Fast Motion Capture In Low Light

Hi all,

So I am an amateur pro wrestling photographer and I spend 70% of my time working in low light/artificial light situations.

This makes it incredibly hard to capture fast motions without there being a significant amount of blur.

What can I do to minimise blurring without sacrificing quality?

I appreciate that the shutter speed has to be high (above 1/500) and ISO needs to be above 6400 in order to get any kind of shot but even then the shots come out incredibly dark.

What lens (between 10-20mm) would be worth me investing in to get the best in these situations?

As a side note, I would use flash but that significantly reduces the shutter speed doesn't it?

Any help would be amazing.


  • If you can use flash without violating any rules, try that. It reduces shutter speed, only because exposure depends entirely on the duration of the flash, which is very very fast. A properly flashed picture will likely stop motion completely. However, of course you do need to be close enough for your flash to light the subject, and you have to be in a place where flash is allowed. The built in flash might not get you all the way, but if you can find a more powerful shoe mounted flash, you might be surprised. The bigger the flash, the faster, usually, and a good big one will outspeed the fastest shutter speed, but even the built in flash will usually stop motion well.

    If you are in an arena that is brightly lit, and the subjects do not occupy a majority of the frame, you might get dark images because the meter is trying to get a perfect exposure of the lights, which you don't care about. Try spot metering on the face of a wrestler if you can, and see if that helps.

    I don't know just what lens would be the very best here, except that the faster the better. In the wide angles you're suggesting, that's going to involve some serious coin, and I might suggest instead that you consider the very reasonable 35/1.8 DX lens, which will give you a good bit of speed, and can still be very sharp at an aperture like F 2.8. If it's sharp enough and gets your subjects right, the D3300 has room to crop.

    If you're not shooting with flash, I'd also suggest you put the camera in burst mode and shoot several frames at a time. Sometimes one will be just that little bit sharper than the others.

    If you're using the built in flash, don't forget that it entails extra battery drain, and make sure you have a spare battery if you're spending much time at bouts.
  • Bruto you are like my personal Nikon Yoda. Thank you so much for the advice.

    Obviously burst capture is what I like to use but I don't think there is a decent go between wanting burst photography in low light conditions is there?

    What manual settings do you think would work in low light conditions if I want a high shutter speed and flash?
  • edited July 2017
    If you want a high shutter speed and flash, you must stick to the sync speed of the shutter for flash, which I think in this case is 1/200. Above that the picture won't come out. (some more expensive cameras have a higher speed setting, in which the flash pulses. Not available here.) Because the flash is so much shorter in duration than the shutter speed, exact speed is rarely too important unless you're doing fill flash or using a very low shutter speed to get both ambient light and flash light. For action, I doubt you'll see much difference between speeds. *

    I'm not too well versed on settings for external TTL flashes, as when I use an external flash it's usually an older one that works only in manual mode. For those, you operate at or below the sync speed of the shutter, and, if the flash has its own automatic function, choose an aperture to match the ISO specified. For a completely manual flash, you set the aperture according to a guide number. The guide number of a flash is the distance from the subject (in feet) times the aperture, at an ISO of 100. So, for example, if you have a flash with a guide number of 60, you would use an aperture of F6 to illuminate a subject at 10 feet, at ISO 100. At ISO 200 you'd stop down by one stop (to about F8), and so forth. It's a bit of a hassle, but not too hard, and pretty precise.

    Some external flashes have multi-shot modes, whereby at somewhat reduced power, you can shoot in bursts. Worth a look to see what distances might be covered at what speed.

    TTL flashes are, of course quite the thing, and can make a nice exposure, but don't discount the old fashioned Automatic flashes, which use their own exposure meter to set flash duration. They can produce very good results with a little practice.

    *footnote on sync speeds. It may not be obvious how this works, but focal plane shutters such as the one in your DSLR, cannot readily operate at very fast speeds. At slower speeds, the first curtain opens, the exposure is made, and then the second curtain shuts behind it. But those curtains can only operate so fast. Things have gotten faster, but above a certain speed the shutter operates by passing a narrow slit across the sensor, the faster the speed the narrower the slit. At those speeds the shutter is never all open at once, and thus the short duration of an electronic flash cannot hit the whole sensor. Built in and dedicated flashes will not allow you to exceed the sync speed but if you use a manual flash and manual shutter speed that is too high a large part of the image will be black.

    Back in the days of flash bulbs, this was less of an issue, because flash bulbs have a longer duration. My old Nikon F has three different sync settings for different sorts of flashes. Leaf shutters also open all at once at all speeds, making high speed flash easier.
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