I wouldn’t consider myself an expert, but I know my way around a digital camera. Every now and then, someone who has seen my photos will come to me with questions about how to improve their own images. Now that I have this photography blog, I can post the answers here so that… (1) other photographers can pick up a pointer or two, and… (2) other’s who have overcome the same issues can post “Comments” below with their own suggestions and solutions. (Lord knows, I don’t have all the answers.)
Here’s a question I received by email this week. Rob wrote looking for advice with a common, frustrating problem.
Hi Pops Digital,
I have a photography problem Ive been trying to figure out for some time. looking at some of your photos, you seem to know a little. I was wondering if you could give me some advice.
I have a Canon G10 camera. It’s a point-and-shoot model but has many features of an SLR camera. My question is about something that’s been really frustrating me when I take photos during my kids basketball games. When I take a picture it is always dark. I think it has something to do with the gym being so large and well lit. When I use the flash it somehow darkens the picture. When I turn the flash off, the picture is brighter but now I run into blur. Ive tried messing with increasing the shutter speed but the pictures still didn’t turn out well. Do I need some type of zoom lens to get better results or am I just not hitting the right combination of settings? I’m confused.
Thanks for any advice,
I did some quick research on his camera and sent back this reply…
I checked on your camera and saw that, in it’s day, it was a highly recommended model. Good choice.
The problems you are having are a combination of lighting conditions and camera limitations. Action/sports photography is a difficult trick to pull off, even with a great camera and good conditions.
The first limitation to address is the flash. Most point-and-shoot cameras have an effective flash range of less than 15 feet. So, unless you are right on top of the action, the flash will not help you. The reason the picture seems to darken when you use the flash is because your camera automatically adjusts its settings for proper exposure with flash. However, its settings are based on your subject being within its flash range. Even a well lit room is not as bright as the light from your flash at 15 feet…so anything beyond the flash range will seem dark, if it shows up at all.
When you turn off the flash, your camera measures the available light in the room and adjusts its settings for the best exposure. Unless you are in an extremely bright room, the shutter speed will be slowed down enough that anything with quick movement – like a basketball game – will likely be blurred.
Adding some type of zoom lens would only compound the problems you are having. Zoom lenses typically require more light, which would slow down the shutter speed even more. And zooming in doesn’t just magnify the subject of your photograph, it also magnifies any camera movement…creating more opportunity for blurring the image.
Since I don’t know how you had your camera set, it’s possible tweaking the settings could help, but I honestly doubt that your camera has the ability to give you quality, sports shots indoors. Increasing the shutter speed could help to eliminate blur, but you wouldn’t have enough light to see the subject in a typical school gym at a shutter speed fast enough to stop the action.
Honestly, most point and shoot cameras don’t have the ability to do what you are asking; and do it well. Even newer models.
The Canon G1 has been around since 2000. My best advice would be to upgrade to a newer model. You’ll find that newer cameras have dramatically improved low light capabilities. For less than $250 (and possibly much less) you would see amazing results. (Keeping in mind, you are still asking the camera to do a very difficult task.)
If a new camera is not in the budget right now, you might still be able to get a decent shot with your G1 if you position yourself just out of bounds near the basket and took pictures when the kids are close – within the range of your camera’s flash. Give it a try and share any photos that turn out well.
If you have any ideas or suggestions that might help Rob, please share them as comments, below. If you have some other digital photography question, write your own “Dear Pops” letter and watch this blog for the answer.