Indoor Events with Autofocus


Using the Nikon® Autofocus System


Lesson Info

Indoor Events with Autofocus

How 'bout indoor events? Indoor sporting events, or indoor stage events for that matter, on the left here we have a play, so again, my daughter, I get to show her off. One of the privileges of being an instructor and a father is you get to show off your kids. So here she is, she's in a play, a stage production, and she's actually walking. It's a little bit hard to tell there, but she's actually walking from one position to another, very rapidly if I might add. You can see her hair is moving, so she's moving quite quick, but check it out, it's sharp, it's in focus, there's no motion blur. How did I accomplish that? Well I accomplished that by having a high ISO. That's the key. So shot high ISO and a big, wide aperture, in this case f2.8. I shot that with my 70-200 f2.8 lens and I don't even know what ISO I was at. I'm just gonna guess 6400, maybe something like that. Here's a scenario, I showed this photo earlier actually, remember that was at the YMCA? This was a D300S, and this was li...

ke ISO 2500. The old ISO 2500, you get a lot of noise compared to the new ISO 6400, almost no noise at all. And here's another shot, an even darker environment with that old D300S camera. You can even, if you're looking at this at home, look real close at your computer monitor, you'll actually see banding and striation because I think I used ISO high one or high two on an older camera. Indoor sports, indoor events are the hardest thing to photograph and get good, sharp photos, it takes a lot of practice. I get a lot of emails and a lot of phone calls from people who want to know how to take better photos of their kids in indoor sports. So that's what I wanna show you now. I don't have field photography video, I actually have a live studio model to work with me, so come on up. We're going to do a few different examples of indoor sports photography, and I'm gonna have you hold the basketball. How do you feel about dribbling? We'll find out. We'll find out, alright, cool. So we'll do, maybe what we'll do initially, we'll just kind of keep it simple and not dribble, what we'll do initially is I'm just gonna have you kinda move around a little bit, about this fast, okay? We're gonna take some shots there, then we're gonna do something a little more sophisticated, we're actually gonna have her dribble and come towards me, and maybe just a fast gait, and then we'll have her move really fast, and see if we can freeze the motion. So here's what's goin' through my mind. Okay, indoor, it's a dark, dark gymnasium, your school, the budget, the bond didn't pass, so you still got old lights, it's dark, how am I gonna get sharp pictures? Well, one of the first things I do is I get my fastest lens, that's important. If you have an f2.8 lens, use your f2.8 lens. If you have an f1.8, go get that thing, f1.4, go get that. The speed of your lens matters significantly here. It's hard to do great indoor sports photography with like an f5.6 lens. So I wouldn't spend much time even trying with those slower lenses. Next I'm thinkin' ISO, so I need a higher ISO right? So I'm gonna push my ISO button here, I got the D500, this thing just sings high ISO, it's great. I'm currently at ISO 6400, and it will shoot all day long and produce really beautiful files. If I wanted to, I could even go up to ISO 12800, 25600, but I think for this room and the light we're in, I think ISO 6400's gonna be just fine. I'm in aperture priority mode, I'm at f2.8, and now let's talk autofocus setup. I'll turn the camera around so you guys can see it. I'm gonna push in my focus mode button, I'm gonna be in AFC mode, oops, AFC, and then I'm gonna use dynamic area 72 point, that'll be our first test, and then after this, we're gonna try auto area autofocus and see how that works. But for now, 72 point. Are you ready? Alright, here we go, so this one just go ahead and kind of move back and forth. Yup, great. Alright, perfect, good, awesome. My frame rate was set for continuous low, for the next ones, I'm gonna actually shoot continuous high just to get a faster frame rate. But let me look at those images, oh yeah, they look great. Actually they're very sharp, and you'll notice my technique, as she is moving left and right, go ahead and move to your right a little bit, I actually move with her. So as she moves, I try to mimic her movement, and that reduces the relative difference between her position and the sensor position. Okay, let's go ahead and do the same thing again, this time though, I'm gonna use auto area autofocus. So same exact scenario, but this time I'm gonna push my autofocus selector, and choose auto area autofocus. There we go. Auto area autofocus, that's the solid black box there. Same exact thing as we just did, and go. Alright, cool, great. Now what I can see, you guys can't see this, but what I can see in my viewfinder is I can actually watch the sensors track her around in the screen. Auto area autofocus works really well for this scenario because the background is fairly simple, there isn't a lot of clutter or chaos. So go ahead and use auto area autofocus for this specific situation. If you're in another situation, maybe on the sports field, there's a lot of people in the stands, auto area autofocus probably isn't gonna cut it for ya. Alright, now I'm gonna go back, so I'm now going to go back to D72, that's one of my favorite positions to stay in, and now what we'll do is we'll have you bounce the ball and come towards me, just kind of a slow gait. To do this I'm actually gonna go down on a knee, like this, and let's just see how it works. And go. Oh right on, that looked good. I'm lookin' at the photos, sweet. She is sharp, she is in focus, crisp, okay, so why is that? Well, I've got a high ISO, let's go back in and look at the shutter speed. This is image, the one I'm looking at here is image 1114, and I'm looking at the shutter speed, and we are at a shutter speed of 1/2000th of a second. So that's great. Amazing that we're getting that fast of shutter speed in the studio, the lights aren't actually that bright in here. Now we're gonna push it to its limit, alright? So this one, I want you just to rocket towards me. I don't want you to fall down, watch out for the camera and the cords, okay? But this one I want you to full on Steph Curry, okay? And go. Whoo! That's fun, it's fun for me, I hope you're havin' a good time. Alright, so now I'm looking at her movement, yeah, so cool. I'm at image 1145, and I'm looking at that, I'm zooming in on her face, it's sharp, she looks good. Fantastic. Again, fast shutter speed, high ISO, big aperture, that's really what's required for indoor sports. Alright, I think we got it. Thank you, good job dribblin' the ball. Perfect. Well my friends, that is Nikon autofocus. So I hope you learned a few things that you can actually use in your photography, autofocus is hard, but with practice and with knowledge you can get there, you can create some beautiful, beautiful images. So thank you for watching, have a great day.

Class Description

The best photo moments often present themselves to us when we least expect it. Every photographer knows the feeling of lining up what they believe will be the perfect shot, only to realize after the fact that their focus was off. Nikon cameras have a built-in autofocus system for these situations. 

Join Mike Hagan, Nikonians Academy Director, to learn how to make the most of this often-overlooked function of your digital SLR. In this class, you’ll learn:

  • How to set your focus within the menu settings and overall various camera settings
  • How to use autofocus patterns and area modes
  • How to use servo modes and lens configurations
Mike will help you configure the autofocus system for portraits, sports, wildlife, and landscapes. Relying on autofocus will also let you concentrate on lighting and composition, and help you take advantage of those fleeting moments.



Good course! I am a beginner and this course helped me a lot. I agree with some students that a better work could have been done in preparing the presentations. It seems to me that Mike is great in having informal live workshops. However, for recorded classes like the ones we buy in Creative Live, the teaching technique should be adjusted. Overall I am glad I bought this course.

Catherine Lucas

After having my camera D800 for 5 or 6 years and never really got the focussing down I can finally do it. This video should be included with every Nikon sold. I am so happy that I am finally get the fullest out of this great camera, I am more of a visual person. Reading the manual is not the same as actually see it done... Thanks Mike, you rock! I have watched the sequences over and over and learned so much. Thanks. And always welcome when you pass in New Mexico...

Janie Anderson

Thanks, Mike! I will go on tomorrow's shoot with my new Nikon D500, using autofocus with much more confidence thanks to this excellent class. I especially want to master birds in flight, so that module was of particular interest, as was the detailed review of back-button focus.