, just add my wee bit.

Push the ISO all the way (I'm often at 1600) it allows the fastest possible shutter speeds. Also any additional noise adds to the atmosphere of the image IMHO on fast moving sports.

Watch the game, work at the best angles, follow key players even when they not in the actual play, this sometimes produces great images.

Be aware of your surroundings and what's going on and enjoy the event.

Last edited by Kerrowdown; 09-27-2008 at 10:07 AM.
09-18-2008, 05:11 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by kunik Quote
2. Shoot the highest f-stop you can get away with - try to keep it around f5 if possible. Shooting a sporting event at 2.8 is a recipe for blurry photos. F4 might be OK but aim high.
The problem with this is then you can't isolate the players from the background. A larger aperture means you can blur our the background, making a much better shot if you get the focus right. But I agree, it makes focussing more critical. Though I often have to use 2.8 due to low light and still get focussed shots.
09-20-2008, 05:54 AM   #14
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I have shot my kids sporting events for many years, mostly with film but now with digital (grandkids) and try to stay in the f/8 - f/11 range to get the most depth of field and an ISO that will allow for a 1/500 shutter speed. Partly cloudy days where it is rapidly changing from bright sun to overcast can make things very difficult and I have put my camera in the TAV setting and had good results. Take a LOT of shots and check them out on the LCD whenever the action stops and make adjustments. I have found that as a parent it is tough sometimes to watch the game and also concentrate on getting good photos which is another time when auto modes come in handy. I have never shot Lacrosse as my kids have competed in soccer, crew, and freestyle and downhill skiing but the fast shutter speeds are needed for just about any sport.
09-20-2008, 09:03 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by monochrome Quote
I have a K10D and a DA55~300, as well as a decent monopod. (other stuff here -
Would all you action photogs kindly recommend default settings (assume light overcast weather if you comment on light/exposure - I will deal with EV conversions), positioning, capturing action in a moving sport - perhaps trap focus, auto.c vs. auto.s - anything you would recommend!!


I have never shot lacrosse, although I have shot soccer and baseball. I shoot a LOT of volleyball and swimming. Every sport seems to present its own challenges, and since I don't know lacrosse well, I'm not sure what those challenges might be.

Let me give you an idea what I mean by special challenges. Shooting swimming: the swimmers are mostly underwater, and half of the time they're facing away from you. If the swim meet is indoors, well, the light is bound to be HORRIBLE. Shooting basketball: The action moves all over the place and half of the time it's at the other end of the court. If you stand under the basket (or behind the basket) you have a good perspective on some shots, but a horrible perspective on others. And until you get to the college level, the lighting is usually bad or worse than bad. Shooting volleyball: The players tend to stay put (compared to soccer and swimming) but it's nearly impossible to get a photo of their faces straight on.

Anyway, if I were heading off today to shoot soccer - which I assume is similar to lacrosse as a photographic challenge - here is what I'd be planning to do.

1. Bring a telephoto zoom lens. You've got that 55-300. Sounds like it might be just right.

2. For action sports the key thing is shutter speed. Volleyball doesn't move as fast as some sports and I can get good photos with a shutter as slow as, oh, 1/100th sec sometimes. But for lacrosse, I'd want to keep the shutter much faster than that if possible. Some people have fixed rules about this. They'll tell you that you can't shoot sports slower than 1/500th sec. Not true. It's not even true that faster is always better: a bit of motion blur can actually be very nice in an action shot. You have to experiment and find out what works. You probably will want to start with the shutter in the vicinity of 1/300th sec or 1/400th sec or faster, if you can.

3. If the light is good enough that you can use a fixed ISO of 100 or 200 or even 400, then do so. And in that case, I'd probably shoot full manual, or shutter-priority. When I shoot shutter priority I tend to shoot in P mode on the K10D/K20D, rather than Tv mode. They're very close to the same in result - moving the shutter speed in P puts the camera into effective shutter-priority mode. But if I'm in P (on the K10D/K20D only) I can switch into aperture-priority mode quickly by moving the rear e-dial without having to take my eye from the finder to look at the mode dial. I love this about the K10D/K20D and on those cameras I almost never use the Av or Tv settings on the mode dial.

4. If the light is variable - as it often is indoors - I would probably use TAv mode. Set the shutter and aperture (say, 1/300th sec and, oh, f/5.6) and let the ISO range between 200 and 1600. When I do this, I keep an eye on the ISO that's actually being used in shot after shot. If it it's hitting 1100 or 1600 too often, I reconsider my shutter and aperture settings.

5. A monopod is a pain in the neck and, frankly, a potential danger. I know a sports photographer who uses one but he's got a Nikon and doesn't use VR lenses. With a Pentax K10D/K20D, you've got shake reduction, and it works really well, so use it. Turn it on, keep it on, and hold the camera by hand. If you keep your shutter speeds faster than your focal lengths, and assuming that you hold the camera reasonably steady, you should be fine. NOTE: "Shutter speeds faster than focal lengths" is a rough way of putting it. I mean, if the focal length = 200mm, then a shutter speed of 1/200th sec or 1/250th sec or 1/300th sec should be fine.

6. Use center-spot focusing rather than auto or selective-spot. Try to get the subject in the center of the frame. If you don't do this, you'll get more shots than you probably want where some player who's closer to you and just standing around is in focus and the players in the distance who you were actually interested in will be out of focus. If you want to take an artsy focus, do it - then put your focus back to center spot when you resume normal shooting.

7. As for the auto-focus options on the front of the camera: auto-focus continuous is supposed to be just the thing for this kind of shooting. I use it occasionally myself. But I've not had the best of luck with it. I tend to use auto-focus single and I like to get a focus confirmation for every shot. I've also tried using manual focus. Personally I think it's crazy. The fact that it's possible or that people used to do it because they had no alternative means nothing to me. St Thomas Aquinas, in the thirteenth century, traveled around a good bit of Europe on foot. I love St Thomas. I even like walking. But next time I need to get from Rome to Paris or back, I'm taking a train.

Good luck,


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