Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Basketball Photography Lessons Learned


Inspired by a recent blog posting from Mrs4444 about photographing a local basketball game I decided to post a few images from a local high school basketball team. Photographing a fast moving game in a dark gym is a challenge. Talking to the professionals present at these games has led to a compilation of a few things to consider when photographing basketball.

  • The faster the lens the better quality the image. The pros, whose camera bodies list for thousands of dollars, use low f-rated lenses, both telephoto and wide angle. Don't fret if you don't have a professional lens. You can still get magnificent photos by using your skills and photo instincts.
  • Some pros use two cameras to get all phases of action, especially when time is critical.
  • Shoot at a high ISO like 1600 or higher. But if the ISO is too high you can get an image with a lot of electronic noise. Some of this can be addressed in image production phase (Photoshop.) 
  • Important. Be sure to get a white balance before shooting the event.
  • Shoot in RAW if you want to fully manipulate the image in Photoshop.  Otherwise a high quality jpeg format is okay.
  • Use burst mode to help capture all the action. 

  • Experiment between A (aperture) mode and S (shutter) mode for best results. In A mode set the shutter on the lowest f number. The camera will compensate with various shutter speeds. In the S mode set the speed to 1/125 or faster. That's enough to stop the ball. Switch between both modes to find what works for your situation.

  • Get close to the game. Watch where the pros situate themselves to get the best shots. Get out of the stands and get a position close to the baseline and underneath the basket while being professional about it.
  • Be sure not to interfere with the operation of the game. Most people will suspect that you are connected with the team or a pro yourself. They will not hassle you.
  • Smile, throw the ball back to the ref if it comes to you. Respect any space that may be reserved for trainers or refs at the ends of the court. You'll be rewarded with great shots and you'll be able to hear the players and coaches a whole lot better than from the stands.
  • Know the game. Shoot scenes when you know the action will be intense or quiet.
  • Don't forget to get team bench scenes, crowd shots, cheerleaders or pep bands. They are all part of the game and can add dimension to the event photo album.
These are photo tips that I learned from years of shooting in this gym. The team, Cedar Rapids Washington High School won this particular regional game 11 days ago against cross town Linn Mar.

WHS went on to capture the regional final and qualified for state. Cast as the tournament Cinderella team for knocking off a highly ranked team, the unranked Warriors lost this afternoon in first round tournament action. Their season ended at 17W-7L. No doubt I will be back next fall to photograph many of the same players.