Night photography newbie needs advice (HS football stadium)


Super Moderator
Feb 28, 2014
Northern Virginia
Real Name
I will be shooting at my son's marching band competition tonight and at future home games (after dark, under the lights). I have very little experience with nighttime photography, as I had never had a camera or lenses good enough to produce decent photographs at night. Now I do, but I don't really know what settings to use. I haven't had the need to use a higher ISO much yet as I generally shoot outdoors in natural light. I have an Olympus E-M10 and I will most likely be using either the Oly 12-40 2.8 or the Sigma 60, depending on where we are seated. If I'm up high enough I probably will use the 12-40 to try to get some wide shots, at least at the beginning of the show. If I'm closer to the field I will just use the Sigma 60 or one of the other primes to get closer shots. I own the Oly 25 and 45 so could use one of those instead if the 1.8 would be a huge benefit, though if I want closeups the Sigma 60 might be a better choice. I am guessing my 40-150 isn't fast enough for this situation. I'd rather not change lenses during the 10 min. show.

It is a fun and crazy show with a Wizard of Oz theme and a great cast, including a wicked witch and monkeys "flying" in on bicycles and the wicked witch being doused with water at the end. Lots to see, and it's a large band of 240+ that fills the entire field at times. At the first game I tried a variety of settings and checked the EXIF data on the better ones. At the last game, I was at the top of the stands so I shot with the Oly 12-40 at 2.8 to 3.2 and ISO 1250 and a shutter speed mostly in the 1/60-1/100 range. I used a MeFoto RoadTrip in monopod configuration due to the tight bleacher spacing. I got a number of wide angle shots then, so I might prefer to try closer up shots this time. While the result from that game was far better than what I have been able to shoot at night previously, there is room for improvement in terms of sharpness. Brightness was fine at those settings, especially with some LR tweaks to the RAW files. Most were noisier than I would like, but that may be unavoidable. I was able to clean them up pretty well with a bit of noise reduction.

Any suggestions for settings/lenses? Should I push the ISO higher? Should I use one of the 1.8 primes instead so I can get that shutter speed up? If so, what ISO settings would you use? They don't have to be perfect, but I do post them on the Facebook page for the band. Thanks for any and all advice.


Mu-43 Veteran
Dec 20, 2011
Edmonton, Alberta
Most football stadiums are lit up bright as day. As with anything that happens on a sports field, the closer you are the better. I like to use spot-metering for football/baseball (or other outdoor night games) as there's usually one person you want to make the subject of the photo. Unless North Virginia has very different stadiums than I'm used to, I can't see why any of your lenses wouldn't serve you fine (including the 40-150). Maybe post some shots from your last effort to give us an idea what the lighting is like?

Also, you can go much higher than 1250 on the ISO and just address noise in post :smile:


New to Mu-43
Jan 19, 2014
Greensboro, NC
Have you asked the band director? If you are willing to share pics with the yearbook, they will generally let you come out and shoot. If your stadium is as poorly lit as some of the NC stadiums, I would stick with an f/2.8 lens.
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