Tips You Need to Get Great Basketball Photography

Let's divide the tips into two aspects: technical and general. So, when we talk about the technical aspect we mean the following tips:

  • burst mode;

  • automatic white balance;

  • shooting in JPEG format;

  • subject tracking;

  • fast shutter speeds.

And when we talk about general tips, we mean:

  • find a new angle;

  • pay attention to the environment;

  • shoot as much as possible.

Sports photography isn’t as easy as it seems. There is a lot of patience and skill behind a wonderful photo. Especially if it is such an active sport as basketball, the photo must convey the atmosphere and intensity of the game. The photographer must wait for the opportunity to make a good shot and feel the game and understand the rules and value of each pass or throw. 

But skill and patience are not enough to take amazing basketball photos. It is desirable to have a good camera with all the features we will list below. Although, the cameras on modern smartphones are no worse than some pro ones. And most likely your smartphone will suit amateur sports photography. But if we talk about the professional level, then sports photography is one of the few genres in which smartphones can not yet replace cameras. 

Whether you're shooting your kids' basketball events, amateur or professional basketball events, the tips in our article will help you become more confident and skillful in sports photography. So, let’s move on!

The technical aspect of basketball photography

  • Use burst mode

Most photographers take single photos, but in fast-paced sports capturing the most dramatic moments requires the perfect moment. Therefore, sports photographers shoot in burst.

Most cameras can shoot in burst mode at 5 to 12 frames per second. So at the end of the shooting, you can view all the frames and choose the one that best conveys the essence of the moment, for example, hitting the ball in the basket or an epic jump.

  • Use the automatic white balance

This mode on your camera can be added to the images of natural colors, regardless of the time of day or the lighting of the basketball hall, where you will do the photography. It is best to put the camera in auto white balance mode and let it automatically adjust this setting as the lighting changes.

The solution also allows you to focus on the composition and forecasting of key moments. 

To enable auto white balance, press the button on the back of the camera or the LCD screen if it is a touchscreen. Pressing this button will change the white balance mode to the next available one.

  • Shoot in JPEG format

Photographers are often required to shoot RAW or JPEG + RAW formats, but this rule is often ignored in the world of sports photography. Many photographers use the JPEG format because it usually provides a higher frame rate than RAW.

RAW files are larger and contain more data, and some cameras take longer to clear the buffer. JPEG files are smaller, which means they can be added to the memory card faster and more frames are taken at the same time (compared to RAW). 

  • Use Servo AF or Subject Tracking

Typically, the camera defaults to One-Shot AF and is the preferred choice for most photographers. However, when shooting moving subjects on a basketball field, you need to switch to Servo AF mode to clear your photography. 

Servo AF mode, also known as continuous focus mode, will continue to focus on the selected AF point.

AF Tracking mode makes focus control even easier. In tracking mode, you simply touch the AF point on the LCD screen or press the shutter button halfway to lock the focus on the subject, and then the AF point moves with the subject as it moves around the frame. 

  • Capture action-packed scenes with fast shutter speeds

The goal of any sports photographer is to capture the action through expressive moments, and the only way to do this is to work with fast shutter speeds. Ideally, you should use a shutter speed of about 1/1000 of a second, but the main thing is not to set a shutter speed slower than 1/500 of a second.

General tips for good basketball photography

Technical tips are good, but no matter how cool your camera is, without general knowledge, you won’t take great photos:

  • Find a new angle

At sporting events, most photographers shoot from one angle, so think about how you can stand out from the crowd. Maybe you should lie down on the ground and try shooting from a low angle? Or make symmetrical footage of the players' positioning from a height? Shooting from the sideline of the field is often more effective than shooting from behind the basket. Think about making your basketball photography original.

  • Call attention to the environment

When you are at the game, it is important to pay attention not only to the decisive moments of the game. 

Try aiming your camera at the audience and capturing the hopeful faces and fun outfits, and excitement of the players before the game starts.

  • Shoot as much as possible

This rule is almost golden. Of course, you will need a large memory card and a good camera battery, but the task is to shoot first and then choose. The very essence of a basketball game is the dynamics and speed. And so, these qualities should also be accepted by the photographer. You can see the results later, as well as choose the best shots. When shooting in RAW format, you can fix some of them in post-processing. The main thing is to have time to capture the most spectacular moments.

That is why it is quite common for a sports photographer to go home with more than 2,000 raw shots, and 50 of them will be published.

Basketball Photography FAQ

  • From which angles is it best to make a basketball photo?

If you shoot from a low angle, you will get good photos. 

  • Why is a comfortable low angle important in basketball photography?

It gives the frame more drama,  and you can not just shoot the player. You can shoot the podium, sky, or spotlights, which also allows you to get interesting angles.

  • What to do if I get bad basketball photos?

First of all, you have to come to terms with the fact that very often, especially at the beginning of your career, you will get bad photos. All professional photographers went through this stage. Moreover, not every photo shoot photographer gets great photos. You need to be more patient and try to change something in your actions; maybe you are doing something wrong. And of course, read our article about basketball photography)

(Aug 24, 2021) Alex Seobruv Creativity Getting started