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For starters, turn off your flash for better photos.
By Jack Howard, Popular Photography

Without Strobe
With the flash on, the eyes and focus are drawn to the heads of the people in front of you.

Watching the Super Bowl halftime show on TV, have you ever found yourself saying smugly, "Look at all those fools firing off flash photos! There's no way they can illuminate the halftime show from their seats!" You'd be right to say it, but at least they were there, and if you were watching on TV, you weren't. They may be bad photos, but at least they can say, "I was there."

Of course we want our readers to make stronger photos, regardless of the situation. And quite honestly, there is a ridiculously simple solution to taking better snapshots at big stadiums and concerts.

Turn the flash off! That's basically it. Set the camera to program, turn off the flash, crank up the ISO a bit and let your compact digicam do the rest. If they are too dark, push the exposure value setting up to +2/3 or so. Too hot? Dial back to -2/3 or so.

Shooting wide to give a feel of the event and the venue will probably yield sharper shots than telephoto, because telephoto requires a faster shutter speed to make a sharp image. What's more, most compact point-and-shoots lose a stop or two from wide to tele, which slows down the shutter speed even more. Give telephoto a try, too, but don't expect great results every time.

Without Strobe
Without flash, the eyes are drawn in to the on-field action, without the overly bright backs of heads of the row in front of you.

You see, the exposure for the far-off point of interest during a halftime show will be the same whether or not you throw flash. But with the flash on, you'll illuminate the heads of the couple of rows ahead of you, which draws the eye away from the real point of interest, which is the far-off show. Without flash, the people in front will be much more silhouetted, which adds to the feel of being at a big event without competing with the show.

Simple, isn't it? It helps to use a camera that performs well at high ISOs, such as the FujiFilm FinePix F31fd for from-the-stands shooting, as we used for this example.

And next time you're watching a sporting event on TV, think about the number of memories you don't see, because the fan has smartly turned off their flash to grab a moment to hold on to.

To say years later: I was there, and it's just a wide-angle snapshot, but I was there.

Six tips for stadium photography with limited gear

    • Make sure you know the rules of what is allowed and not allowed before getting to the stadium. It's heartbreaking to decide whether to give up a piece of gear or forsake a ticket.


    • Turn the flash off for capturing on-field or on-stage action.


    • Turn the flash on to take a photo of your friend in the stands.


    • Look for moments that best give an overall feeling of the event, since wide angle photos are easier to make in the tough lighting.


    • Know your camera's high ISO performance and decide if a high ISO's noise rating is acceptable beforehand. Check out's Camera Test page for noise ratings on many current cameras.


  • Have fun, and don't spend the whole event shooting, since the photos won't be brilliant in almost all cases. Enjoy the time with your friends and family, rather than getting too wrapped up in making snapshots. Spend a few moments to show you were there, but be there with your people, instead of with your camera.

Copyright © 2007, a division of Hachette Filipacchi Media, U.S., Inc.

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