Basic Tips on Taking Basketball Photos
February 23, 2008
February 22, 2008
By Steve Kajihiro
Since high school basketball championships are here. I thought I’ll write some tips on photographing basketball. Last year, Mark McCollum of MTM Action Photo and I spent the year as team photographers for a minor league basketball team. It was a fun but tiring experience for us. Anyway, I don’t claim to be an expert of any kind. I’m just a “nut” that decided to throw some tips out to those that care read to this.
One of the most important parts with shooting basketball, especially in high school gyms would be your equipment. In order to get a half way decent shot, you will need at minimum a f/2.8 lens. I currently use a 17-55 mm lens but it seems to be a little bit too wide. And it’s even more so with my Nikon D3 , that has a full frame sensor. I personally would recommend a 28-70mm lens or something in that range. With my full frame sensor D3, which doesn’t have a crop factor, I normally use the 70-200 mm lens and sometimes a f/2.8, 300mm lens for basketball.
The next thing is a good SLR camera, you can use a Nikon or Canon but I personally use a Nikon. The better the camera, the better and easier time you will have in getting that shot. Last year, I used the Nikon D2H and the D200. The D200 worked better with noise than the D2H, since you will normally have to shoot at 1600 ISO in a high school gym to get a decent shutter speed, but even 1600 ISO it might not be good enough. My current camera is the Nikon D3. The D3 is by far the best camera I ever owned. The noise is far more superior to anything that I have ever seen. I routinely shoot at 3200 to 6400 ISO with no problems. So, for whatever camera you have or going to buy, make the best of it.
I also say positioning is another key factor in getting good photos at a game. It’s a key factor since alot of times the officials are in the way and you might get butt shots of the officials instead of dunks. For those of you that shoot any sport, you know what I’m talking about….at least I know my fellow photographer Mark knows. It’s like, right on, right on, I got the shot…oh but wait, the referee just stepped in the way…damn!!!
Anyway, I like to sit about 3 to 4 feet to the right side of the basket on the baseline or on the right or left corner of the courts. These are good for getting a shot of the layup or dunk. But, this is all up to you since sitting close to the basketball brings dangers too. Last year, a player landed on my head, it’s a good thing for all the fat under my chin which supported my neck…ha, ha., so be careful if you decide to sit there. For those that are thinking about using a chair, I personally don’t use a chair but alot of photographers use chairs like the crazy creek chairs since it’s light and easy to carry around.
Oh yeah, one last thing. Shutter Speed and Aperature. I recommend at least a F/2.8 or even a f/1.5 aperature and a shutter speed of at least 1/300 of a second. If you don’t have a f/2.8 lens, use the widest aperature as possible (lowest f/number). I like to use at least a 1/500 sec shutter speed but that is because the D3 can handle that. Since basketball is such a fast sport and tracking players are some times difficult, try to get the fastest shutter speed possible. However, I have also noticed that you could get away with a 1/250 shutter speed for dunk shots if you time it right. There’s a point a the top of the dunk that the players are slow enough to stop their motion with a slower shutter speed. Again all of this depends on your camera’s ISO ability, this is why some pros use strobes in the gyms and arenas.
One last thing, just go out and shoot the game and have fun. The most important thing here is that we are having fun at what we are doing. By the way, I plan to update this post with photos at a later time so come back to see if there’s any photos posted.