For Beginning Photographers

Digital Camera Setup

Shutter Speed

The shutter speed is how fast the camera will take the picture you are shooting. A slow shutter speed, such as 1/60 of a second, will cause a lot of motion blur in the photo. At 1/250 of a second, a faster shutter speed, the action will appear to be frozen. Shutter speed can be linked to the blinking of an eye. If you blink quickly, the players have mostly stayed in the same positions. If you blink slowly, they will have moved. However, a fast shutter speed requires more light than a slow one.


The aperture is the amount of light the camera is allowing in. It opens to allow more light in and closes to bring in less. On a Canon camera, if the aperture is fully opened and still not bringing in enough light, the number will show red. The aperture setting is often called the f-stop so it will show on a camera as, for instance, F 2.0. The number becomes lower as the lens opens wider. The aperture and shutter relate closely to each other. The faster the shutter is, the more light it requires. This is because the camera does not have as much time to allow light into it as it is taking the photo since it is doing this faster.


Another important part of the camera is focus. The camera can either auto focus or can be focused manually where you pick the distance it can focus on. This is similar to how your eye works. If you hold your hand in front of your face and then look beyond that, your hand is out of focus. If you look at your hand, objects beyond it will be out of focus. This is true of a camera as well. You can focus at a certain distance in manual focus, and things at that distance as well as things a bit farther out or closer in will be in focus.

Depth of Field

The aperture controls the depth of field which relates to focus. The higher your aperture number is, the greater your depth of field. This means that you will have a larger area in focus. To understand this concept, consider why one squints. When something is blurry, people squint since the image then becomes clearer. Similarly, closing down the aperture will allow more objects in your photo to be in focus. A wide aperture means that very little beyond what is in the exact distance that you have focused on will be sharp. Therefore, it is best that your aperture is opened up to no more than 2.0 and preferably 2.5 since otherwise if you focus on a player's jersey, his or her face will be somewhat blurred and vice versa.

White Balance

Also, in different types of lighting situations, the camera has white balance settings that will allow the picture to still come out with a good color balance. When you are shooting indoors where there is often yellow lighting, the camera has a setting (under white balance on a Canon) called Tungsten, which is characterized by a light bulb. This makes the color of the photo bluer, which will take out some of the yellow.


All cameras have an Auto setting. This is where it chooses all of the settings for you, so you simply focus and take the picture. This setting often has the shutter at 1/60, 1/30, or even 1/15 of a second when you are shooting indoors.. This is fine for most pictures, but when shooting sports photos, all that will come out are blurs.  
To the far right is an example of a photo taken at 1/30 of a second. Although the light is very good, the photo is incredily blurred. The player on the left in the photo cannot even be made out. To the left is a picture taken at 1/250 of a second. It is a similar photo in that two people are jumping and ones is jumping towards the other. However, there is no motion blur and both players are extremely sharp. The only thing that is blurred in the image is the ball. In general, a favored speed for sports is 1/200 or 1/250 of a second. Keep in mind that zooming in with some cameras will force the aperture to close down, so if you are in a gym with bad lighting, do not try to take many close-ups if you have such a camera.

Shutter Priority

Cameras also have a shutter priority setting, marked as TV on a Canon camera. This means that you pick your shutter, and the camera chooses the aperture for you. If you are shooting indoors and the F number shows red or it is blinking, you must lower the shutter speed until it is not. If you ignore this, your photos will come out too dark. The picture to the far left was taken at 1/500 of a second. The player shooting the ball and the ball itself are frozen with no motion blur, but the photo is extremely dark. The picture to the left was taken at 1/250 of a second. While the ball is slightly blurred, the lighting of the photo is much better and makes for a far more pleasing photo. You should first try the shutter priority setting, but sometimes the camera does not choose the correct aperture and the photos come out too light or too dark. In that case, you should change to the manual setting and set your shutter speed and manually choose the corresponding aperture. Generally, the TV setting is useful for telling you close to or exactly what your aperture should be so it is useful to check what aperture it recommends before setting your camera on manual so you do not waste a lot of time guessing what the aperture should be.

ISO Speed

ISO speed is another important part of the camera. This is light speed and it contributes to the light in your photo. The higher it is, the lighter your photos are. Outside, it can generally be at ISO 100 or 200 and possibly even 400 on an overcast day. Inside it should be at no less than 400 and preferably at 800 if your camera allows that. At this setting, you can take photos at 1/200 or 1/250 of a second, depending on the lighting in the gym. However, at ISO 800 you can shoot at 1/320 or 1/350 of a second, depending on how your camera works. Different cameras have different aperture and shutter values.


During a game, you should usually take between 100 and 200 photos. This allows you to have more selection when deciding which ones are better than others. As a result, you should pick the highest resolution that allows you to take 200 photos. This setting depends on the size of your memory stick: the larger it is, the higher the resolution that you will be able to shoot at. Fora 1600 x 1200 resolution, a 128 mb memory stick is required, but for a 3000 x 2000 resolution, a 512 mb memory stick is required. The resolution available to you depends on your camera.