Action shots

edited January 2016 Posted in » Nikon D3300 Forum
I received my first DSLR this Christmas, and I am completely new. I would like to use it to take pictures at my son's basketball games. It came with the 18-55mm and the 55-200mm lens. Any advice or instruction on how to get great action shots in manual mode would be wonderful. I will not be too far from any of the action, so hopefully the lenses I have will suffice.

Thanks in advance!


  • edited January 2016
    Your main problem with the lenses you have will be getting enough light to focus fast and stop motion. I suggest you use, not manual, but shutter priority mode, and set your shutter speed at a speed over 1/250. Even that may be a little slow to stop some action. If you don't get sharp shots, set the shutter speed faster - try 1/500. The higher the better if you can get away with it. In shutter priority mode, if you also keep auto ISO enabled, the camera's meter will open the lens as much as it can, and if it runs out of aperture, it will boost ISO, but will always leave the shutter speed at what you have set.

    Make sure you start at ISO 100, and the camera will always use the lowest ISO it can. High ISO will usually not look too bad for human figures under artificial light, but it tends to be noisy, and dark areas will be compromised. Better a noisy sharp shot than a quiet blurry one, though, so go as fast as you need to go to catch the subject.

    Set your shutter to Continuous Release mode, so that when you press the button, it makes more than one shot. If you shoot Raw, the buffer will fill after 8 or 9 shots, and the camera will stall, but if you shoot only two or three at a time, recovery may occur fast enough that you'll never notice. If you must shoot longer bursts, switch to the largest and best JPG option. Lower quality or size from that only if you need to shoot very long bursts.

    Auto focus will be a challenge if light is low and people moving fast. Set your focus servo setting to "C" for continuous servo, so that it can track motion.

    You can try multi-point AF, which will let the camera choose. If it chooses right and your depth of field is sufficient, you get a good shot. If it chooses wrong, it will focus on the wrong player. If that happens too often, switch to either dynamic area or 3D focusing. Each has its advantages, and you'll have to try them out to decide which suits you better. If the players stand out well against the background, for example if they have colorful uniforms, 3D may work best.

    The center focus spot is somewhat faster and more responsive than the others, so if you can, keep the focus point centered. The [OK] button restores the focus spot to center.

    Try, if you can, to practice panning, that is, moving the camera along with the subject you're trying to catch. The more smoothly you can follow a moving subject, the better will be the focus and clarity, and the clear subject will show well against the blurred background, suggesting movement.

    If you have trouble auto focusing in the light, you can sometimes get a little better result by widening your focal length. A shorter zoom lens will be a little faster, and focus a little more readily, and also give a little better depth of field. If you do not expect to print too large, you can crop in later.

    Finally, though most of the time the matrix meter will probably work best, if you are trying to expose a face that is surrounded by much darker or much lighter background, you might want to switch to spot metering. This will meter only the area that your focus point is aimed at and ignore the rest.

    With the movement and rearrangement of players, you're almost certain to get a lot of bum shots - people move out of focus too fast, someone runs in front of them, you miss the vital gesture, etc. Don't despair. The erase button is your friend. Keep shooting, save the good ones and nobody will ever see the mistakes if you don't show them.

    Also, though the in camera preview is good for sorting out complete and utter misses, don't be too harsh a judge of the in-between ones until you see the image on a computer. Some will look better, and some can be fixed in post processing. Wait until you have downloaded the pictures before you get too hard-nosed.
  • edited January 2016
    @Bruto thank you! That is a lot of great info. I may have to print it out and keep it in my camera bag, lol.
  • edited February 2016
    Thanks Bruto. Lots of info to take in. I only have one more game for my son.
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