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The Tackle

By francisg
Taken during this afternoon's Amature Football match. A little bit disapointed with the result though. (Both of the game and my pics)
I just cannot kill that motion blur to get pin sharp results. I had the camera mounted on a tripod. setting the speed at 400iso and the speed bias set. this gave a reading of 1/800 @ f 5.0. I still feel I should be getting a better quality image, with the Canon. Any helpful comments will be gratefully recieved.

Tags: Photo journalism Action Sports Portraits and people Amature football colour Sports and action

Voters: lesarnott, maryg, cairntable

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lesarnott 8 11 2 United Kingdom
16 Oct 2010 9:37PM
A great action shot! If your image is a bit soft try the following to see if it helps. 1/800th of a second should be stopping the motion blur easily so perhaps it's softness rather than blur? If this is the case try first making sure the Image Stabilizer is turned OFF when using a tripod, 2nd try a higher aperture and a go for a shutter speed of around 1/500 of a second. This will increase the depth of field slightly getting that bit extra in focus. I'm not sure what lens you are using? 70-300mm yes but at what aperture? For sports really you want a high quality fast lens with a aperture of 2.8 all the way through. They are expensive but they will give you the results you want. It's not the camera that takes a picture, it's the lens. However if money is an object try the above and see if you get a result! Good luck and in my opinion, that's not a bad shot at all!

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jondf 11 2.7k
16 Oct 2010 9:44PM
Well, first off, the pros'll be using low f number prime lens 'L' glass coupled, in all likelihood, to a 1D series camera. They'll gain a fair number of stops advantage over you there.

Regarding the image - it's billed as 'The Tackle' and yet there is no tackle and the ball seems static. It reminds me more of dancing strangely enough. Also, the arm across the face is an unwelcome distraction.
maryg 9 66 18 Scotland
16 Oct 2010 9:46PM
Good action shot with good colour saturation. Have tried action shots and had the same problem so the above advice is very helpful for me as well.
francisg 14 705 1 United Kingdom
16 Oct 2010 9:52PM
Thank you for all your comments and advice.
16 Oct 2010 10:13PM
wonderful action shot Frank.
francisg 14 705 1 United Kingdom
16 Oct 2010 10:19PM
Thank you John. Glad you like it.
DRicherby 9 269 725 United Kingdom
17 Oct 2010 12:16PM
I'm not an expert on this kind of photography so you might get more useful advice by posting to the critique gallery.

In any case, this looks pretty sharp, to me. What slight softness there is, is easily dealt with by software sharpening, which should be the last step of your image processing. The photo is, however, rather lacking in contrast and I think that is much of the reason that it doesn't have the impact of a professional image. The scene contains both true black and true white, so your image should, too. However, if you look at the image's histogram, you can see that the vast majority of the image (over 95% of it) is only using half the tonal range available and you have no true blacks or true whites.

Before correcting that, you should correct the white balance, which is a little off. The white areas of the player's kit and the white fence in the background are noticeably blue. Correcting the white balance removes quite a bit of blue from the photo, which makes the colours look more natural but also increases the contrast a little.

To fix the dynamic range problems, we need to use levels and curves. First, use the levels tool to spread the histogram across the whole tonal range. Setting the black end to 17 and the white end to 230 achieves this but you can see that the histogram is still quite bunched in the middle and is very low for a long section on the right (indicating a general lack of highlights) and a shorter section on the left (a lack of very deep shadows). To alter the distribution of tones in the image, use the curves tool. This displays a graph, initially a straight line, where the left side represents the dark tones and the right side represents the light tones, as in the histogram. To make adjustments, click and drag the line with your mouse to change its shape. Raising a section of the line brightens that range of tones and lowering it darkens them. So, in this case, we want to raise the line quite a bit at the right and lower it a little on the left. Don't push things too far or the colours will start to look unnatural but make what adjustments you see fit.

Finally, a couple of thoughts on the composition of the photo. There are a few things there that decrease the impact. It's good that you have the ball in the frame but it's quite a long way from the players, which suggests that you were late on the tackle, so to speak. It's also a shame that the players are angled away from you and that the red player has his arm in front of the other guy's face. Obviously, you can't control where the players are when the action happens but you will get better-looking shots from times when they're angled towards you and you can see their facial expressions.

Here are some of the possible causes of softness in photographs.

Camera shake, as you suggest. At 1/800s on a tripod — or even handheld, at this focal length! — camera shake is negligible as a cause of softness. Your shutter speed is much faster than 1/(1.6 x focal length) so camera shake isn't going to be an issue. That said, I'm curious about what sort of tripod head you're using as most aren't designed to give the sort of free motion that sports photography requires, while still supporting the camera. A monopod is usually better for sports shots, as it lets you pan and position the camera while still having it fairly firmly mounted.

Missed focus. Obviously, you have to be focused on the right spot. What auto-focus mode were you using? If you were using the regular one-shot autofocus, you may get some softness from the delay between focusing and shooting. Unless you focus and shoot straight away, the players will have moved to a different distance from the lens and may be out of focus by the time you shoot. Canon's servo-AI mode is pretty good at tracking moving objects.

High ISO introduces noise and subsequent noise reduction causes slight softness as the software can't perfectly distinguish noise from detail. However, ISO-400 should be reasonable: on my 400D, there's a bit of noise visible in out-of-focus areas at ISO-400, but I normally don't do any noise reduction. Your camera is a generation older so might have slightly worse noise performance. you could try ISO-200 instead, at the cost of a slightly slower (but stil fast!) shutter.

The lens. Which 70-300mm lens are you using? Canon make three at the moment and have made others in the past; Sigma make two and Tamron also does one. Obviously, these lenses vary in optical quality and autofocus performance.

Resizing for upload. The appearance of sharpness depends on pixel-level detail at boundaries in the image. This detail gets lost when you resize, so you need to restore it by sharpening a little. Unsharp mask with a radius of about 0.8 and strength of 40–80 does a good job on most images, so long as they were sharp to begin with.
francisg 14 705 1 United Kingdom
17 Oct 2010 1:06PM
Thank you Dave for your helpful comments and advice. It is much appreciated.

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