Best setting for… stadiums

Reader Ray asks about shooting in a stadium. In this case, he will be shooting Monster Jam at the Air Canada Centre.

Whether you are shooting monster trucks or skaters like the young lady below (who is not exactly in a stadium but is in similar light), this kind of shoot is interesting.

Here are some pointers and questions:

  • Are you even allowed in with a long lens? Many venues restrict this.
  • It may seem like there’s lots of light, but if you are shooting action (things move!) you need fast shutter speeds, so your light may still be insufficient. Look through the camera: do you see a shutter speed twice the lens length or more (if 200mm, you want 1/4ooth sec or faster)? Depending on the action you may need much more.
  • So to get this, turn up your ISO as needed. 1600 ISO is not uncommon, although in bright stadiums you may not need to go this high.
  • Use the fastest lens you can get (lowest “F-number”). This is important!
  • Pan with the action (follow the action). When panning, turn your IS/VR off, or to “mode 2” or “Active” if your lens has that.
  • Shoot RAW.
  • White Balance is unimportant when shooting RAW. Still, you may want to set it (e.g. to “Fluorescent”).
  • Use manual exposure mode (“M”) and check the histogram to set it. The light will not vary so you should use manual to ensure that your exposures are consistent. Use evaluative metering. You can start at, say, 1/250th sec at 1600 ISO at f/5.6 and vary from there (you’ll probably need to open up more or, alas, slow down the shutter, if you are using a kit lens).
  • Set your camera to continuous shutter release
  • You may want to use “AI Servo” / “AF-C” continuous focusing if the subjects move to ward you or away from you.
  • And finally: shoot a lot. A lot! You will get some good shots. The better your lens, the more you will get, but even with a less bright lens, you will get some winners if you shoot a lot!
  • Shoot when the subject is “standing still”, e.g. when the truck is at the top of an arc as it jumps.

Using all those guidelines should help!

Also – check out my book, which will be coming out soon, for many such “Quick Recipes”.


0 thoughts on “Best setting for… stadiums

  1. I understand about the restrictions in many venues. Even when you call before to ask what’s allow, it could changed the day of the event. I always bring my Canon SX10IS point/Shoot or just show my DSLR with 50mm none zoom Lens.
    I will definitely start with your information, and make my adjustments from there. Michael I would like to thank you again for posting stadium photography on your blog. Any hints on when the presale of your book will be, and is this your first book?


  2. Hi there Ray,

    Thanks so much forth ekind words. And correct re showing without zoom – always good policy. Long lenses scare the copyright nazis!

    The book will be out in the next few months – I just need to write some more checklists (easy but time-consuming) and do a thorough edit. I’ll let you know as soon as it is ready for presale – should be soon. It is my first photography-book. I see a need that no-one else is fulfilling…

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