After reading Ryu’s post last week I was surprised to learn that Ryu uses Tv (shutter priority) mode most of the time for sports because I don’t. I use Manual mode about 80%, Aperture priority mode 15% and Shutter priority mode 5%. Here’s why:
- I usually shoot all my action images at f2.8 (or f2.0 on the 200mm) to have the background out of focus as much as possible
- I find it’s easier to get consistent exposure in Manual mode
- The only time I use Shutter priority is when I’m panning or want artistic blurring, and only if it’s changeable light and Manual mode can’t cope
f2.8 all the time
As you know, in Aperture priority mode the camera’s light meter will pick the shutter speed to expose the image properly. For sports, I want the camera to use a shutter speed no slower than 1/1000th. So I will choose an ISO setting so at f2.8 the shutter speed will be in the range of 1/1000th to 1/4000th. This is a full 2-stop range and will normally be adequate in the stable lighting of most football stadiums. To ensure I don’t accidentally change the aperture from f2.8 I even lock it on my Nikon D3 via the lock function.
Aperture priority mode allows me to not have to manually change the shutter speed in changeable lighting conditions. This often happens if I’m shooting outdoor sports and the sun goes behind a cloud or the stadium is partially in shadow. When it’s really sunny the exposure is sometimes 1/8000th @ f2.8 at ISO 200. This is the limit of the Nikon D3. If it gets any brighter I would need to put a neutral density (ND) filter to continue shooting at f 2.8. So let’s suppose I start shooting and the player runs into shadows or the sun suddenly goes behind a cloud, the camera will automatically drop the shutter speed to a slower speed. Magic. That’s why I use Aperture priority mode.
For even more magic, there’s ISO Auto. For example, when shooting soccer under artificial lights I know that ISO 2000 is a good setting to keep the shutter speed at 1/1000th. But if I were at a new stadium and didn’t know the lighting well I would use the ISO Auto feature. Here’s the settings I would use: I would set the highest ISO to 3200 and lowest speed to 1/1000th. This tells the camera that I would be happy for the ISO to go up to 3200 but no more, and I don’t want a slower shutter speed than 1/1000th of a second. I would then set the ISO to 800 and let the camera set the ISO to the lowest it can while maintaining my shutter speed to no slower than 1/1000th.
Here’s an example of using the shallow depth of field of f2.0
Manual is even better
Although I love Aperture priority mode, if the light is stable or if I want a specific effect I will always shoot in Manual mode. This gives me the most control but the downside is that it’s hard to make exposure changes in the middle of a burst of images. For most of my shooting situations like soccer or indoor ball sports in a well lit stadium I would use Manual. I would also use Manual to create specific “looks” like this image of Petra Kvitova:
Shutter priority mode
When I use this mode, it’s only for times when I want to ensure a slow shutter speed for a blurred background or special effect. This is often also achievable, and preferred in my mind, using Manual mode. The times when it’s not is in situations where you’re photographing a subject that’s moving in and out of shadows or changeable lighting. Here’s an example:
Every photographer is different and there’s no right answer. Keep experimenting, practising and have fun!
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