Basketball Photography - Obtaining a realistic look?

Discussion in 'Sports' started by lukas_jenkins, Feb 16, 2006.

  1. I would like some feedback on lighting in a high school gym. The last game I took
    photographs at I used a Nikon D200 with a SB-800 flash on a flash bracket. Also, I used
    the lighter (less dense/more transparent)flash gel made by Nikon for balancing flash
    output to ambient. Nikon also has a "more" green filter for the same purpose. So my
    question is would the "more" green of the 2 filters yield better results? I have found it to be
    impossible to not use flash, I use the flash basically so I have some consistent white
    balance. As you can see from the links below the news photographers pictures have good
    color on the players but that is because the wb was set to flash with out a flash gel. I do
    not like the dark backgrounds in her photographs. I am looking for a realistic clean look.
    Ambient white balance is about 3900-4000 degrees kelvin. My pictures below are in the
    vicinity of 4600-4800 range. I feel the use of filters gets me closer to the realistic look I
    want. Unfortunately I can not light the whole gym with strobes or use solely available light.
    If you have any advice for me to try in the future please let me know.

    My camera info:
    Camera - Nikon D200
    Lens - 50mm f/1.8 at f/2.2
    ISO - 800

    My photographs:

    Local news photographer:


  2. I definitely like your shots better than the "local news photographer" shots; they just look cleaner to me color-wise, and what you're doing works better for lighting too... I'd keep doing things as-is, and see if the news folks are looking for a new eye (yours!). Your shots are much better, IMO.
  3. I'm sorry but I love YOUR images. The "pros" shots are terrible by comparison. I have only shot basketball once and that was last week-end so I am new to it. I ended up overpowering the ambient light with my flash and creating too many shadows on the walls, or underexposed without it, so I will have to determine how to achieve a good balance with my less sophisticated flash system.

    I think your colours are more realistic, and the images "pop" with the fill light you are providing. The "pop" also makes them appear sharper. Keep doing what you are doing!

    Now I see, you are shooting at ISO 800 which makes fill much easier. I have been trying to shoot at ISO 200 to keep up the image quality. I will definitely try giving up a little resolution to get better balanced light.
  4. P.S. I would not worry about the colour in the backgrounds. Your subjects are going to grab the eye of the viewer.
  5. I think your shots are very well balanced. I wouldn't change anything with the lighting. Maybe a little tighter framing, but the lighting is good.

  6. Did you try to set a custom white balance?


    I have a blog:
  7. I agree with Chris and John: Your shots are indeed better.

    Don't try to white balance with gels: Instead, since you shoot with in-camera processing, rely on the custom white balance function of your D200. Keep in mind that white balance actually changes on two axes: The conventional color "temperature" on the yellow-blue axis (from blackbody radiation at that temperature, like you find in a tungsten filament incandescent bulb); and the green-cyan axis.

    In the early days of color film, lighting was either sunlight or incandescent, both being (essentially) neutral along the green-cyan axis, hence the film ratings of "tungsten" and "daylight."

    However, as the 1960's turned into the 1980's, more and more lighting that cameras encountered -- Especially camcorders -- was fluorescent with a nasty green cast; then as the drive to more efficiency continues to this very day, we see more and more sodium vapor and metal halide HID lighting, again skewing on the green-magenta axis. Basically, this means that more and more situations film and digital still cameras encounter (as well as video cameras) have to be white balanced, as they encounter wide variations in lighting spectra.

    Where it gets REALLY kooky is in mixed light: Look at the "white" back wall again in your first & second shots at: and: and you'll see the difference. For a more dramatic example, look at the variation in white point by the color variation on the back wall in your 4th shot at:

    So... What you need to do is bring along a white posterboard, set it up about 10-15 feet away, and white balance on it before the game.


    Alternately, you can white balance in Photoshop CS & up by shooting RAW and tweak it in the import filter. What happens is that there is no alteration of the image data after it's pulled off the CCD; but the camera adds a tag with what it guesses the white point should be. You can see the values when you select "As shot" instead of "Auto" from the popup above the Color Temperature slider. Then, if you move either that or the "Tint" slider, the popup changes to "Custom." Shoot a few RAW files and bring them into Photoshop to get the feel of how it works.

    You can also shoot color print film, which is easily adjusted in the scanning, yada yada yada... Fuji Press 800 has a 4th layer that is designed to handle the greenish cast from fluorescent and HID lighting -- Give a roll a try in your SLR.
  8. Dan, after reading your reply I am assuming that my flash is pretty much neutral on the green-cyan axis since it is pretty much a モdaylight sourceヤ. However the fluorescent lights have their distinct colorcast. So I guess maybe I have a misunderstanding of the use of gelメs. My idea was initially to use flash to provide fill light and stop the action (rear-sync). Then I figured ok well flash and fluorescent are very different how can I get them to be blend cleanly since I am not lighting the entire gym with strobes. I settled on the Idea of using a green gel on the flash to match it more closely with the fluorescent lights and then use the fluorescent white balance setting instead of the magenta filter that was used on film cameras back in the day (I believe). So does the green filter to what I think it does or not really? Thanks for all your replyメs. I should have noted that I do in fact shoot Raw almost exclusively because I find the workflow easier for batch processing in ACR although ACR is nasty with noise in reds. I also use a WhiBal to take a reference shot of the color temperature instead of the large poster board idea and simply do the white balance work in post based on the samples (below I will list my samples). Now one thing that really gets me is when I set any white balance on my D200 in Adobe ACR the white balance is not what it should be. Example, Fluorescent preset of 4200 in camera appears in ACR as 3950 degrees Kelvin +31. So the problem is that in the D200 you cannot adjust the white balance on both spectrums which is a problem. I have before got the degrees Kelvin right but then the magenta-green spectrum had to be increased from -5 to like +30 in ACR. It is not working to use ACR to click on the gray card and get the reading and then use that reading back in the camera the next time, it doesnメt work, but I think it should! So Dan I guess this is where I am seeing your reasoning for using the poster board. White balance samples: Ambient in gym, 3650 +0 Flash w/ gel ヨ Ambient sample # 1, 4850 +15 Flash w/ gel ヨ Ambient sample # 2, 4100 +4 Flash w/ gel (sampled in dark room later), 5550 + 22 Just by looking at the above numbers specifically the ambient and the flash w/ gel only the real world combine samples are pretty close to the median which I found to be 4537.5 +10.5 I had some other numbers involved so donメt try to do the math. Anyway most of the pictures that I showed you in my first post ended up being like 4650 +14. Another person I shoot with uses his camera on the fluorescent white balance setting without a gel on the flash. Here is what one of his pictures looks like (below). I feel there is a little to much magenta in the subject. I'm not sure what straight out of the camera looks like but his workflow pretty much consists of "auto levels" as a first step. And I know that fluorescent and flash are like approximately 1000 degrees Kelvin apart. I have tested this myself in my basement (which has fluorescent lights) and flash with the camera set to fluorescent yields a magenta cast. Again where the poster board might help. Thanks, Lukas
  9. If anything, there is too much cyan, not magenta in the subject... Here is my edit, with the hue shifted by -7:
  10. If anything, there is too much cyan, not magenta in the subject... Here is my edit, with the hue shifted by -7:
  11. If anything, there is too much cyan, not magenta in the subject.... Here is my edit, with the hue shifted by -7:
  12. Moderator, please delete the above 3 posts: The file didn't seem to upload.
  13. Aw sh*t... I have to post HTML and link the photos manually.

    Anyway, if anything, your shot is too much on the blue-cyan side, not magenta. Below is a "before & after" when I applied -7 Hue:
    Dan Schwartz
    Note: All links open in a new window
  14. Lukas, in theory gelling the flash is a good idea. In practice, tho', it's difficult because lights vary too much. You could buy a gel matched to a particular light but it won't help if the light isn't warmed up or as the light ages. So custom white balancing on the spot is probably the best alternative. With my D2H and SB-800 I use a white card and white balance preset d-0 through the lens.

    The little ambient light sensor on the prism of the D2H doesn't work in some kinds of artificial lighting (flicker throws it off) and doesn't work at all when trying to balance ambient light with flash. But TTL white balance with flash works very well.
  15. Whatever you're doing is on track. Only suggestion will be custom WB with flash & gel combo and go for it. That will bypass color adjustment in post-process. I also prefer your more natural shots than of the papers.
  16. I took a deep breath and shot a whole game with out the flash gel tonight. I think It
    worked fairly well, still undecided if flash gel works better or not. I definitly should give
    custom white balance a try. Should I use just a plain old white poster board or is a special
    one made? The WhiBal does work but then you have to click on it in post processing. Also,
    find someone to go out on the court and hold it for you while you take their picture at half
    time to use it with flash. I'll be shooting another game tomorrow at 1:00PM and probably
    again at 7:00PM.
    Camera settings:

    Nikon D200, 50mm f/1.8 at 2.2, 1/250s, ISO 800 Shot in Raw, camera set to fluorecsent
    white balance SB-800 flash used with diffuser dome in TTL BL mode and -1 2/3 EV (flash
    on bracket)
  17. Lukas, I just use an ordinary sheet of white matte paper that I keep in my camera bag. It measures around 5x7. I hold it at arm's length, stand between the lights (for an average balance) and white balance through the lens while firing the flash, using the Preset d-0. I don't know whether this can be done with the D200 - I'm using a D2H.

    I've tried using the other WB options - Fluorescent, etc., including the -/+ settings to warm or cool things a bit. But custom white balancing using Preset d-0 seems to work best.

    I've wondered how well an ExpoDisc would work for combining available light and flash, but I'm not willing to spend that much money to find out. Seems to me using a white styrofoam coffee cup over the lens would accomplish pretty much the same thing. ;>

    Anyway, your shots look fine so just keep doing what you're doing. As long as the results are consistent it doesn't matter how you get 'em.
  18. I actually have an expodisc... I might want to try using it. I tried it once with just ambient
    light in a similar gym. I just aimed my len toward the lights and did the preset. Honestly It did
    not work well. This could be explained by the change in color balance of the lights, I dont
    know. I could have used it wrong to. I'll have to do some more experiments with it.
  19. An 8.5x11" sheet of Epson matte paper is what I use to measure WB. Seems to work well in my case.
  20. Wilson do you use the piece of Epson Matte paper for just ambient WB or flash & gel
    combination with ambient as well?

  21. Lukas, I use it for ambient for indoor gym and for product shots with multiple flashes and gels.
  22. A little late on this, but your shots are good.

    One thing I notice is the big difference in the kind of shots from the local paper and yours is probably the emphasis the paper puts on recognizable faces vs your action shots.

    Nothing wrong with either focus, but just something to keep in mind. At the high school level, I can see why the faces would be important to the students, parents and schools. Once you're famous tho, everyone knows what you look like and wants the "SI" type shots.
  23. Great work! Wish there was something you could do about the distracting background. Dark bleachers, white wall, yellow stripe....ahh... the joys of prep basketball!

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