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Football exposure question..
Jean Finley, Student/Intern
Iowa City | IA | USA | Posted: 4:06 PM on 08.21.04
->> Help! How do you solve the exposure problems? I'm so confused. White uniforms, dark uniforms, dark-skinned faces shrouded by gigantic helmets, noon-day sun, etc. etc. etc.

My first football experience (an open practice/scrimmage from this morning) was a disaster. Results on my member page.

Advice? Ideas?
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Andrew Sullivan, Photographer
Kissimmee | FL | USA | Posted: 4:19 PM on 08.21.04
->> Best advice would be:

A. Shoot with the sun, not into it. If possible, try to avoid a shooting position that keeps players in shadow.

B. Slow down the ISO. Just keep it fast enough to freeze the action, if it is a high ISO for no reason you just add more contrast and lose more detail.

C. Find an exposure setting you're happy with and stick to it. If lighting is consistent across the playing field, set your camera to its manual mode and dial in a correct exposure and stick to it. Light changes though, so at the start of each quarter find a new exposure and use it for that quarter. Keep in mind that zoom lenses and shadows on the field change the exposure dramatically, so the 'manual' approach may not work in every situation.

Hope that helps! Best advice is to shoot more.

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Brad Mangin, Photographer
Pleasanton | CA | USA | Posted: 4:45 PM on 08.21.04
->> Jean- shooting daytime (1pm starts) football early in the season is difficult because the light is bad- as you have found out. As each day goes by and we head out of the summer and into the fall the sun drops lower into the southern sky, creating the long shadows and pretty light that make all of our football pictures look better.

You think your light is bad- try shooting baseball in June and July :-)

Anyway...if the sun is out and the light is bad the thing I always do is shoot backlit. Our football season starts here in the Bay Area on Sunday afternoon, September 12 when the 49ers host the Atlanta Falcons in a 1:15 game at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. The light will suck. BAD. It will start to get better around 3pm or so.

Anyone who wants to make nice pictures of Falcons QB Michael Vick will NOT shoot frontlit- if you do you will have images that show off his bright white jersey, but his face will be a useless shadow under his black helmet. If you shoot backlit you can expose for the shadows and see his face, which is always important when you try and make nice sport pictures. I know that I will start the game shooting from the backlit corner, then I will probably move around to the Peter Read Miller frontlit endzone quadrant for the second half when the sun drops low enough in the sky to shine under the helmets so it illuminates that faces of the players.

By October the light becomes screaming and low as the sun continues it's journey south until December 21- then it heads back north and gets uglier and uglier until June 21 :-)

When the light is low in the sky on the bright and crisp days in the fall and winter we have the best of both worlds- amazing frontlight and the under-appreciated GREAT backlight. Don't forget to shoot a game from the backlit side if you get a chance- as long as there is no nasty haze in the sky you will enjoy black backgrounds, faces that pop and grass that flies up from the cleats, etc.

The bottom line is to have fun and keep learning. Keep a notebook and write down your experiences after each game you shoot. Make note of your exposures. This will help the next time you head out to shoot a game.

Good luck!
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Jean Finley, Student/Intern
Iowa City | IA | USA | Posted: 5:00 PM on 08.21.04
->> Just as I suspected. Brad Mangin does know absolutely everything!! Exactly what I needed. Thank you.
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Joe Andras, Photographer
Laguna Beach | CA | USA | Posted: 5:05 PM on 08.21.04
->> Jean,

Brad's comments are terrific, and always preferred I imagine, but I think you might be able to improve the shots at taken, in CS, by opening up the shadows just a bit. The Shadows/Highlights tool is very useful.

This was a quick and dirty hack at it, but it shows how you might open up a player's face just a bit by slightly expanding the shadows.
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Jean Finley, Student/Intern
Iowa City | IA | USA | Posted: 5:18 PM on 08.21.04
->> Ah.. today is indeed a beautiful day.

Joe - Thank you. I'm only on v.6, but when I went to ask my son about CS, turns out he has it.. so.... I'll be playing with that new tool soon. Thanks again for the help.
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Brian Ray, Photographer
Iowa City | IA | USA | Posted: 5:18 PM on 08.21.04
->> Hey Jean,
I was not at the practice today but I feel your pain. Iowa plays a lot of mid-day games and it is a common problem. As other people have said shooting manual seems to be the best way to go. It also helps if you have long glass and are able to fill your frame with the player so you don't have to worry about blowing out the background. Last but not least, when there is actually a game at Kinnick there are 70,500 fans covering up those silver bleachers in your backgrounds which helps to even out the exposures a bit.
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Dick Van Nostrand, Photographer
Bay City | MI | USA | Posted: 6:05 PM on 08.21.04
->> My vote goes for shooting against the light and as slow a film as possible. Photoshop is a good solution for low-contrast problems with backlighting.
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Jean Finley, Student/Intern
Iowa City | IA | USA | Posted: 6:07 PM on 08.21.04
->> have digital.. shot 200 ISO.. probably could have shot 100
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Dianna Russell, Photographer
Springfield | MO | USA | Posted: 7:52 PM on 08.21.04
->> Great information! Thanks for asking this question, Jean.

I had problems with too much contrast last year when shooting football and this year when shooting baseball, tennis and soccer. I have a soccer game to shoot tomorrow so I will be anxious to use some of this info. Thanks everyone and Andrew for your tips on the ISO and contrast. I can only go as low as 200, but it probably makes a huge difference from 400 to 200.

I love this site. :o)

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Alan Look, Photographer
Bloomington | IL | United States | Posted: 8:34 PM on 08.21.04
->> I'll also thank Brad.

I've been shooting semi-pro football since the middle of July. They look so flat. I knew it was the high sky sun when I first saw them. Now I know how to fix them.

One other thing I try in the fall when the light gets better is to try adjusting by setting to over expose. Generally I stop at 1 over.... Results vary.
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Michael J. Treola, Photographer
Neptune | NJ | USA | Posted: 11:31 PM on 08.21.04
->> You’ll never get a better chunk of info then you have from Brad on this thread. It's very easy to understand why his is such a talented photographer. Not only is he thinking about the players he needs photos of but he's also already has a plan on how to accomplish it. He knows and understands the light at the stadiums that he shoots at and uses it to his advantage.

Good Stuff!

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Thomas E. Witte, Photographer
Cincinnati | OH | USA | Posted: 5:58 PM on 08.22.04
->> Brad Brad he's our man, if he can't explain it, no one can!

About four years ago I just plain quit shooting with the sun behind my back in favor of backlighting. I originally did it because the opposite sideline was was less crowded, but then I started to prefer it for it's more dramatic light. What you'll noticed is that if you're shooting into the sun, the seating bowl you're shooting towards will be in total shadow very early into the game and yield some very nice clean images when the sun was still on the field.

Now-a-day's I'm shooting from the same position but trying to adjust it a tad to get the remaining light on the field to be 1/4 or 1/2 light with that same dark background.

Good luck this year. Post updates and post them often.
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Ron Scheffler, Photographer
Hamilton (Toronto area) | Ontario | Canada L8S3W5 | Posted: 8:26 PM on 08.22.04
->> The light later in October through December certainly is beautiful... unfortunately it seems many of the new stadiums are being built higher and steeper than in the past, resulting in that always fun to work with half field in sun, half in shade situation.
Considering how good digital cameras are now at ISO 400+, half the time I just wish for a cloudy day (but not a dark, dreary day).

Jean, you might also want to take a look at the parameters your camera is set to... i.e., contrast and saturation settings and drop them down to lower contrast and saturation if your camera allows this.
Definitely try to shoot backlit if possible, and keep a close eye on the camera's histogram to judge your exposures. Try shooting a bunch of test shots while waiting for the action. I.e., something white (I usually use an official's uniform) and something dark in order to see how close the histogram is to clipping. You definitely want to avoid running the left side of the histogram all the way to the left... however, don't worry so much if some highlight info, such as on the helmet or shoulders (if white) is clipped (blinking).

Back in the film days when shooting football (or field sports in general) it was customary to overexpose a bit from what you would expect. I seem to recall that my sunny exposure was 1/1000 @ f/5.0 for Fuji 100 chrome pushed one stop. You definitely didn't want pure black shadows where faces in the helmet should be... Metering for this was also an 'art', as each photographer would have their own way of angling their handheld incident light meter to balance how much of the reading would be based on light coming from the sky vs. light reflecting off the field...
It's somewhat easier now with digital and histograms.
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Alan Look, Photographer
Bloomington | IL | United States | Posted: 8:39 PM on 08.22.04
->> Question -

I've often thought of using a flash to fill in the details on the face. Especially when shooting into the sun. I'm not sure this is permissible in division 1, but I could certainly do it shooting semi-pro. I could also use it during early HS games.

Anyone ever tried it? If so, what were the results like.
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Jean Finley, Student/Intern
Iowa City | IA | USA | Posted: 3:32 PM on 08.23.04
->> Ah... it's all getting clearer now. In this scrimmage, the offense ALWAYS went the same direction (used only one endzone). I think an actual game will solve the exposure problem. Now I'll go back and work on composition. Thanks to everyone who helped.
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Thomas Oed, Photographer
San Diego | CA | USA | Posted: 4:42 PM on 08.23.04
->> Great advice, all!

Yeah, Jean... I've had the same problems myself. Early in the season, the sun is high and shadows brutal early in the game, but if you want any sun at all, that's the only time you'll get it! Here in San Diego, the field is in shadow long before the sun is low enough in the sky to be pleasing, Since the west end of Qualcomm Stadium is enclosed. Actually, the whole thing's pretty much enclosed now, since the latest remodel, but even in the 'old days', when 'The Murph' had an open end, it was on the wrong side!

If I manage to get a field pass this year, I'll have to try the 'backlit' approach. Much less crowded on that side of the field, anyway! : D

Brad, how do you meter when you're backlighting? Do you spot meter on the faces, or just Chimp and keep adjusting your exposure compensation til you get what you're looking for?


P.S. - To give my take on Alan's question about using fill flash, you have to keep in mind the distances you're working with, and the effective range of your flash. I shot Arena Football here for a couple of seasons, and fortunately no one seemed to mind us using flash when shooting these games. The thing is, though, the flash was really only effective when the action was in the closest 10 yards or so. Even if the NFL or Div I would let you use a flash, it's doubtful there'd be much of a difference, unless they were right by your sideline.
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Brad Mangin, Photographer
Pleasanton | CA | USA | Posted: 5:49 PM on 08.23.04
->> Thomas- in the "OLD" days of shooting chromes two years ago it was real easy to shoot backlit by using my handheld meter in incident mode. It was also very easy to know the exposures in my home stadiums. My basic backlit exposure (all results can vary depending on how accurate your shutter speeds are, what batch of chrome you got, your lab's processing on any given day, etc.) was 1/500 at f:4.0 pushing my chrome plus one and one-third stops (+1 1/3).

Now with digital it's way easier by knowing your camera, looking at the histograms, watching for the blinking highlite indicator, etc. I shoot all manual with my cameras. I also shoot everything in RAW mode which means I can be all over the place and still be cool- which makes me more relaxed. The bottom line is to talk to your clients and make sure that the exposures that YOU think look good on your end will work on THEIR end because that is what really counts if you want to continually get paid for your work in order to avoid the horrow of growing up and having to actually work for a living :-)

Trust me- after shooting and shipping RAW chromes on deadline for 10 years and still being able to sleep at night this digital stuff is a piece of cake :-)

Good luck and have fun.
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Wes Hope, Photographer
Maryville | TN | USA | Posted: 6:00 PM on 08.23.04
->> Hey Brad et al, when you are shooting backlit, do you go ahead and just accept that fact that you're going to clip the highlights on helmets and shoulders? Or do you search for a happy medium?

Obviously, shooting backlit will blow some highlights, but how much should be sacrificed for shadow detail? I'm guessing it's a fine line.

This football season will be my first all-digital... fun fun fun!!
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Thomas Oed, Photographer
San Diego | CA | USA | Posted: 7:58 PM on 08.23.04
->> Thanks again Brad... marvelously informative.

Uhh, but one thing... on the working-for-a-living scenario... TOO LATE!! Hehe, I'm already 'stuck' with a full-time day job, and wishing and hoping that someday my photography will even be able to pay for itself, let alone support me in the process!!

I most likely won't have any 'clients' when and if I'm on the sidelines this season... at least not any current ones! Just another opportunity to work on my skills and hopefully create some images that will allow me to get some FUTURE clients.

Have a good season...
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Thread Title: Football exposure question..
Thread Started By: Jean Finley
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