How do you nail your exposure when shooting sports?

Which mode do you use most when shooting sports?

  • Program mode

    Votes: 1 7.1%
  • Aperture priority

    Votes: 2 14.3%
  • Shutter priority

    Votes: 5 35.7%
  • Manual w/ auto ISO

    Votes: 3 21.4%
  • Manual

    Votes: 3 21.4%

  • Total voters


Canonet QL17 GIII
Sep 22, 2012
St. Paul, MN
I often look at exif data of sports shots (when available) and am surprised at how many sport shooters use an auto exposure mode. Av or Tv seem most common. It isn't that I expect "real photographers only shoot manual". It's how they get reliable results from an auto mode that surprises me. (Or, maybe they don't??)

I've tried Av or manual with Auto ISO and often get wide swings from overexposed to underexposed shots. If I use partial metering, jersey colors can wildly affect the exposure. Evaluative or center weighted metering gives me more problems with the background adversely influencing the shot. So I most often spot meter on faces during warm-up and shoot full manual. (During the action, spot metering a face then recomposing means lost shots.)

Indoors, some gyms have dark spots, so I try to change the shutter accordingly during play. Most often, this is based more on my eye than the meter. When the scene looks darker, I bump the shutter speed, shoot, then chimp the LCD to see if I was close. But, outdoors, I run into more light swings. Either cloud cover results in constantly changing light or players move in and out of shadows based on the direction of their play. Still, I try to note the correct exposure -- or something close -- and change settings when I anticipate play moving into different lighting conditions.

My results are generally close, plus or minus 2/3 stops. I still get a bunch that may be off a full stop. But, I'd like to nail the exposure in camera.

How do you nail your exposure when shooting sports?


Apr 15, 2011
San Juan, PR
Well first, not all sports are the same from the aspect of shooting. Day, Night, Indoor? Second, A, Tv, and Manual with Auto ISO, are all really the same thing, at least from the aspect of being correctly exposed. The light meter is adjusting some part of the exposure as it sees fit. Full Manual, but looking at the light meter say +1,0...-1, and adjusting is also kind of the same thing.

I shoot A priority, usually at the max aperture of the lens, I may add some exposure compensation. Changing light conditions are why I use the meter. 1 or 2 of every 1000 photos is badly exposed for some reason, but that can be in a string of 10 that were shot rapid fire. I have always assumed this is the camera just glitching. The vast majority of my photos are exposed correctly.


I post too Much on Here!!
Jul 21, 2010
Manual with Auto ISO and EC as needed. Allows me to set the aperture for the DoF I need, the shutter speed based on speed of motion, and get a reasonable exposure. I use EC with backlighting, etc.