Tag Archives: vibration compensation

Autofocus Fine Tune

Autofocus Fine Tune test shot for Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens at 200mm, f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/200-second with flash and Nikon D610 AF Fine Tune set to OFF (Bill Ferris)

Autofocus fine-tune test shot for Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens at 200mm, f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/200-second with flash. AF fine-tune is turned off. (Bill Ferris)

Choosing the right autofocus (AF) mode can be a real challenge. You could leave the driving to the camera and go with Auto-servo AF (AF-A) mode. If you go that route, don’t expect that dumb box of a camera to make the right choices. It will make choices but they’ll probably not be the same choices you would make.

Being the risk-taker that you are, I’m sure you spend most of your time shooting in either Single-servo (AF-S) or Continuous-servo (AF-C) mode. These allow you greater control and, when good choices are made, a higher success rate making keeper images. Among those choices, is deciding which one or more AF points to use. Do you use one, nine, twenty-one or all the AF points on your camera’s sensor? If just one, do you go with the center point or an outer point? If you choose a group of points, which group? Do you allow the camera to have a say in which AF points are used? So many choices.

Let’s assume you’ve chosen an AF mode, and selected the number and location of the AF points that will be used. The next challenge is to successfully place at least one AF point over your subject and acquire focus. When it all comes together, it’s a beautiful moment. The shutter clicks open and the image swiftly, silently, gets encoded as a collection of 1’s and 0’s on an SD card.

Later, when you look at the photograph in Lightroom and realize it’s still not in focus, that moment of joy becomes frustration. What happened? Why is the eye just ever so slightly soft?

Of all the factors than have the potential to cause an out-of-focus image, arguably the most pernicious is a camera/lens combo that is ever so slightly miscalibrated. Despite your mastery of the camera’s AF system, your successful effort to track the subject and the presence of mind to make an exposure at the decisive moment, that slight miscalibration wreaks havoc. Focus is not set on the eye beneath the AF point. Instead, focus is slightly in front of or just behind the eye. The result is an out of focus image that ends up being deleted rather than marked as a keeper.

Autofocus fine-tune is a tool offered by many professional and high end consumer cameras. It allows you to adjust where focus is set to compensate for a miscalibrated lens. How does it work?

In the above images, the blue shaded portion of the semitransparent square overlay represents an out-of-focus area of the black and white image. The portion of the black and white photo visible within the blue shaded overlay represents the area of the face falling within the focus plane and appearing to be be in focus in the image. TOP: This illustrates a properly focused image. The eyes, brow and mouth fall within the focus plane and appear in-focus. MIDDLE: This represents a back-focused image. The ears an temples are within the focus plane and appear sharp. However, the eyes are above the focus plane and look soft. BOTTOM: This represents a front-focused image. The tip of the nose and chin fall within the focus plane and appear sharp. However, the eyes are behind the focus plane and look soft.

In the above images, the blue shaded portion of the semitransparent square overlay represents an out-of-focus area of the black and white image. The portion of the black and white photo visible within the blue shaded overlay represents the area of the face falling within the focus plane and appearing properly in-focus.
TOP: This illustrates a properly focused image. The eyes, brow and mouth fall within the focus plane and appear in-focus.
MIDDLE: This represents a back-focused image. The ears and temples are within the focus plane and appear sharp. However, the eyes are above the focus plane and look soft.
BOTTOM: This represents a front-focused image. The tip of the nose and chin fall within the focus plane and appear sharp. However, the eyes are behind the focus plane and look soft.

In the above illustration, the focus plane of the camera is represented by the semitransparent, blue square overlay. While all photographs have at least a minimal depth of field, for simplicity, I’m illustrating the focus plane as a two-dimensional, flat zone. With large aperture, small focal ratio lenses being popular for portraiture, the shallow depths of field produced by such lenses leave little margin for error when it comes to achieving accurate focus. If focus is not set on the eye or within a few millimeters of the eye, the resulting image will look “soft” and out-of-focus. There will be portions of the subject’s face that look sharp and in-focus, but if the eyes look soft, the overall impression will be that the photo is soft.

A miscalibrated camera/lens combo may give every indication of making a properly focused exposure. However, despite the fact that the focus point may be directly over the subject’s eye, the camera will set focus slightly in front of or behind the eye. If you are shooting with a fast f-stop, that slight miscalibration can result in unacceptably soft images. Autofocus fine-tune allows you to compensate for this problem.

In the Nikon D610 menu system, AF Fine Tune is found in the Setup Menu. (Bill Ferris)

In the Nikon D610 menu system, AF fine-tune is found in the Setup Menu. (Bill Ferris)

Entering the AF fine-tune menu, the first option is where you select, ON or OFF, for this control. The second setting is the Saved Value for the lens. (Bill Ferris)

Entering the AF fine-tune menu, the first setting allows you to select, ON or OFF. The second setting is the Saved Value for the lens. (Bill Ferris)

Entering the Saved Value setting, select a positive or negative number from +20 to -20. Positive numbers move the focus point farther from the focus plane to compensate for front-focused images. A negative setting moves the focus point closer to the camera focus plane to compensate for back-focused images. (Bill Ferris)

Entering the Saved Value setting, select a positive or negative number from +20 to -20. Positive numbers move the focus point away from the camera to compensate for front-focused images. A negative setting moves the focus point toward the camera to compensate for back-focused images. (Bill Ferris)

Nikon cameras recognize Nikkor lenses and many third party lenses, and are able store AF fine-tune settings for up to 12 different lenses. (Bill Ferris)

Nikon cameras recognize Nikkor lenses and many third party lenses, and are able store AF fine-tune settings for up to 12 different lenses. (Bill Ferris)

The above series of images illustrate how to use AF fine-tune to add an adjustment to compensate for a lens that consistently front-focuses or back-focuses when used with a specific camera body. AF fine-tune settings are not transferable. A setting on one camera may not be needed on a different but same model body. The setting is unique to that specific camera/lens combination.

Also, Nikon bodies do not allow you to define multiple settings for the same lens. For example, when working with a zoom lens, you are limited to one setting for that lens. If AF fine-tune is engaged, the adjustment will be applied regardless of the focal length used. I recommend you test a zoom lens at the focal length at which it will most likely be used.

The below series of images illustrate my approach to testing a lens to determine if an AF fine-tune adjustment is needed. Right click the below images to open a full-size JPEG in a new window.

Photo made with Nikon D610 and Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens at 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/200-second with flash. AF Fine Tune at OFF. (Bill Ferris)

Photo made with Nikon D610 and Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens at 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/200-second with flash. AF fine-tune turned off. (Bill Ferris)

Photo made with Nikon D610 and Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens at 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/200-second with flash. AF Fine Tune at +2. (Bill Ferris)

Photo made with Nikon D610 and Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens at 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/200-second with flash. AF fine-tune at +2. (Bill Ferris)

Photo made with Nikon D610 and Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens at 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/200-second with flash. AF Fine Tune at +4. (Bill Ferris)

Photo made with Nikon D610 and Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens at 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/200-second with flash. AF Fine Tune at +4. (Bill Ferris)

Photo made with Nikon D610 and Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens at 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/200-second with flash. AF Fine Tune at +6. (Bill Ferris)

Photo made with Nikon D610 and Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens at 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/200-second with flash. AF fine-tune at +6. (Bill Ferris)

Photo made with Nikon D610 and Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens at 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/200-second with flash. AF Fine Tune at +8. (Bill Ferris)

Photo made with Nikon D610 and Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens at 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/200-second with flash. AF fine-tune at +8. (Bill Ferris)

Photo made with Nikon D610 and Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens at 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/200-second with flash. AF Fine Tune at +10. (Bill Ferris)

Photo made with Nikon D610 and Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens at 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/200-second with flash. AF fine-tune at +10. (Bill Ferris)

Photo made with Nikon D610 and Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens at 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/200-second with flash. AF Fine Tune at -2. (Bill Ferris)

Photo made with Nikon D610 and Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens at 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/200-second with flash. AF fine-tune at -2. (Bill Ferris)

Photo made with Nikon D610 and Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens at 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/200-second with flash. AF Fine Tune at -4. (Bill Ferris)

Photo made with Nikon D610 and Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens at 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/200-second with flash. AF fine-tune at -4. (Bill Ferris)

Photo made with Nikon D610 and Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens at 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/200-second with flash. AF Fine Tune at -6. (Bill Ferris)

Photo made with Nikon D610 and Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens at 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/200-second with flash. AF fine-tune at -6. (Bill Ferris)

Photo made with Nikon D610 and Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens at 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/200-second with flash. AF Fine Tune at -8. (Bill Ferris)

Photo made with Nikon D610 and Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens at 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/200-second with flash. AF fine-tune at -8. (Bill Ferris)

Photo made with Nikon D610 and Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens at 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/200-second with flash. AF Fine Tune at -10. (Bill Ferris)

Photo made with Nikon D610 and Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens at 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/200-second with flash. AF fine-tune at -10. (Bill Ferris)

The above series of images is a real world test under real world conditions. When shooting portraiture with the D610 and Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 Di VC USD, I typically shoot wide open with a mix of ambient light and flash at 1/200-second. If you’re going to test a lens to determine an appropriate AF fine-tune setting, test the lens under the same conditions in which it will most likely be used.

AF fine-tune is turned off for the first image in the series. The next ten images were taken with AF fine-tune turned on. A +2 adjustment is applied in the second image. Images three through six have adjustments of +4, +6, +8 and +10 applied, respectively. A -2 adjustment has been applied to image seven in the series. The next four images have adjustments of -4, -6, -8 and -10 applied, respectively. At each setting, I took five handheld exposures with vibration compensation (VC) engaged. The above series includes the second exposure in each five-exposure set.

Reviewing the exposures at 1:1 in Lightroom, all five exposures with AF fine-tune turned off were acceptably sharp at the focus point. Two of the five in that set were a bit shallow in focus, displaying minimal in-focus depth of field in front of the focus point. The set which most consistently produced sharp images with good depth of field both in front of and behind the focus point is the set with an adjustment of -6 applied.

Now, it gets complicated. Normally, I would choose the -6 setting for the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 VC and leave it at that. However, I also have a Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens but the Nikon firmware does not distinguish between it and the 24-70mm f/2.8 VC. If I leave AF fine-tune turned on with a -6 setting for the 24-70mm f/2.8, the same adjustment will be applied when the 70-200mm f/2.8 is mounted on the D610. So, I’ve also tested the Tamron 70-200mm, using the same approach as with the shorter zoom.

The results of the testing with the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 VC were fairly straightforward. The best set of images was taken with AF fine-tune turned off. The set taken with an AF fine-tune adjustment of -6 were among the worst of the lot.

After testing both lenses, I’ve decided to store a -6 adjustment for the Tamron lenses but to leave AF fine-tune turned off. Both lenses make sharp, usable images without an AF fine-tune adjustment. If I remember to activate AF fine-tune when the 24-70 VC is mounted, so much the better.

Now, it’s time to get out and shoot.

Bill Ferris | November 2015

Sports Photography

Wide angle zooms reach infinity focus within 2 to 3 meters, allowing you to freeze motion and achieve good depth of field even at the widest aperture. This image was shot at 16mm, f/4, ISO 4000, 1/500-second

Wide angle zooms reach infinity focus within 2 to 3 meters, allowing you to freeze motion and achieve good depth of field even at the widest aperture. This image was shot with a Nikon D600 full-frame DSLR using a Nikon 16-35mm wide angle zoom lens at 16mm, f/4, ISO 4000, 1/500-second. (Bill Ferris)

Sports and wildlife photography are extremely demanding of you, as a photographer, and your equipment. You are often shooting in low light, farther from your subject than you’d like–when it comes to wildlife, sometimes too close for comfort–and trying to capture a moving target. These are situations where your photographic technique and your equipment’s ability to make good images are pushed to the limit. In this blog entry, I’m going to focus on sports photography, offering some tips on how to capture compelling, dynamic images under challenging circumstances.

Battling for position beneath the basket. This image was captured at 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 2500, 1/800-second

Battling for position beneath the basket. This image was captured with a Nikon D600 and Tamron 70-200mm zoom lens at 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 2500, 1/800-second. (Bill Ferris)

Basketball is a sport which allows photographers to be relatively close access to the action. This doesn’t make the sport easy to shoot but it does make basketball easier to photograph than other sports. I used a Nikon D600 to capture all the images in this article. Sports photography is one area where a full-frame sensor, such as that in the D600, can give you an advantage over a digital camera with a smaller crop-sensor. The pixels on a full-frame sensor are larger than those on a crop-sensor DSLR body offering similar resolution. Larger pixels are more efficient. In other words, they do a better job of capturing light than smaller pixels. As a general rule, A full-frame DSLR will deliver at least a full stop of improved high ISO performance in comparison with a similar resolution crop-sensor body.

Why is this important for sports photography? If your objective is to capture a moment, your objective is often to freeze motion. (Please, note that freezing motion is not required for good sports photography. It is, however, a common practice.) To freeze motion, you need to take really short exposures, typically using shutter speeds between 1/500 and 1/1000 second. To make a good quality image at such fast shutter speeds, you’ll need two things: a fast lens and a camera with good high ISO performance. (Since flash photography is prohibited on the field or court, you’ll need to rely on your lenses and sensor to make the most of the available light.) Most sports photographers shoot with lenses offering fixed apertures of f/2.8 or faster. ISO settings are typically in the 1600 to 6400 range…sometimes faster.

In the above image, I was shooting at 70mm, f/2.8 using an ISO of 2500 and a 1/800-second exposure. If you zoom in to 100% on the full-size version of the image, you’ll see a slight touch of blur on NAU player’s right eye. Also, the reflected lights on his cornea are slightly elongated. Even shooting at 1/800-second, the image does not completely freeze the motion.

This image was taken with a Tamron 70-200mm zoom at 200mm, f/2.8, ISO 6400, 1/800-second

This image was taken with a Nikon D600 and Tamron 70-200mm zoom at 200mm, f/2.8, ISO 6400, 1/800-second. (Bill Ferris)

Another advantage of a full-frame sensor is its comparatively shallow depth of field. This advantage is due to the fact that crop-frame sensors effectively extend the focal length of a lens. Nikon’s DX format sensors have a 1.5X crop factor. In other words, any lens used on a DX format body will have an effective focal length 50% longer than it will on a full-frame or FX format Nikon body. The lens I used to take the above image was set to 70mm on my full-frame Nikon D600. On my crop-sensor D90, that same lens would have an effective focal length of 105mm and a correspondingly greater depth of field. The pleasing bokeh in the above image would not be as dramatic in images made with the D90. Objects in the distance would be more in focus, reducing the separation between the subject and the background.

This photograph was taken with a Tamron 70-200mm at 135mm, f/2.8, ISO 3600, 1/640-second

This photograph was taken with the Nikon D600 and a Tamron 70-200mm at 135mm, f/2.8, ISO 3600, 1/640-second. (Bill Ferris)

Here’s an image that does a nice job of freezing the action. If you zoom in to view the image at 100%, you’ll see the NAU player’s eyes are in focus. This is the number one rule of good photography: focus on your subject. When shooting basketball or another sport where the athlete’s face is in view, you should focus on the eyes. How do you know if you’ve succeeded? Look at a 100% view of the the eyes in the original image. If light reflected off the cornea is sharp and well-defined, the image is in focus. If the eye is soft or fuzzy, the image belongs in the recycle bin.

A technique I use to achieve good focus is called, Back Button Focus. Back Button Focus (BBF) moves the auto focus function of your DSLR from the shutter release button to the Auto Exposure Lock/Auto Focus Lock (AE-L/AF-L) button, typically found on the back of a DSLR body. Why do this? Most DSLR shutter release buttons allow you to activate auto focus with a half-depression of the shutter release button. To take a picture, depress this button fully to actuate the shutter. When shooting sports, there is an advantage to separating auto focus from shutter release.

Taken at 200mm, f/2.8, ISO 6400, 1/800-second

Taken at 200mm, f/2.8, ISO 6400, 1/800-second. (Bill Ferris)

In the above photo of NAU men’s basketball head coach, Jack Murphy, he was squatting while speaking to his team. The distance from him to my camera wasn’t changing. In that situation, I used the AE-L/AF-L button to set focus on his eyes, then waited for him to turn and face me before taking the exposure. If the Shutter release button also triggered the camera’s auto focus function, taking the picture may have reset focus on another person in the frame, ruining the picture.

Another advantage of moving auto focus to the AE-L/AF-L button is the potential to extend the battery life of your camera. If you shoot with vibration reduction (VR or VC) lenses, that half-depression of the shutter release button will activate the vibration reduction motors. The VR motors draw additional power from your camera’s battery. Using the AE-L/AF-L button for auto focus allows you to wait longer before engaging VR, which will extend your battery life.

200mm, f/2.8, ISO 5600, 1/800-second

D600 with Tamron 70-200 at 200mm, f/2.8, ISO 5600, 1/800-second. (Bill Ferris)

So, how do I set up my camera for a sports photo shoot? First, I put the camera in full Manual mode. Why? Well, I know there are two factors over which I want total control. The first, is aperture. I want to use my lens’s widest aperture. This maximizes the amount of light falling on the sensor, which allows me to make a good image using short, fast exposures. A wide open aperture also delivers images with beautiful bokeh, creating clear separation between the subject and surrounding environment. The second factor I want to control, is shutter speed. If I’m trying to freeze the action, I’ll choose an exposure of 1/500-second or faster. You’ll notice many of the images in this article were taken with exposures of 1/800-second.

Having selected the aperture and shutter speed, I will then engage a setting I rarely use: Auto ISO.¬† When doing landscape and portrait photography, I generally select a low native ISO setting of 100 or 200 to¬†reduce noise in the resulting photograph and maximize image quality. Sports photography is one of those scenarios where you need to use–and trust–the camera’s high ISO capability. Selecting Auto ISO allows you to concentrate on framing, focus and when to push the shutter release button. You can choose to manually control ISO and, to be honest, many photographers are able to make ISO changes on the fly without missing a shot. Personally, I prefer to keep things simple and Auto ISO reduces the number of critical variables I have to monitor. Of course, this technique is only as good as your DSLR’s ability to meter and select a proper ISO.

D600 with Tamron 70-200mm at 200mm, f/2.8, ISO 5000, 1/800-second

D600 with Tamron 70-200mm at 200mm, f/2.8, ISO 5000, 1/800-second. (Bill Ferris)

With the manual settings in place, I’ll then double-check my camera’s auto focus setting. For landscapes and portraits, I use Nikon’s Auto Focus Single-Servo (AF-S) mode and choose a single auto focus point. In a nutshell, the AF-S mode tells the camera to set focus just once and lock that in place until the shutter is actuated. Landscapes don’t move and, in many portraiture settings, your subject is not moving. So, AF-S is a mode that allows you to precisely set and hold focus. Choosing one auto focus cross-point gives you further control over these critical factors.

Sports photography is a different animal, altogether. Since your subjects are moving, it’s generally better to select Auto Focus Continuous-Servo (AF-C) and a cluster of cross points where your subject is most likely to be within the frame. With AF-C selected, my D600 offers options of 9, 21 or 39 cross point clusters to predictively track and follow focus. This illustrates another advantage of assigning auto focus to the AE-L/AF-L button. With my right fore finger resting atop the shutter release button, my right thumb is able to depress and hold the AE-L/AF-L button to engage continuous auto focus. When I’m ready to take an exposure, I press the shutter release button.

D600 with Nikon 16-35mm at 16mm, f/4, ISO 5600, 1/640-second

D600 with Nikon 16-35mm at 16mm, f/4, ISO 5600, 1/640-second. (Bill Ferris)

Burst rate is another setting I’ll adjust prior to the game. Again contrasting sports photography with landscapes and portraiture, shooting constantly moving subjects is a scenario where your camera’s high speed burst rate is a real asset. Over the course of one or two seconds, a basketball player can go from the top of the key to leaping and finishing with a layup kissed off the glass or a monster dunk. My D600 has a maximum continuous burst rate of 5.5 frames per second. That’s one frame about every 0.2-second. If you have any doubt about how much can happen in two-tenths of a second, review a short burst sequence. In that collection of 5 to 10 images, there may be one where the player’s face is visible, the ball is visible, focus is pin sharp and framing is perfect. The other images may be soft in focus, poorly framed or have some object obscuring the subject’s face. I don’t recommend holding down the shutter release for seconds on end. But a well-timed, one-to-two second burst at your DSLR’s fastest rate can go a long way towards ensuring you get the shot.

Nikon D600 with Tamron 70-200mm at 200mm, f/2.8, ISO 6400, 1/800-second

Nikon D600 with Tamron 70-200mm at 200mm, f/2.8, ISO 6400, 1/800-second. (Bill Ferris)

Let’s talk about subject matter for a moment. Certainly, the primary objective of your photography will be to capture the critical moments and plays in the game. But sports are about more than just the action on the field or court. It’s also about what’s happening on the benches, in the stands and on the sidelines. The above image has nothing to do with the final score. But it captures a genuinely personal moment among the players on the Northern Arizona bench. If you didn’t attend the game, you probably don’t know what the final score was. However, seeing this image, may give you a clue. NAU dominated. They led by twenty or more points throughout the second half and won by that same margin. Hence, the players on that bench felt comfortable sharing a light moment–a bit of humor–before the final buzzer sounded.

200mm, f/2.8, ISO 4000, 1/800-second

200mm, f/2.8, ISO 4000, 1/800-second. (Bill Ferris)

Finally, I’ll share a few thoughts on lens selection. I brought three lenses to this shoot: Nikon 16-35mm, f/4; Tamron 24-70mm, f/2.8 and Tamron 70-200mm, f/2.8. All are zoom lenses with vibration reduction. The two Tamron lenses are fast, with fixed f/2.8 apertures throughout their zoom ranges. The Nikon 16-35mm is one stop slower at f/4, which would normally be a significant limitation in this setting. However, the excellent high ISO performance of the Nikon D600 body allowed me to freeze the action with this ultra-wide angle zoom.

Of the three, if I had to choose just one to bring to a basketball game, it would be the 24-70mm, f/2.8. It’s wide enough to frame players, head-to-toe, beneath the basket and long enough at the 70mm end to isolate a player from the waist up. The 70-200mm, f/2.8 would be next in my bag. The reach of this lens allows me to get up close and personal, filling the frame with the face of a coach or player. It also allows me to follow action on the far end of the court. In fact, if I were limited to just one lens for all sports shooting, it would be the 70-200, Sports like football, baseball and soccer are played on larger fields that demand a longer zoom range to bring the action closer to you, the photographer.

This photo was taken with a Nikon D600 and Tamron 70-200mm combo at 200mm, f/2.8, ISO 4500, 1/800-second

This photo was taken with a Nikon D600 and Tamron 70-200mm combo at 200mm, f/2.8, ISO 4500, 1/800-second. (Bill Ferris)

In summary, the key to successful sports photography is freezing the action. The tools that allow you to do this are a camera body with very good high ISO performance (advantage: full-frame sensor), fast lenses (f/2.8 or faster), and an auto focus system that accurately tracks and predicts focus on moving subjects. Shooting in manual allows you to control at least two critical settings: aperture and shutter speed. Using the camera’s Auto ISO feature can simplify things for you. Using your camera’s continuous auto focus setting and moving control over auto focus to the AE-L/AF-L button are an asset to achieving accurate focus. Focus on the eyes of your subject. If the eyes aren’t in focus, the image belongs in the recycle bin. When you’re ready to shoot, a well-timed short burst will help to ensure you get the shot. And finally, capture images that tell the full story of the event, including action around the court.

Now, get out and shoot!

Bill Ferris | November 2013