When I look at images in sports magazine I’m always amazed by the quality, sharpness, vibrant colours and composition you see in the photos, but believe me, photographing sports action is not as easy as it looks in the pages of a magazine. The key difference for nice shots with freeze movement is the light source in the arena and the patience, skill and equipment that you bring with you of course.

Basketball Warm up photo captured

When you are in a basketball arena and you have no sun, but only an artificial light source, it becomes problematic, and the biggest issue is the light source that affects the rest of camera settings such as shutter speed, aperture and ISO. (It was the same story in my case with Basketball photos I took) You can’t go into a nice (almost noise free) ISO100, since it will be too dark, and you need a good fast shutter speed to freeze the motion. Indoors photography – you need a fast lens with a constant aperture of F2.8 or better – something like an F1.8 Zoom is preferable. Prime lenses are another way of tackling the situation.

Basketball warm up Training

Basketball Warm Up Image

Jumping in reach of a basket

Getting close with a ball to the the basket

For basketball a 70-200mm F2.8 with image stabilisation is a must.

The usual lenses I take with me are: Canon 24-70mm F2.8 L and my Canon 80-200 F2.8 L Lens with no IS.  Some photographers refer to this lens as a magic drain-pipe J  and sometimes a prime 50mm F1.4

I have never taken photos at a basketball game before but I was familiar with it from my childhood and I found it to be an interesting, challenging experience capturing an intense team struggle to win against a stronger league team. It all happened not long ago, one Saturday morning in Tallaght basketball arena in Dublin, where I was invited by my colleagues who play for the DIT team. I arrived on time, with fully charged batteries, a Canon 5D Mark 2 and a battery grip that gives me some stability when capturing images in vertical positions with less shake from my elbows.

The team had just started the warm up, I had some time to do some test shots and find the optimal settings for my camera.

Basket ball shot warming up

Warm up Training Basket ball

I mentioned above some of the problems I encountered capturing the images, so here it comes in details with some key points for getting it right: To freeze basketball players you need at least 1/320 or 1/400 of a second shutter speed. At this speed keeping ISO at a 100 is going to result with a dark or black image, so you need to bump up your ISO (Image sensitivity). ISO 400 and even ISO 800 wasn’t enough. So I went to the extreme and set it at a variable of ISO 1200 to ISO 2500. This was sufficient in most cases to freeze the motion, but my images did suffer from this even on 5dMK2 body which usually deals quite well with noise in high ISO settings. What I mean by suffering from a noise level is that when you use high ISO settings the higher the setting is the grainier the image will be. Some cameras tend to give different noise levels on different high ISO settings, some less and some more.

Getting the ball out of the hands

Tight basketball position

Ball to the basket - Basketball captured

My aperture in most cases was F2.8, but sometimes I would change it to F3.2 where the light source from above was strong enough. I have to say that At F2.8 you have very narrow depth of field, so you’re focusing skills and tracking basket ball player has to be on the spot, or you will get unfocused photos with subject out of focus. I won’t hide it, but from 500 images I took on that day, only 250 were left as more or less sharp with less or no blur at all.

Blocking the oponent with a ball

Basketball jamm

Getting higher to the basket

Two point shot in basketball

The camera was set to the Centre Focusing point in most cases, with a Fast BRUST shooting mode and AI SERVO focusing mode. Please note that this is my way of using my camera in sports scenario. Everyone has their own way of doing things and different scenarios require different adjustments depending on your light source, space you have to cover and the equipment you have.

Passing basketball

Blocking the ball

During the basketball game I tried many different angles and different filed positions. I swapped my lenses a couple of times; most of the time I used my Magic Drainpipe 80-200mm zoom lens. Looking back at the images I now realise an Image stabilisation would have been a great help in photographing the basket ball game. I came to the same conclusion when was photographing football. As most photographers know an IS feature with high Aperture of 2.8 costs over €1.5k. So it’s time to save and get more work on the side to cover the expenses! I have to mention that different light sources can affect either in good or in a bad way your camera settings and image quality. So – Practice, practice and don’t worry to experiment.

Defense in Basketball

Three Point Zone Shoot

Basketball team from Dublin

Thank you for watching photos I captured, and I hope the information I wrote will be of some assistance to some of you. If you have questions please don’t hesitate to contact me.



3 Responses to Basketball Photos – The Heart of BASKETBALL!

  1. Paul Timon says:

    Good article. Some great shots!

  2. Paul Timon says:

    Nice article. Some great shots.

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