Crank the ISO, shoot RAW and in Manual mode. A grainy image is better than a blurry one, you can clean grain with a NR program to some extent. Also, grain cleans up pretty nice on a normal size print. Looking at an ISO 3200 shot at 100% on your monitor will make you want to give up. Actually printing that same shot at 5X7 or even 8X10 will make you feel a little better! Shooting too dark and trying to brighten in post often makes for a noisier image than shooting higher ISO. I use the latest version of DPP. It's free and the later versions make for a fast workflow. Using RAW does not excuse you from trying to "get it right" in the camera, it just gives you some latitude for corrections due to cycling fluorescents and uneven lighting.
Keep in mind, shooting RAW requires you to use a RAW converter. A RAW file is not a pic you can look at, it’s analogous to a negative from the film days. It has to be “developed” with a converter. Changing to RAW is a simple as selecting it in your camera's menu under quality (first camera icon, right at the top of the list). You really need to get a manual. They can be downloaded in .PDF format from the Canon website.
There is much to this. Composition, anticipating the action (know the routines), getting the exposure correct and post processing tricks will all come to you in time. Gymnastics is one of the more challenging (for both equipment and photographer) sports to shoot. It’s crazy fast, often done in dark gyms with busy cluttered backgrounds. Parents normally can’t get a good shot from “outside the ropes”, and you really need to have some decent equipment. No one can tell you what settings to use (very venue dependant) and how to do this and get the shots you're after in one post. Shoot, a lot. Experiment, a lot. Post here, a lot. After all that, you still get more bombs than good shots. I know I do! I post some on my site that I don't really like, but the parents of some of the other girls I shoot like them. No one will be more critical of your work than you!
I have a level 9 this year. She does both high school and club gym and she is already shopping for colleges based on the school’s gymnastics program and major she is interested in (physical therapy, go figure)… Been where you are, in fact I started with film… Now that sucked! Moved on to a 10D, a little better, then on to 1 series cameras. The 1D3 does a nice job of it. I find the 40D usable, but a bit limiting. You may want to look into some of the newer bodies that can shoot cleaner high ISO at some point. The 85 1.8 is very nice for this work.
Welcome to film! The grainy past...
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A few from her level 8 season that I liked.
This is exactly what I wanted to see and hear, thank you! Great shots and I appreciate you showing me the difference...amazing!
Knowing the routine...definately got that one down. I know when she hits the more stationary poses as well, which is helpul, that's the easier part for me. With the help of you guys, I"m getting my settings figure out...mainly cranking my ISO as high as I can (which is 1600 for 40D). 1/500? And I'll have to play around with learning about white balance but Lightroom really helped with the noise, that was the biggest thing I learned here, what a difference!
You are so right, each gym is so different. Last week was super dark, this weekend will be dark as far as no natural light but the walls are so white white white, it doesn't "feel" dark.
Level 9, wow, that's awesome! They work so hard don't they? I'm not trying to publish anything, just trying to get some nice decent shots of my beautiful little Level 5 girl