Hello fans and friends,
I've been getting a ton of e-mail and social media messages asking me how to get sharp images. It's not exactly something everyone gets right in my view. But everybody has a style they choose and stick to because when it comes to being a pro photographer, you need a special style that nobody else has. that's what gets you the money in the bank.
Well, I don't mind sharing knowledge as long as it doesn't take away from my working time. Here is a short answer.
When it comes to low light motion photography, like bands or sports, shutter speed is the most important setting. I don't care what anybody says about ISO or aperture or whatever, you get a high shutter speed like 1/1250 inside a venue then you're going to have the sharpest images you've ever seen at f2.8. In fact, I personally sacrifice everything else. High ISO cause softening and loss of contrast and detail, blah blah, don't let any of that stuff scare you. I guarantee you that if you have the right ISO setting with a high shutter speed you'll get sharp images. Because that's how I do it.
Another secret that I have is that I go into my picture style in camera and turn up my brightness and lower my contrast when shooting in jpg. I turn up the sharpness to where I like it and set my white balance to make the color more interesting. It changes for every venue and every lighting setup, so there's no way I can tell you a specific setting. But I just set it to my liking. The easiest way to do this is to use live view. Most cameras have an exposure preview in live view. Canon has it, sony has it, and some newer Nikons have it.
I almost never raise my aperture in low light events. I keep it as wide open as possible to capture everything in focus. It's important to have a good lens with a wide aperture for this sort of thing. I also recommend zoom lenses like 24-70, 70-200, at f2.8 because you can't always move around at events.
If you haven't been practicing in manual, and you haven't experimented with shutter speeds and contrast levels and played with your ISO... you could put your camera in auto mode. I don't recommend it... because a camera isn't smart enough yet to capture things on auto settings. When that day comes I will probably be out of a job, who knows. But if you do use auto mode, use shutter priority. Set it to a shutter speed that freezes the action without blur. Again, it's different for every scene, and different speeds require high shutter speeds. For an MMA event I like 1/1250 this seems to capture just about any kick or punch. Rarely is someone so fast that they can blur out at 1/1250.
So get your cameras out, raise those shutter speeds, and get to an acceptable ISO setting, put your aperture at the widest (lowest number), and start shooting. If you like your settings but not the look, check out your picture styles, change the contrast and brightness and sharpness. Check your live view in exposure preview mode! Make sure you are getting the shot you want, not the shot you think people will like!
Keep shooting, and always improve your own unique style!