Indoor sports photography is a difficult challenge for most photographers. One of the most common questions we receive from beginners is “What camera settings should I use to photograph indoor sports in low light?”
Indoor sports photography needs fast shutter speeds. Personally I set Aperture Priority, using the lowest aperture number my lens will allow, then adjust ISO until I get shutter speed of 1/400th of a second. The lower the aperture number, the lower the ISO needs to be to achieve this shutter speed. Therefore we highly recommend investing in a lens that allows you to shoot with an aperture of f/2.8.
For example, a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens (available in all brands, from low to high cost). Again, if you don’t have a lens that goes to f/2.8, you’ll need to increase your ISO much higher to compensate. Depending on the lighting, this may mean going as high as ISO 6400 plus.
Keeping in mind speed and low light requires a high ISO, you’ll also be wanting a camera model that handles this nicely. As you’d know from lesson 1 of our online photography course, a high ISO results in noise / grainy images. The amount of noise you see will depend on your camera model, i.e newer camera systems handle noise much nicer than past models, the same is true of higher end verses lower end models.
Different scenarios for indoor sports
- Low end camera model: 1/250 shutter speed at f/2.8 and ISO 1600 (highly recommend a f/2.8 lens, especially for those with low end cameras). At a speed of
1/250sec you should still get a good number of sharp shots if you are photographing children, or it’s not a fast moving sport. Yes you will notice grain, but it’s better than not getting the shot at all.
- Those with a later model camera (including low end models) can push their ISO up to 3200 to get a fast enough shutter speed. Also good if your lens only allows say f/4 aperture. However if you do have a late model camera and a f/2.8 lens then you have the perfect gear for indoor sports.
- The reason I suggested a 70-200mm focal length earlier, was because the longer your focal length, the higher your ISO will need to be set. For example ISO 6400 is often required at 400mm focal length when shooting indoors. This takes into account you are most likely hand holding your camera.
- Student image© Tamara Schuster (USA)
- Canon EOS Rebel l2i camera+ Canon
- EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS lens
- ISO 6400 1194mm focal Iength
- Aperture fl 5.6
- Shutter speed 1 /125
- Editors note: The later the camera model, the higher you can push the ISO to compensate for a higher aperture number.
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