Shooting Indoor Sports

Indoor Sports
Getting great sports photos indoor can be a real challenge.  While professional sports photographers shoot in arenas that have been designed with them and the television producers in mind, you are shooting in old school gyms, performance halls and other poorly lit facilities.  You will also be using good equipment, but most likely not using pro lenses that can run $8,000+.  The good news is if you will follow the tips below you will still be able to capture great sports photos like the pros.

Location, Location, Location
Just as in real estate where the best location makes for the best pricing and resale, the best location at indoor sports will make for the best photos.  Find a spot right on the floor close to the athletes or an elevated position that is still close enough.  You want to fill the frame with many of your shots and depending on the size of your lens, being close is almost always better.  There not just one best location, you will want to change positions and take shots from a variety of angles and different locations around the competition area.  By doing this you will have unique shots that will give variety to the shots you are taking.  You will also need to be mobile to catch all the athletes since in most sports they will be moving and changing directions.

White Balance
As a sports photographer you will invariably be faced with event locations that have insufficient lighting.  School gyms and performance halls have not been designed for optimum photographic lighting.  In addition, during many sporting and athletic events the lights are dimmed or turned down as part of the event.  In addition to low-light you will have to deal with a variety of different types of lights including florescent. 

Your best solution is to take practice shots and get to the best color you can on your LCD screen.  You will be able to make adjustments post event on your computer, but that takes time and you want to get it the best you can the first time.  So start on automatic and see how well that looks.  Then try some of the other pre-defined white balance settings such as florescent.  The best way is to try a few and then choose the setting that gives you the best visual representation of the scene. 

ISO & Shutter Speed
You have a double challenge, enough light for your photos and freeze the action so your photos are not blurry.  The image sensor on your camera must receive enough light to allow your photo to be bright, yet you can’t leave the shutter open so long that the movement is blurry.  So your shutter speed must be fast enough to capture the action.  Fortunately a good Digital SLRs will help you to do just that.  You have a number of options.  You can leave the camera in programmed mode and increase the ISO.  You may have to increase the ISO to 800, 1250 or even 1600 where I tend to shoot most of my indoor sports held in school gyms. 

In programmed mode the camera will intelligently set the aperture and shutter speed to compensate.  You will find this to often be a good solution, and obviously easy to do since all you do is set the ISO.  If you want to take more control yourself try setting the aperture as wide open as you can (low f/stop number), and let the camera pick the shutter speed.  It might feel a little backwards, but we have found this to work better than to set the shutter speed.  Of course if you want ultimate control go to manual and set both yourself.

Faces
Don’t forget the most important part of the sports photo is the athlete’s face.  Find locations that will allow you capture the faces of the athletes.  Be aware of obstacles and other challenges that may hinder your ability to catch their face.  When you capture the athlete’s face along with the ball, or other elements of the sport or competition you will have sport photos that everyone will love, and the athlete and family even more.

ProPix Photography
The Sports Photographers

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