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Help with grainy photos


I have a Canon 80 D with a Canon 70-200 f2.8 is iii lens. I have been shooting my daughters gymnastics meet which tends to have poor lighting. I am struggling with getting the appropriate setting to get clear shots. They either have a lot of blur or are super grainy. 


I attached an example. This is post processed in Photoshop to lighten up the image and try to reduce the grainy stuff

My setting are



IS on


ISO 2500 ( and this is typically dark right out of the camera)

Al Servo


any tips would be great. Im getting super frustrated!addy 2.jpg



First off it's not grain it's noise. Film cameras had grain (or at least the film did).


If you are being forced to underexpose your shots and then brighten them in post processing that will add greatly to the noise levels. I can't really see what you can do under the poor lighting conditions other than use flash, but I doubt that the internal flash will be powerful enough and you probably need an external flashgun to fit in the cameras hotshoe.

You aren't allowed to use any type of flash at a gymnastics meet

"You aren't allowed to use any type of flash at a gymnastics meet"


Big no-no.  It will get you dis-invited quickly.  Never, never do that.

EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!

Shooting indoor meets is when placement and lens choice become about as critical as it gets in sports photography.  I use a Canon EF 200 F2 quite often when shooting volleyball and basketball but it is an expensive lens.  However the EF 85 F1.8 is a very reasonably priced fast indoor lens and the EF 135 F2 is also excellent slotted in price between the other two but far closer to the EF 85 price.  If you can get close enough, the EF 85 F1.8 will do a wonderful job with indoor sports and I have used it in an indoor soccer facility with horrible lighting.


I never use flash even when it is allowed for a sport except during breaks in action for special events like when seniors and their parents are introduced during their final home game and absolute best photo quality is needed.  I shot a swim meet last week that had to be paused for a moment because a parent was at the front of the spectator area firing away with a flash which interferes with the strobe starting setup.  One would think a swim parent would know better.


When you start pushing ISO, framing the image where little cropping is required is the single biggest thing you can do to reduce the noise issue.  An expensive lens is the easiest way to do this but perfect placement lets you accomplish the same with a far less expensive lens.


As an example of what happens with extreme cropping, the first image below is cropped to around 60% of the 1DX Mark II sensor area and the second is around 20% where even the 1DX Mark II starts showing noise in the background.  This could be further processed out but provides a good example of the benefits of filling that sensor.  Image was shot with 1DX 2 F2, 1/640 ISO 1600 using an EF 200 F2 lens.


For indoor shooting, if the lighting is perfectly even across the facility (it seldom is) then I meter and set everything to full manual.  For typical gyms I set aperture wide open, shutter fast enough to freeze action (usually 1/500 or 1/640) and leave the ISO at auto.  I always shoot in RAW file format.







EOS 1DX M3, 1DX M2, 1DX, 5DS R, M6 Mark II, 1D M2, EOS 650 (film), many lenses, XF400 video

Great shots as usual Rodger.  I will say, though, the OP's lens is f2.8 so a difference between your f2 and it would not be a game changer.  I do like the idea of a 135mm f2, however, since the OP's shot was at 140mm or so.


Where did you have your WB set?  The shirt looks fine but her face seems a bit off. Always a critic! Smiley Happy

EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!

Thanks Ernie and my only complaint about the newly renovated gym is that the lighting would be very good except it is highly mixed.  The strongest contribution is "old school" strip style florescent with a few high pressure sodium lights around the perimeter which bounce off the walls and floors adding their own special color cast. And some of the florescent tubes are of radically different color temperature, too bad they didn't go with LED strips when they did the update 2 years ago. 


I shot one HS football game last year in a stadium that used lights I had never seen before.  At the source they were narrow horizontal beams but at the field they provided very nice consistent light across the field and I would love to shoot more games there.


The closest I have found to realistic is using florescent as the white balance choice when processing the RAW files.  In the past I tried shooting cards for custom white balance and they work perfectly for the location and angle where recorded but not well elsewhere in the gym.  At least the school is consistent in their inconsistency because the football field uses a mixture of mercury vapor and high pressure sodium lamps creating the same issue for football (and JV soccer which is played under lights early in the season).


I shot their final home wrestling meet a couple of weeks ago, the first time I shot wrestling, and the combination of varied lighting plus the reflections from an assortment of different wrestling mats made for some really odd coloration.  Fortunately soccer season is about to start with lighting kindly provided by mother nature 🙂



EOS 1DX M3, 1DX M2, 1DX, 5DS R, M6 Mark II, 1D M2, EOS 650 (film), many lenses, XF400 video

Well setting WB in levels in PS doesn't change the shot very much.  It may have lightened her shirt a bit.  So you did do a goood job with your chossen WB setting.  Again good job as always.


cropped (1).JPG


Whatever, anyway, I bet she is going to love this photo.  Make her a print!  Smiley Happy


EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!

Thanks Ernie, your PS (and photography expertise in general) is always appreciated!



EOS 1DX M3, 1DX M2, 1DX, 5DS R, M6 Mark II, 1D M2, EOS 650 (film), many lenses, XF400 video

I shoot a 6D mark ll. I have terrible noise beyond ISO 6400. I shot a HS basketball game and was discussed with the images.So much noise.Between being to hard on myself and using a trial of PhotoLab 3 and Nik Define I was was able to clean up the images.

These shots look great of the VB game and Gymnastics. I need to lighten up on myself.

Happy shooting!

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