Getting good shots of FIRST robots

So recently I acquired a new digital camera, a Canon PowerShot A620. I picked it up after reading some good reviews and a few good experiences with a borrowed PowerShot A95. (The A620’s a more modern camera, albeit with a rather noisy zoom. I’ve been happy thus far.)

I used the A95 at Cal Games, snapping pictures in my matches off for posterity/reference/ChiefDelphi posting. Problem is, I couldn’t seem to get a good picture of some robots on the field.

When I tried to get a picture with the flash, I would frequently catch many teams’ reflective numbers, like this:

Now, that just doesn’t look natural, so the logical solution would be to turn off the flash. The problem then becomes that the shutter speed has to slow down dramatically in order too get enough light, which between my shaky hands and the robots moving, leads to pictures like this:

Clearly, this doesn’t work either. So I ask to the People Who Know More About This Than I: Is there any particular weapon of choice when it comes to camera settings for shooting robots on the field? Is it easier with the regionals and their professional lighting than it is at an off-season? Do I just inhale audibly at taking photographs?

Usually taking good pictures of robots in action takes some practice and a lot of playing around with the settings on a digital camera to find the perfect mix between shutter speed and flash. Usually, I’ve found that the “Auto” settings on digital cameras are quite terrible for most things in life, let alone competitions; so always use the “Manual” settings.

Once in the “Manual” mode, you’ll need to look through the settings you have and experiment to find what gets the best results for you. Most digital cameras today have all kinds of custom, proprietary filters and settings, so nowadays it’s harder to give concrete advice on digital photography (as opposed to film photography).

I’ve found that the best way to ensure I get at least a few good shots is to use the sequence mode to take multiple photos very quickly because there are points where the robot will pause that most people won’t catch, but the camera will… just make sure you have enough cards to take that many pictures! If the picture is only slightly blurry, you can usually sharpen it up with editing software.


Try and shoot with the ISO setting as high as possible without the flash. That camera goes to ISO 400. I have a Nikon that I regularly shoot at ISO 800 and I get very decent pictures even when I blow them up to 4’ x 4’.

Do a white balance test also at every venue. It will make a difference.

My parents have a Canon Powershot S1 IS that takes really nice pictues. They bought it at a camera shop and had the person there set up the custom shooting mode for taking pictures of robots (fast moving, shiny objects). Like I said, it does a great job. I’ll look at the settings when I get home tonight.
In the meantime, here are some pictures I’ve taken with it:

I also set the ISO to at least 400 (mine goes up to 800 which is useful at times, but your color values aren’t as good). I also have used the manual settings to force the speed to 1/30, which then automatically sets the aperture to the appropriate level. You can’t go much slower than 1/30 without getting blur.

I take many test shots at different settings and then stick with the setup that works best for that venue - much easier to do with digital!

Taking a good picture, or getting a good shot depends on a lot of stuff.

I acquired a new digital camera, a Canon PowerShot A620

Cannon A620 is a really good camera. I think you just have to play around with its features a bit, and soon you’ll figure out how does it work well in different conditions. I would recommend NOT to set every setting to automatic; yes…even sometimes cameras can’t identify the difference between sunlight and tubelight :stuck_out_tongue: .
As a lot of members have already emphasized on the ISO; its a really cool feature to play around with. Correct me if I’m wrong, but i think Canon A620 goes up to ISO400. That’s really good for the price and prize you’re paying for this camera. Its just the matter of being at the right spot at the right time and having the perfect lighting/flash to go with it.

But just in case you or anyone wants to take pictures like this and this; you want to focus on what kind of lens you are using. A lot of camera has spherical lenses, but if you have aspherical lens that will help you focus on one object really well. Here’s a sample diagram of how it works. That would mean that one can capture individual robots in action really well. Another wonderful way is Single-lens Reflex or commonly known as SLR; its uses a movable mirror or a prism that does its magic between the camera and the lens (details).

I used to have a Fuji, but now a days I’m working with a Nikon D80 w/ 70-300mm Aspherical lens f/4-5.6. Although its a bit expensive, but if you are a part time photographer, loves nature and adventure, or have any kind of craze for photography, it worth every single penny :).


A great feature of the A620 is the tilt and view LCD screen. I have this on my Nikon and it’s worth the price. That makes this camera a great deal. :cool:

You’re telling me. I never could’ve gotten the patented Yes,-Professor-Freeman,-I-was-in-California-this-weekend picture solo without it:

(Yes, that does say California Distinguished School along the bottom. Don’t ask me why it got shot on low quality.)

The three basic settings of a photo are ISO, aperture, and shutter speed.

ISO - Already discussed. Setting this higher increases the sensitivity of the sensor, but at the cost of introducing noise. The noise gets worse as your sensor size gets smaller, which is why DSLRs can take better high-ISO pictures than ultra-small compact cameras.
To get more light: Increase ISO
Tradeoff: More noise

Aperture - This is the size of the hole that the light travels through on its way to the image sensor. This is measured by a number called the f-stop. Unintuitively, a low f-stop means the aperture is MORE open, and a higher one indicates the aperture is LESS open. On my camera, it can go from 2.5 (wide open) to 8.0. Higher f-stops increase your depth of field, meaning the amount of stuff in focus increases. So with an f-stop of 8.0, you might have things between 2m away and 8m away in focus, but with an f-stop of 2.5, you may only have focus on things between 4-5m away. To take decent photos of robots, you probably want your aperture as open as your camera gets. This will ‘highlight’ the robot you want by making everything else slightly blurred, and will let in more light.
To get more light: Reduce f-stop (increase aperture size)
Tradeoff: Decreased depth of field (which actually kinda looks better anyway)

Shutter speed - Fairly obvious. Faster shutter speed = sharper photos = less light = darker photos. Slower shutter speed = more light = blurrier photos.
To get more light: Lower shutter speed
Tradeoff: Blurrier photos

Other techniques - Stand with the arena lights (if there are any) behind you. If they are in front, then you’re going to get silhouetting of the robot, which looks awful. With the lights behind you, the photons go from the light to the robot to your camera, making for much better illumination.