Settings for action shots with kit lens in different lighting

edited September 2012 Posted in » Nikon D3100 Forum
I am trying to take some good action shots of my daughter playing soccer, but I can't seem to get the right setting? It is usually daylight, sometimes toward evening, but it seems to always blur.


  • edited September 2012
    If it's a football game I would use a zoom 55-200mm or 70-300mm.
    To freeze the action you need a high shutter speed and good light. There is a sports mode setting, have you tried that? Also take a look at the guide mode.
    If you're more confident use the S mode and start at a high shutter speed. Increase the ISO to about 400 depending on light. If it's a nice clear day I would choose 100.

    Other settings need to be selected too. The focus mode needs to be AF-C (this ensures when you follow your subject it will keep its focus). For the focus area I would use dynamic and matrix for metering.

    If your using the kit lens your focal length will not be that great so detail maybe reduced, but it would still produce a decent shot.

    Hope this helps.
  • edited September 2012
    Hi, I am a beginner and I'm also having the same trouble shooting clear action pictures at my son's soccer games. I notice when I am shooting from a far the same thing is happening; blurry photos and detail is reduced. What did you mean by using the kit lens? I am shooting with a DX A-S Nikkor 55-200mm f/1.4-5.6G. I need to get that shot to freeze and I want it to be clear and have detail when shooting from far across the field. Should I buy the 70-300mm or buy something different?

    What is dynamic and matrix for metering? Can you explain? I also don't understand focal length. Thanks a bunch!
  • edited September 2012
    There is a thread called best lens for close up action shots I think by @photosbyjojo. This may help you as well but am happy to explain a bit more.

    The term kit lens means the lens supplied with the D3100. It's an 18-55mm DX VR f/3.5-5.6.

    The lens you've got is much better in the terms of focal length because yours goes to 200mm and starts off at 55mm. The kit lens is good to start off with, giving you a broader range of shots including wide angle.

    There is a lot to learn when your zooming in. Your shutter speed drops quite a lot at full zoom, meaning that if your shooting handheld at 200mm your shutter speed should be no less than 1/300 sec; any less and you will get blur. So in order to get that speed you need light, and I mean natural light, because a flash is no good for subjects more than 10 feet away.

    So natural light is your helping hand here if it's outside. There are other aspects that can help but that's a different matter (please read the other thread I mentioned).

    Dynamic is the focus area and matrix is the metering. Both of these can be found in the manual and you can learn what they do there.

    There's one thing I have learned with DSLR photography in my life and that's your camera is only good as your lens.

    The better the lens, the better the quality. That's my belief anyway. :)

    Hope this helps.
  • edited September 2012
    Shooting is improving. I shoot with a 70-300mm and worked on my settings. S priority 1250 shutter speed in good daylight with ISO at 400. You can modify your settings. I started on shutter speed of 1000 and adjusted from there. What I've learned is practice, practice. View your shots and practice more.
  • edited September 2012
    So if I am taking pictures at a football game at night would your recommendations be a 70-300mm lens for my Nikon D3100? I was using my 55-200mm lens with the sports aperture, but recently most of my pictures seem to be blurred. I am stooped at what I am doing differently. For a year they were clear, but now they are blurry. Any different suggestions?
  • edited September 2012
    I'm not sure what level you're at, but have you tried the same procedure as jojo? Read that post just above yours.

    I strongly advise you to get out of the program modes. They're ok to an extent but if you start understanding the pro modes then it will help.

    I'm only taking a guess at this, but if your shots are coming out blurry I would say it has to do with the light and shutter speed. I've said in many of my posts if your at full zoom (i.e 300mm) your minimum shutter speed to shoot handheld is 1/500 second. To freeze the shot you need to be higher than that, but that would still do a good job.

    If the light is poor then the chances are your shots will be blurred. ?The more natural or artificial light, the better chances you will have.

    Jojos shots are very good; check the Flickr pages out.

    Is it a football stadium, or out side? Ideally if it's a stadium then you need to pitch side. You'll have better chances of more light.

    Sports photography can be quite difficult if your equipment is not up to par (by that I mean using $2000 plus lenses). Fixed apertures of f/2.8 on a 300mm wide allow more light.

    Don't get me wrong, the lens we/I use are ok as long as it's the right conditions.
  • edited September 2012
    Thanks Riddelske. When I got brave and stopped using auto I started to see huge results in my action shots. I posted better barrel shots on Flickr. Practice, practice, practice and write down your settings and you will get it. Best of luck everyone.
  • edited October 2012
    Thanks again for your help (both of you photosbyjojo and Riddelske). I am the one shooting soccer pictures towards evening at a stadium field and my shots were blurry and grainy. I went into the settings and they were all messed up, so thanks for the help with that! My lens is the Nikor 55-200mm and tonight my son has a game, so I will use some of your suggestions (S mode and 1/500). I am calmer now. The more I learn the better I feel.

    When zooming in and zooming out, do you have to change your speed or does the camera adjust (or is that just in auto mode)?
  • edited October 2012
    In the S mode you will set the shutter speed regardless whether you zoom in or out, the camera decides the aperture.

    In A mode the camera does the opposite; it selects the shutter speed.

  • edited January 2014
    Thanks a lot for these recommendations!!! It's awesome like this!
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