Guide to photographing basketball

Discussion in 'Sports' started by dr._karl_hoppe, Jan 23, 2017.

  1. A grand niece of mine is on a middle school basketball team, and her younger sister is on the cheerleading squad. I'm not much of a sports shooter. Can anyone recommend a good book devoted to photographing sports indoors? I'd like to capture some memorable images I can enlarge, have matted and framed, to present as gifts.
  2. I don't have a book to recommend, but there are many tutorials on the web, including this site: and
    I've done a little basketball shooting and generally get best results with a fast 50mm lens on an APS-C digital SLR. That field of view is about right for shooting from the baseline (but depends on what you want in the frame). Keep your shutter speeds up (1/500 or faster), mind your depth of field, and shoot lots of frames. Most gyms have dismal lighting for photography, so I had to get comfortable with a bit of noise from using higher ISO settings. White balance can also be an issue with the various lighting types, so set that at the start (or shoot raw and correct later).
  3. Nice share Zane. Sports photography is by far one of the hardest in my opinion. Even harder then natural photography. You truly have to be the best of the best to capture game changing moments. Hats off to anyone who is good at it.
  4. One thing that you're very likely going to run into in school gyms is the horrors of shooting at high shutter speeds in fluorescent lighting or under some kind of vapor lamps. Those things can cycle in color and brightness about 100 times per second (50 Hz) and while our eyes can't detect it, a camera certainly can.
    Because at high shutter speeds the sensor isn't all exposed at the same instant in time, you're going to come out with variations in brightness from one frame to another and frequently across a single frame. And even worse, you're going to have a lot of frames where one half of it has a greenish cast, and the other a red/magenta cast. As DSLRs, to my knowledge, all have vertical travel shutters, this means that if you're holding the camera in landscape (normal position) the variation will be from top to bottom of your frame--side to side if you're holding in portrait orientation.
    You can, to a degree, fix this with color/brightness gradients in Photoshop/Lightroom, but it's damned tedious work, and almost never entirely satisfactory. So you may be tempted to convert a lot of shots to black and white.
    If you can use flash, that will solve some problems--just be sure you don't create others by being distracting to the players/officials with it. You can also pray that the gym has daylight-balanced LEDs--you'll still have to shoot at high ISOs to freeze action while maintaining some depth of field, but at least your white balance and brightness will be largely consistent.
  5. I don't know if you're on Facebook, but as my profile is public, you can probably see a gallery of basketball images shot under daylight LEDs here, and for comparison a set shot under some kind of particularly hideous vapor lighting last weekend here.
    I didn't have time/couldn't be bothered to fix the problems with all the latter, and to me they're all just about on the very edge of usability, more or less. I was squeezing out 1/800 of a second (with good athletes, you can still get a bit of irritating blur at that shutter speed) and about F4.5 to F5.0 at 6400 ISO to get enough exposure to be able to do some post-processing, which still won't manage to save all those. Next time I shoot in that gym, I'm gonna try to rig up some strobes on radio triggers to see if I can get something that I can be at least partly satisfied with.
  6. Thanks to all for your input. Gear wise, I have a ton of Leica film cameras and Canon dSLR's. I was thinking of going totally minimalist and using my M7 with 50/2 'cron and Fuji X-tra 1600 colour film. (I normally would add a KB6 filter (80C) for the rotten lighting but I'll lose a stop.) I will be sitting next to the players' bench court side. (Flash is not an option as I've seen the refs excoriate anyone using flash, even threatening to remove them.) I may try the M7 for one game and then bring out the Canon 50D and dial it up to the highest ISO for another. I'm thinking that the 1600 X-tra will handle the lighting better than the digital sensor. Rather than relying on the TTL spot meter of the M7, I will take a reading before the game with my Weston Master V, maybe incident from centre court, and use that setting for the whole game.
  7. Karl,
    hi. I know it's not exclusive to basketball, but I wrote a book on sports photography a few years ago. It needs a bit of an update, but may be of some use.
    You can download it from my website:
    Andy Chubb
  8. Andy,
    Thanks for the link, that's wonderful, I'll read it. My photographic interests are mainly pictorial, nature, architecture, transportation (rail and marine). The only 'sports' photography I ever did was some boxing from ringside in the 1960's using a 4" x 5" Speed Graphic with cut film (Tri-X -- what else! -- pushed 2 stops).
  9. Andy,
    I downloaded the pdf. It looks like a fantastic book, I'm looking forward to reading it. Your Web site is very impressive and the shots are superb. Great job!
  10. I used to shoot basketball with film. An f/1.4 lens helped.
    I get much better results with my D600. It "only" shoots 5 fps in burst mode, but the AF system responds quickly. It also helps to be able to routinely shoot at ISO 3200 and bump up to ISO 10,000 if I want to use my 70-200 zoom.
    I almost always sit behind the baseline. A 50mm with a full frame sensor is wider than necessary, so I almost alwayd crop selected images. Shots are more dramatic if I shoot from a low angle. I recall seeing photographers putting their TLRs on the floor. I find it useful to shoot from eye level with my right eye looking through the viewfinder and my left eye looking at a wider view of the court.
  11. I shoot a DX body (Nikon D7200) with a 35mm f/1.8 lens.
    My exposure (at my gym) is ISO=3200, 1/1000 sec, f/2.
    I used to use a 18-140 zoom, but the lens was too slow for fast indoor sports, I has to shoot at ISO 12800. The fast 35mm f/1.8 lens is so much better. But I do miss the ability to zoom, especially on the short end, where I sometimes wish I had a wider lens than my 35mm. Being on the court, the players are sometimes VERY close.
  12. IF you are on the court floor, you also need to be VERY CAREFUL, and get out of the way of running players.
    The bigger the guys and the faster they run, the more important it is to get out of their way, cuz they won't always be watching out for you. In fact most of the time they are not watching for you at all. Their concern is the game, not people around the court.
    The walls on both ends of the court at my local high school has a 6" thick foam pad. It is there for a reason. Kids running for a basket, continue on, and go crashing into that wall.

    My guideline is, when you are on the court floor (or sport field for soccer etc), you assume all responsibility for your own safety.
    If you kneel down, and cannot get up and out of the way FAST, then do NOT kneel down. This is why I only shoot standing. I'm too old to get up FAST from a kneeling position.
    And do NOT sit on the floor, as you cannot get up and out of way fast.
    First row of the bleachers is also bad.
    I always position myself so that I have an escape route. And when someone fills that escape route, I move. Being trapped is how you get hurt.

    Access to shoot on the court floor depends on the school, coaches and officials.
    It gets more difficult to get court floor access as you go up the school ladder; middle school, high school, then college.
  13. Correction, the padding on the wall behind the basket only looked 6" thick to me, in my distorted mind.
    Because I don't trust my memory, I went and measured it the other day. The foam is approx 2" thick on a 1/2" base/board. The foam appears to be hard cell foam, as it did not compress easily.

    And I have seen some of the kids go crashing into that pad, usually the Varsity boys.
    There were a couple times where the player had enough forward momentum, to run UP the wall about 4-5 feet. I wish I had my camera on him for that.

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