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Shooting basketball games in a gym

edited December 2013 Posted in » Nikon D5100 Forum

I am hoping someone can shed some light on what I'm missing with my settings when I'm shooting my daughters basketball games. When I take the pictures they seem to come out dark and blurry even with the shutter speed set to 400.

I use the Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G lens which I heard does not work well. I would be open to any recomendations on settings or tricks and even a new lens without breaking the bank.

Thank you in advance


  • edited January 2014
    Hi David. I am not an expert by any means but I think it has more to do with that lens than anything else. My brother has has a Nikon D3200 with that lens and gets the same results indoors. I know that a faster lens will definitely help you but they do not come cheap.
    Maybe someone with more skills than I have can help you further with some tips on possible settings, but that lens seems best suited for outdoor shots.
  • edited December 2015
    Indoor settings need to be set for the setting and the action. You need to crank up the shutter spreed to 1000, which will make you to have a much higher ISO setting, up to 6400.

    Also, when you are at the high end, 200mm, your lens is slower than at the low end, 55mm. Try taking shots at the lower end and cropping the photo in post.

    Also, shoot in burst mode so you can have more keepers. If this does not work, buy a faster lens.
  • edited December 2015
    I am very green with my photography and am trying to figure out best way as well. I am trying to get out of auto mode and trying to make the lens I have (the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6) work for me until I can get one with a lower aperture. I am trying to go with a bit darker image and edit to lighten it up. I can make lighter but I can't get rid of blur. What I am still working on but have mine set at:
    S - shutter priority 1/500
    WB - incadescent
    Continuous shoot
    AF-C (although I read someone recommended manual focus, I am not good enough to do that)
    +/- i Exposure compenstion I have at +5.0
    Flash compensation I have at -3.0
    ISO - 6400. I would love to be able to get that much lower though because it is so grainy.
    The best pictures are going to come from a better lens, but until then I will keep tweaking and hoping for a few good pictures. ;)

  • edited December 2015
    I would recommend that you change your exposure compensation back to 0 and do the correcting in post, if possible. +5.0 is a very big compensation and overexposes by five stops, the equivalent of doubling your exposure five times in a row. If you want to darken the image, you need to underexpose slightly, but it's rare that you'll want to go more than about two stops under the correct exposure.

    To get a good idea of what effect compensation has, I recommend that you take a conventionally well-exposed shot in Raw mode, and open it in View NX2. There, you can alter exposure by two stops + or -, and see immediately the effect of that setting by itself. You can also alter the white balance of Raw shots here.

    There's a good chance that when you compensate that much with the shutter speed that high, it will run out of apertures, and not expose properly at all.

    If you're using the VR kit lens, you really don't need that fast a shutter speed unless you're freezing fast motion.

    Enable the "overview" option in the replay menu (replay display options). Then when you open an image in the camera, use the up/down arrows to toggle between display settings. The overview will give you a histogram of the basic exposure, and also will give you the camera's settings for the shot, enabling you to see what was set, and how it might have gone either right or wrong.

    Make sure that along with AFC, you enable single point focus. For accuracy, I'd recommend Dynamic Area focus first. Multi point will let the camera choose which point to focus on. 3D can work very well on some subjects, but if it loses the subject it can jump to the wrong one. Dynamic area is a good compromise, which will track a subject that moves fairly regularly and tries to predict where it is heading. 3D is said to be better on objects that move irregularly or dart around. It uses color and other information from the initial subject. If your subject is distinct from the background, 3D can lock on to it well.

    If your subject is standing still, switch to AFS, single point, single servo. If you focus accurately on what you want, it will work best. It will not follow a moving subject, though.

    I would not worry about manual focus at this point. The small DX finder and the relatively short focus throw of the kit lens combine to make manual focusing rather difficult. You can do it, using the confirmation dot and the rangefinder (another option found in the menu), but the AF usually works OK and it's much quicker to get right. Make sure that the AF center point is where it belongs. It's easy to move by mistake. Recenter it with the [OK] button.

    As an experiment, I'd suggest setting the ISO at about 800 for low light, and as low as possible outdoors. Set the camera to A (aperture priority), and set the aperture fairly wide open. With VR on, just about any shutter speed better than 1/10 ought to be enough at the wide end, and better than 1/60 at the long end.

    You can experiment with your own shutter speed limitations, by taking the camera indoors, and finding a device or devices with LED pilot lights. You want the little round ones. Now set your camera to Auto ISO, ISO 100 to start, shutter priority, and try shooting at that target from a distance such as across the room, at different shutter speeds. Make sure your focus is as accurate as can be. You can use single point, single servo for this. Open the images and zoom in on the light. Blur from camera movement will be instantly seen as elongation or ovalization of the round light.

    By the way, I also find that in many instances the built in flash is a bit too strong, and that it's best compensated a little down, but again, -3.0 is a bit much if the other exposure is good.

    One last thing to check, is to make sure that your AF and your lens are in agreement (a problem that might require a factory visit to fix). If possible, take a row of similar objects, such as drink cans, and set them on a table top. Now from a fairly low angle, slightly to the side, aim your camera at a specific one right in the middle, using the widest aperture. Shoot it, and insure that the point you aimed at is the point it focused on. It should be right on or very close. Now do the same thing in Live View. Live View focusing is always error free if the light is good. If your viewfinder and Live View images agree, you are in luck.
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