Having problems with your Digital Cameras ?

Nikon D40X What is the best setting for night pictures at a youth football game (under lights) My pictures are not coming out focused and very dark

Answers :

It will take a little experimentation on your part, but you are likely to get the best results by turning off most of the automatic features on the D40x.

First, for exposure, a lighted field tends to have pretty even lighting across it. You still need a decently high shutter speed to capture football action, so you will need a high ISO setting.Turn your D40x mode dial to "M" for manual (see p.43 of your manual). Set your ISO to 1600 (see p.37 in the manual).

Consulting my 1973 Kodak Master Photoguide, I'd suggest using an initial starting point for your exposures to be a shutter speed of 1/400s ("400" on the LCD) and and aperture of f/4 on your lens (p.43). If your lens is slower than that, equivalent starting points would be 1/200s at f/5.6 and 1/160s at f/6.3. For best results, though, you will want to use a faster lens for night sports.

Take a picture of a subject on the field, then display it via playback. Click the multi-selector up or down until you see the histogram display. While most of the bars in the histogram may be toward the dark end of the scale, there should be some in the mid-tone region representing your subject. If everything is toward the dark end, you will need to open your aperture or reduce your shutter speed. If there are bars piling up at the extreme right or light end of the histogram, you can increase your shutter speed. Continue this process until you find the exposure setting that gives you a clear-looking picture on playback with a good histogram. You should be able to use this setting for the rest of the evening. It pays to check occasionally, though, as sometimes lights either increase in brightness with time, or some lights may go out.

Concerning poor focus: if you are using a telephoto lens under low light, the camera autofocus mechanism can either take a long time to focus, or may fail to focus. This is another case where you may get better results going manual. If you are using an AF-S lens, there should be a switch on the lens marked "A <-> M". Switch it to the "M" position and you will now focus the lens manually. You will turn the focus ring until your subject appears its sharpest in the viewfinder. If you can predict where the action will be happening, you can pre-focus on the spot and wait for the play to unfold and take the picture when the players get there. Choosing moments when players naturally have minimal movement in the midst of action is something all sports photographers learn, so as to make the most of the small action-stopping ability of shutter speeds in low light situations, such as when the quarterback stops to throw a pass, or catching a receiver at the topmost height of a jump.

Remember after the game to restore your usual settings to the camera: a more moderate ISO setting, selecting the "P" or an automatic mode on the dial, and turn the switch on your lens back to "A" for automatic focusing.
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