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Settings for night baseball games

jburch921
Occasional Contributor

Hello I'm new to this forum.  I have been using my Canon EOS T-5 for several years now and have literally taken 1,000's of pictures for travel baseball for years.  Most of these games have been during the day time and I would use the TV mode and for the most part, these pictures came out awesome.

 

Now my son is playing college ball and most of his games are at night.  I took some pictures using the same mode and some were ok, but just not great.  I have been reading some of the comments on your forum for settings. 

 

Can someone please give me easy settings to take actions shots? (my son is a pitcher, so fast moving action) on top of stadium lighting. 

 

Would "AV" be my best option or "P" for an action shot in the dim lighting?

 

Also what setting should I use for people in the stands in the dark.  Again I'm new to the night time picture taking, so any advice would be very much appreciated. 

22 REPLIES 22

wq9nsc
Respected Contributor

I don't know what lens setup you have but that becomes far more critical when shooting at night, you need a fast (wide aperture) lens of suitable focal length to avoid excessive cropping.

 

I shoot a lot of night sports.  With modern camera bodies AND the proper lens, using manual exposure with auto ISO works very well.  Set the aperture to wide open (hopefully if is a f2.8 but f4 works pretty well also, f5.6 or slower is going to be very difficult for night sports even on a well illuminated field). 

 

Shutter speed should be set as fast as possible without forcing the ISO too high and if you don't have a wide aperture lens, then you are going to end up with a very suboptimal shutter speed.  1/1000 is great, 1/640 works pretty well, 1/500 and below is on the ragged edge for a pitcher and you are going to get some motion blur.  So it becomes a compromise between shutter speed and too much noise from forcing the ISO too high.  The best compromise depends upon your lens and the field so try some different settings during pre-game warmup.

 

Regardless, you will have to lower your expectations somewhat at night.  First photo is from afternoon HS baseball with plenty of sunlight resulting in fast shutter speed and low ISO.  The second is from a poorly lit football field forcing a less desirable shutter speed and ISO  (1/640 ISO 10,000) with the resultant loss of detail.

 

Rodger

 

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

jburch921
Occasional Contributor

I just the TV mode in this picture.  This one is ok, but some are really dark.FB_IMG_1623035950686.jpg

jburch921
Occasional Contributor

And I'm using a 300mm lense on this shot.


@jburch921 wrote:

And I'm using a 300mm lense on this shot.


What aperture?

 

I like to use M mode, which gives me complete control over Av and SS.  I use ISO Auto during the day, and dial in an ISO setting at night, once the light has pretty much stabilized following sunset.

 

However, you may be better off using Av and ISO 400 to 800 witth your camera body.

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"Doctor told me to get out and walk, so I bought a Canon."

wq9nsc
Respected Contributor

Outside of an exceptionally well illuminated professional stadium, ISO is going to be above 800 for night baseball for any reasonable shutter speed even with a fast telephoto prime.  Even very few D1 baseball fields have incredibly good lighting and even with a f2 lens you will be in the 4 digit ISO range with shutter speed fast enough to freeze baseball motion at most ball parks. 

 

You can limit the maximum auto ISO below your camera body's capable maximum to avoid a useless level of ISO if it is too noisy beyond a certain point.  My 1DX III maximum ISO is 819,200 but that is useless for images, I do let it go to 51,200 where it produces very nice output with a little noise reduction in post and if I were in a really bad location I would let it go to 102,400 but that is on the ragged edge of my comfort curve for acceptable quality output.  Other bodies will have a far lower usable ISO and that will always be below their maximum rated ISO.  You will have to experiment to find out what the maximum usable ISO is after taking a number of images (in RAW) and seeing what can be recovered in post.  It is a tradeoff but I will take noise over motion blur until the noise becomes extreme.

 

Is your 300 lens a f2.8 lens?  If not, it probably isn't fast enough with that camera body to allow a useful exposure triangle for most night baseball.  With the newest full frame bodies, a lens with a maximum f4 aperture has become more useful but with older crop body cameras you will need excellent illumination at night for a lens of that aperture to allow a usefully fast shutter speed.  You may find that you are best off using the widest aperture lens you own instead of the longest reach and finding a location as close as possible to your son while he is pitching.  I shot a lot of football earlier this year with a 200 f2 on the second camera body instead of my usual 70-200 f2.8 because that extra stop was more useful than the versatility of a zoom on fields with poor illumination.

 

Rodger

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

jburch921
Occasional Contributor

Thank you so much for the help.  I'll try the few settings to see if I can get some better shots.  I guess practice makes perfect right.  I took a few pictures at home last nigt unsing the night option, defivenly lighted up, but that was on objects that weren't moving.   I'm hoping to master these night games since we are going to have so many of them this summer.  Also obviosly my camera is an older model. I have have absolultley no complaints, I have taken many great pictues thru the years.  What are your thoughts on the Canon T-7?  I was thinking up get a newer model.

wq9nsc
Respected Contributor

jburch,

 

Google led me to some higher ISO images from your T5 and it still looks very acceptable at ISO 3200 and probably 6400  but try some different ISO settings and see how high you are comfortable going in terms of the ISO / noise tradeoff.  You can definitely go above 800 with your camera and unless you are satisfied with images where your son is freezing in place prior to or after a pitch you are going to have to go with higher ISO at night or otherwise shutter speed will be far too slow to freeze motion.  Even with a f2.8 lens, the exposure triangle isn't going to let you hit a point with low ISO and enough shutter speed in that venue.

 

If you aren't shooting in RAW, do so.  That is a necessity to get the most out of your camera under difficult conditions and the same is true even if you move up to Canon's more expensive and capable bodies.  If you aren't using RAW already, Canon has free software available for download (DPP) that will allow you to do post process work in RAW and then convert the files to jpg format for sharing.

 

Av (aperture priority mode) with fixed ISO was the best sports shooting mode available for many years and is what I always used with my 2005 era EOS 1D Mark II but that was because auto ISO wasn't available then which was a holdover from the film days. 

 

Looks at the blogs and writings from sports shooting greats like Peter Read Miller and Scott Kelby and they have also embraced auto ISO as the mode of choice for shooting sports, especially under trying varying and night illumination conditions.  The logic is simple, for low light sports you are going to use the widest aperture your lens offers the overwhelming majority of the time so it makes sense to fix that parameter.  If you are shooting action, which is the majority of sports shots, then using a shutter speed too low for that sport just results in blurry images so you want to fix your shutter speed as fast as possible without forcing the ISO too high with the minimum shutter speed at least sufficient to freeze action for that PARTICULAR SPORT AND POSITION.  You have now fixed two critical variables (aperture and shutter speed) of the three controllable variables in the exposure triangle. 

 

So let ISO float so that the camera can adjust for a standard exposure by automatically adjusting ISO with respect to the best possible aperture and shutter speed values you have fixed.  This is a very standard sports setup for current camera bodies with auto ISO capability which includes most of those produced in the last 10 years.  It simply provides the best your camera will be able to do within the constraints of lens aperture and venue lighting.

 

For your next night game, set your aperture to the lowest number possible for your lens and try your shutter speed at 1/500 for a few shots with auto ISO and see what you get.  If the ISO is at its upper limit and the image is still under-exposed, try dropping the shutter speed another step slower.  If the ISO is reasonable at 1/500, see what it will do at 1/640.  For example with night football, in the worst high school stadiums I drop shutter speed to 1/640, for decent I use 1/800, and for a great high school and many college I go with 1/1000.  Lighting conditions always force compromises, your role is to choose the best possible compromise.

 

Before going to a new body, check to see how much better the T7 is at higher ISO compared to your T5 to see if it is a worthwhile upgrade.  You may find that a different body is better.  The primary ingredients for good night sports shots are an optimal location and a fast lens, without those two ingredients even a great sports camera body will be crippled in its ability to provide good images.

 

Sports shooting is already difficult because things happen so quickly and gets far worse at night due to lighting issues.  And every venue has its own peculiarities. The regional softball playoff I shot yesterday is in a park that isn't well constructed for photographers.  The outfield fence is very high and there is no high ground just beyond it but standing on my Pelican gear transit case gave me another foot of height which worked well.  To get images of the pitcher and some of the infield action, I spent part of a few innings in the dugout entrance area shooting over the coaches heads while dodging the girls running out to retrieve fouls.  It worked but it added complexities and distractions to shooting the game because my goal at sports events is to be as invisible as possible which doesn't happen when you are working in a busy area.  The coaches and players were very gracious and wonderful to be around but my personal goal is never to be anywhere that has the potential for causing distraction.

 

Even in daytime, auto ISO is very useful.  When I am at an event I will choose a shutter speed that will provide proper exposure at ISO 100 in the brightest part of the venue and let the camera adjust ISO as needed. I shot the third game in a regional softball series yesterday afternoon on a very bright and almost cloud free afternoon but shortly after the game started a thick cloud temporarily blotted out the sun and the camera increased ISO to 400 to compensate and this image of an inning ending throwout at first base were some of the very few at the game not in the ISO 100-160 range.  Moments later the sun was coming back out dropping the ISO back to 200 and then 125 for a slide into second on the way to another run.

 

Capturing images in RAW format provides files which are pretty tolerant of over/under exposure and two stops of adjustment in post would have worked pretty well but I prefer getting things as close to perfect as possible in original and auto ISO is a big help in that department.

 

Rodger

 

 

 

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

"... I'm using a 300mm lense on this shot."

 

You mentioned 300mm but you didn't say what 300mm lens it is? Is it this lens Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III Lens?

This is what I would consider upgrading first before a camera. Although f5.6 isn't the best aperture for night sports it can work but there are a lot of much better lens choices available.

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

Waddizzle
VIP
The T7 will be more replacement than upgrade. Your ISO will be 12800, and higher, if you’d lens is not f/2.8 or faster.

None of the Rebel camera bodies have reputations for being good performers in low light. Save your money for an RP
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"Doctor told me to get out and walk, so I bought a Canon."