Dark images indoor gymnastics pictures

edited March 2017 Posted in » Nikon D5200 Forum
Hello, I am a mom trying to get great pictures of my daughter and teammates at her gymnastic competitions. I bought the Nikon D5200, AF-S Nikkor 18-140mm 1:35-5.6G cheat sheet and they have been great! I am now able to catch the quick movements without blur, but the cheat sheet is for sports outdoors, so my pictures come out crazy dark. We are also not allowed on the floor so I end up shoot at full zoom. When I put the photos into photoshop to lighten them they are very noisy. Currently I am able to get decently lit shots, but grainy using either Manual Mode or Shutter Priority (1/500, f/5.6, ISO-A 6400, Fine Quality, ADL A, WB Florescant 4, AF-C, AF-Area Mode, 21, Metering Matrix, exposure compensation +4.0). Any help would be amazing. I have been thinking I just need a bigger telephoto lens, but if I can avoid the cost that would be best.


  • edited March 2017
    What you need mostly, I think, is a faster lens. This situation is one of the most challenging even with faster lenses, and good as the 18-140mm is all around, it's slow indoors. If you're still getting dark shots with the exposure up by four stops, you're pretty well maxed out, if not past that. About the only thing you can do here is to try a somewhat slower shutter speed, but I doubt you can get much slower without blurring. You could try something around 1/200 and see if it helps any at all.

    One other thing you might try is to change your metering. It sounds as if your shots are from a fair distance, and might include a lot of extra space. If there is a lot of dark area in the gym, and the contestants are at all lighter than the surroundings, try spot metering on the contestant. This might raise the exposure a little bit, as the meter will be looking only at the contestant, and ignoring the rest of the dark auditorium. The spot meter on this camera always follows the focus point.

    If the ISO comes down even a stop or two, it will reduce noise a good bit.

    You are probably not going to get any better noise performance from software, but you might try Nikon's Capture NX-D program (free from Nikon), assuming you are shooting Raw files. You can adjust exposure and there is also a noise reduction function, which reduces sharpness a little but might be worth trying anyway.

    I am assuming you're shooting Raw files. If not, you probably should, as this allows more manipulation of the exposure, and also free manipulation of white balance and picture control, etc.

    One possible way to combat objectionable noise might be to try monochrome. A black and white image is still noisy, but the noise is not in the form of color speckles, and looks more like old-fashioned grain.
  • Hey @katgib75, as @bruto mentioned, low light action requires the right lens. In order for a lens to perform well in dim situations, it needs an aperture of f/2.8 or lower to allow lots of light into the camera. More light equals sharper, brighter, better looking photos.

    The 18-140mm can only get down to f/5.6 when zoomed in to 140mm. This is the equivalent to the camera wearing a pair of very dark sunglasses indoors in low light. The camera literally can't "see" so it has to slow down the shutter speed, which introduces blur, and also raise the ISO, which degrades the image with noise/grain.

    For low light sports/action, I recommend you rent the Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 (if you are close to the action) and the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 (if you are far away from the action), once or twice a year for an important event. This would allow you to capture wonderful low light action shots to remember it by. Depending on what part of the world in which you live, there are online retailers that do this sort of thing. In the States, we have lensrentals.com and borrowlenses.com.

    Anyways, I hope that all makes sense. If it doesn't please do reply back with any questions.
  • Thank you! I live in Orlando and did not realize you could rent lenses. It would be great to test out a lens before I drop hundreds of dollars on it. Would the Sigma 70-200mm work with shooting theatre productions? At this point I use my camera for student's headshots (which I have covered with current lenses), my daughters Gymnastics meets, and the school's drama productions at my daughters school and the school where I work. My current drama pictures are hit or miss on quality. Thank you so much for your help. If you come out with more cheat sheets for my current lens, let me know!

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