These are the settings that I use on my Nikon D4 for shooting most all sports action. Nikon has made it pleasant to allow photographers to save these settings so they do not have to remember every little scene they like to use for a style of shooting.
If you go to Menu and under the camera, the icon picks the first item, “Shooting menu bank.” I have chosen C, which is my sports menu.
If you toggle into the “Shooting menu bank,” you can rename those settings. Once you choose one of these settings, everything you do to change the menu will be saved in that menu bank. I recommend going ahead and trying all my settings and then tweaking them to your preferences.
When shooting sports, it is prevalent for the lighting conditions to change instantly. While the football player runs toward you, they may go from shade into direct sunlight. For this reason, I let the camera do some of my thinking.
Go to the camera icon and look for “ISO sensitivity settings.” Select this, and you will then see this menu:
I turn on the “Auto ISO sensitivity control.” Then I set the minimum shutter speed to 1/2000. The ISO setting is what you see in the smaller window below the menu. I put this to ISO 100 and then set the “Maximum sensitivity” to ISO 12800.
While I am in Aperture Mode shooting, the camera will always pick 1/2000 shutter speed. If in sunlight, I am at ƒ/4, the shutter speed may go as high as 1/8000 at ISO 100, but as the scene changes and the athlete is now in the shade, the camera will automatically drop to 1/2000 @ ƒ/4 and then change also the ISO up until I can still shoot at 1/2000.
The only time the shutter speed will dip below 1/2000 is if the ISO peaks out at 12800. If my aperture is wide open, the camera is doing everything I would have done manually but faster than I could ever adjust the camera. That is how you get more shots than the guy next to you.
Under the custom settings bank (Pencil Icon), I go into the autofocus setting.
I change the “Focus tracking with lock-on” from Normal to 4. What happens when I do this is the delay for the lens to refocus if something occurs between the camera and the subject (like a referee). While I am following someone, the camera will not refocus right away. This is something you need to try and pick what you like. You may want the lens to be more responsive and go to set one, which will let the lens refocus instantly.
I set the camera to AF mode. I also run this in continuous focus mode rather than single.
I go into the menu, select the AF activation under custom settings, and choose “AF-ON only.” This means it will not focus on the lens when I press the shutter. It will only fire the camera. I am using the AF-ON button on the back of the Nikon D4 to focus.
By changing these settings, you will notice the camera will stay in focus and shoot a faster frame rate. Great for following a baseball player sliding into a plate and another player trying to tag them, or maybe a football player is running toward you to score. You will find more photos tack sharp in a series.
I generally put my focus point dead center and lock it so I don’t bump it. I am trying to get photos of moving subjects; the off-center is too tricky. I may crop later for a better composition, but I want the issue to focus first.
Now, of the 51 different focus points, you can choose groups of these to help with focusing. I went with Nikon’s suggested 21-point dynamic-area AF.
Here are suggestions by Nikon in the manual:
The only other setting is on the lens that I turn on VR.