Category Archives: Indoor Sports

Basketball Team Photos – Additional Ideas

Different Angles

Experiment. Take your basketball team photos from different vantage points. Especially when shooting a larger team.  One great method is to elevate yourself with a ladder or other device. Your shooting angle will be down at the team, which will help to ensure everyone is seen in the photo. Also, the higher angle tends to provide a different and unique view of the athletes. Bleachers are another excellent device for posing your teams. You can use the seats to tier the group upward; however, you still don’t want to place the tall people down in front if you can avoid it.

Take Multiple Shots

This is one time you shouldn’t be hesitant to take multiple shots quickly. You wouldn’t typically switch the camera to continuous shooting mode, but it can often work well, catching them off-guard just as they are relaxing. In fact, we have found that the mere fact of the basketball team hearing your camera go off repeatedly and so quickly will generate a few smiles and laughs. Since it’s hard to get everyone to smile at exactly the right time, take many photos quickly. You will find that the first shot might not be that good, but the second or third will be better because they look a bit less posed and more relaxed.

Use this opportunity to change settings on your camera. Take multiple shots while changing the aperture, shutter, ISO, and white balance. Compare the differences and pick your favorites back at the house. With practice you will find you need to do less and less of this because you will know the best setting for any given circumstances.

Be Creative

If there is a chance at the basketball gym or location to do something unique, go for it. Along with the standard poses, try something different or fun, and your photos will stand out from others. Try standing your athletes in lockers looking out, or lined up in a single row, or lying in a circle. Look around. Take advantage of props unique to the basketball gym or location. Break the rules once in a while! We always do a "fun" shot where subjects can make silly faces and point at each other.

Shooting Basketball Custom White Balance

Remember that the purpose of white balance is to ensure the colors in your photos accurately represent the colors as you see them with your eye.  If you are not achieving the colors you want in that old dingy basketball gym another option to use the custom or manual white balance setting.  Don’t let those words scare you away it’s not that difficult.  In some basketball gyms you might find custom or manual the best way to find and then save a color setting that works.

What is custom white balance
In simplest terms you are giving the camera a reference “white” photo from which it can create proper color for your photos.  You put the camera in a mode telling it you are going to take a reference white photo, take it and then the camera will do it’s magic.  By doing this in the same lighting you will be shooting your basketball photos the camera will help you achieve proper color.  Then once you achieve the best white balance you can for that location, if it’s one you come to often, you can save it as one of the presets and you’ll be ready to go each time you come back to that gym.  I took the following three shots using various white balance, the first florescent, the second incandescent, and the third a manual white balance using the white wall on the side of the gym.

Florescent WB



Incandescent WB Fluorescent

Custom WB (shot the white wall) Custom

What to use
A number of items can work for your reference shot, from purchasing a white or grey card to using many free items found around your home.

  • white or grey card (purchased)
  • 3×5 card
  • coffee filter
  • pringles lid (at least they are good for something)
  • Inside of your camera bag (often the proper grey)
  • White paper or items in the gym

How to do it
Essentially you will tell the camera you are going to do a custom setting, then take a picture of something that is ALL white and then save the setting.  Those are the steps.  Below are the steps for a Nikon D200,  other cameras will be similar only the buttons you press may be different

Step  1 – Place your card or item in the lighting

Step  2 – Change or rotate your WB setting to “PRE”

Step  3 – Fill the viewfinder with white (all white, focus doesn’t matter)

Step  4 – Press the WB button until the PRE begins to flash

Step  5 – Release the WB button; then press the shutter button (taking a photo)

Step  6 – You will now see “Good” or “NoGd” on your display (- Good means you have now set a preset, otherwise do it again)

Saving the results
Your custom white balance is now set and saved.  On the D200 you can save up to 5 presets.  This can be helpful when you are returning to the same gym to shoot basketball.  Once you have the color the way you want it, just remember that location on your presets and don’t overwrite it.

Go try it, it’s not that hard and you might just achieve that beautiful color you’ve been looking for.


Shooting Basketball (Fluorescent Lighting)

We’ve talked about the challenges of shooting basketball in old gyms.  Let’s get a bit more specific and talk particular types of lighting, starting with Fluorescent lighting.  You will find many basketball gyms using fluorescent lights because of the cost savings.  Fluorescent lights though cause real challenges in achieving good basketball photos.  We are all familiar with those long fluorescent light tubes we see in offices and commercial buildings.  This same design continues today, but it has also changed with looped tubes and other tube designs that can often make it difficult to tell by just looking at the light fixture if you are shooting in a fluorescent gym.

A little history and background
Fluorescent lights began being used commercially back in the 1930s.  They became popular because fluorescent lights are more efficient than incandescent light.  Fluorescent lights are a gas discharge light which means that electricity is used to excite an ionized gas such as mercury vapor.  The resulting ultra-violet radiation is converted to visible light with a fluorescent coating on the inside of the lamp.  Standard heat temperature ratings (kelvins) do not apply to fluorescent lights, in addition fluorescent lights change over time through usage, making basketball photography under fluorescent light most difficult.

Okay…………..that was probably more than any of us wanted to know and what does that have to do with how you get a good basketball photo…………………  

Bottom line
We are real fans of automatic white balance, but basketball gyms and fluorescent lights are one place it usually doesn’t work well.  Fluorescent lights typically produce a more warm color in the orange and red range.  When that combines with yellow/orange hardwood floors and wood bleachers you can get some very orange photos.  
There are primarily three things you can do to improve the color in your basketball photos::

  1. Try the “fluorescent” white balance setting on your camera.   That setting will often compensate quite well for the lights.   
  2. You can manually set the white balance by shooting something white in the gym and then manually adjusting the white balance.  We will cover this in a future blog, it’s not as hard as it sounds.
  3. Shoot in RAW mode and adjust the white balance afterwards.  We also plan to cover this in a blog.

So, if your basketball photos are looking real orange, or reddish try that fluorescent setting and see what you get!


Three Keys to shooting basketball

It’s basketball season and time to capture some amazing photos at the gym.  Of course the challenge is shooting indoor basketball with lousy lighting at old basketball gyms, not to mention the yellow wood floors and bleachers that can reek havoc with your white balance.

Key #1 Equipment
This is a case where you are going to need a nice lens.  No way around it, you really need a lens with an aperture of 2.8 or you will really struggle getting enough light in poorly lit gyms.  You can use a smaller lens but I find the 80-200mm ideal allowing me to catch action most anywhere on the court.  You might get away with a smaller lens if you can get close to the court and if you are willing to wait for the action to come to you.

Key #2 Where to Position Yourself
My preference is in the bleachers at the end of the court and a bit off to one side so the backboard doesnt’ get in the way.  If there are no bleachers on the end then standing at the end can work as well, just be careful of the refs blocking your shots.  If you shoot from the middle of the court you can find some unique angles but you will seldom get the face of your player while they are shooting.

Key #3 Frame a Great Photo
The nice thing about basketball is there is a lot of action.  If you miss one shot it will certainly come around again and you will have another opportunity.  My favorite shots are when my player has the ball and there is contact and action with the defenders.  If I can catch that including my players face and the ball then I have a GREAT shot.  Remember your photos are always better with those two things, the ball and the face.  The player without the ball just isn’t that interesting and if you can see the ball and not the player’s face not so cool either.


See you on the court!

Sports Photography Preparation is the Key


It doesn’t matter if you are going to shoot your child’s baseball game or the High School state championship football game,  you will most likely get better sports photos if you are prepared. There are a couple of things that you should take into account when getting ready for a sports photo shoot.

Get your gear ready

This might be the most important. You don’t want to get to your destination, have everything setup to find that your battery is nearly dead. This and many other mishaps can be avoided by simply getting all the equipment together the night before the big event. This includes blank memory cards, charged batteries, lenses and camera. Depending on whether you will be indoors or outdoors and the weather you may have additional accessories that are required.

Whatever the equipment requirements are it is always a good idea to get them all ready and packed so when you are ready to go and can just grab your gear and be on your way, confident that you have what you need. You may even want to make a list of what you need for different sporting events so it’s easy to bring out that specific list when you are planning on a shoot.

Scout out the location

Obviously you aren’t going to be able to check out a location before hand if it’s out of state or country, but when possible it’s a great idea to check out the location you plan on photographing at beforehand. A great time for this may be something as simple taking a family member practicing at the facility or location.  You should definitely check out the location, walk around and find great spots that will make a great photo.

You don’t necessarily have to check out the location a day or two early. If it’s a sporting event like volleyball, you can get there a half hour early so you get the perfect spot in the stands. If it’s something like a soccer game, it may not be too important as you may be moving to different positions on the side lines as the game progresses, but you may actually miss some shots of the kids practicing (that’s right, you can get some great shots before the game actually starts).

Remember these tips and you won’t have to worry if you forgot your flash card at home, or worrying about getting a great spot to shoot from.

Shutter Lag

Shutter Lag
Even if you don’t know what the words mean, shutter lag, you’ve probably experienced it.  You have your camera at the ready, you’ve composed the shot, the athlete is now in position and you press the shutter button at the exact moment you want to capture the perfect picture…………….but the camera doesn’t take the photo, it waits for what’s seems an eternity and then fires.  You find the resultant photo is not the one you had prepared for, the athlete is not framed properly or they are now in an awkward looking position, or it’s out of focus all because the camera delayed in taking the photo. 

This is what is known as shutter lag.  Sports photographers need cameras that shoot with minimal shutter lag and shoot quickly. You the sports photographer can also take steps to reduce this lag and not miss photo opportunities or poorly capture them. 

What is it?
Shutter Lag is the delay between pushing the shutter button and the camera recording the picture on the image sensor.  Whereas the shutter lag on a film camera was minimal and primarily a result of the mechanics of the aperture opening and closing, digital cameras have that lag plus the processing of the image.  There are many steps the camera must take prior to and when taking a photo, all of which are not related to the shutter, but practically speaking shutter lag is the time from when you press the shutter button until the time the camera takes the photo.  A lot must happen during this time.  Your camera adjusts the focus, exposure and white balance then it opens the aperture, captures the light on the image sensor, converts the light to a digital representation and writes it to your memory card.  That’s a lot to do in a short amount of time and while electronic circuitry and processing is improving shutter lag continues to be a factor.

What can you do about it?
As a sports photographer there are a number of things you can do about it.  The first and most obvious is to buy a camera with a short shutter lag.  You will find measurements in the specifications and it never hurts to test the camera out on a sport you want to shoot.  Even the best digital cameras still experience shutter lag but there is still more you can do.

Prepare in advance
The work you camera must do can be significantly reduced by preparing your camera in advance.  When you push the shutter button half-way down you are telling your camera to focus and make the proper adjustments.  Continue holding the button down, and then when you press the rest of the way down it will more quickly take the photo.  This is not always possible when shooting sports, but when you can it will help you reduce shutter lag.

This is another trick that can reduce shutter lag.  Anticipating or predicting where the action will be occurring will allow you to shoot the camera a bit ahead of the actual shot you want to get.  By anticipating what will be happening next and shooting the camera just before that moment you will capture the exact moment you want.  The more you shoot a particular sport the better you will become and you will find yourself capturing magnificent photos and not noticing the shutter lag at all.

Continuous or Burst Mode
Good sports photography cameras will have a continuous mode or burst mode.  When set to this mode, when you press and hold the shutter button, the camera will take a rapid set of photos one right after the other as quickly as it can.  This can make the art of anticipating a bit easier since you can begin before the action and end afterwards.  This will increase your chances of getting that perfect action photo.

Increased Shutter Speed
Another way to reduce shutter lag is to shoot with a faster shutter speed.  You will be doing this often anyway as you attempt to capture sports and freeze the action.  This way you will obtain clear photos without blur.  In low-light conditions if you increase the size of the aperture or opening you will allow more light to reach the sensor in less time allowing you to use a faster shutter speed.  This will help you to freeze motion for sharp clear photos.

Decrease the photo resolution
By lowering the quality and thus the size of the photo you are taking allows your camera to process the information faster, since there is less information to process.  Just common sense really, if your resolution is set to 8 megapixel per photo, the processor in your camera must process all those pixels, convert them to digital numbers and write them to your memory card.  Obviously your camera will take less time to process fewer mega pixels, so shooting at a quality mode that requires 4 mega pixels will process quicker.  Pick a quality mode on your camera that meets your needs, but still helps you reduce the shutter lag. 

And don’t forget to practice and practice and take many photos.  This will improve your timing as well as give you a chance to capture some great sports shots while learning to compensate for shutter lag.

ProPix Photography
The Sports Photographers

Sports Photography Lighting

Lighting is one of the most difficult challenges for the sports photographer.  It varies outdoors and changes in nearly every gym.  If your athlete plays in the same field or gym repeatedly that can help and allows you to try out different options.  Outdoors you have the challenge of the bright sun which will cast deep shadows or cloudy days when their is not enough light.  Indoors you will face a variety of different lights with different brightness and color.  All creating a challenge for you to get the best photos.

Outdoor Sunny
When you are outdoors and it’s sunny you want to remember that you want to light up the athlete’s face.  You want the light on their face so you want the sun to your back.  So position yourself to make that happen.  This might mean only shooting half of a soccer game or shooting the players going in one direction.  It might mean only shooting a few innings of the game instead of the entire game.  The good thing about the sun is you can keep your ISO down to 400 and still eliminate the blur bof motion.  I love sports photos on a sunny day because of the brightness and brilliance.
The shadow of the faces can be so strong that you will not recognize the player nor will you be able to post edit them on the computer and make them bright enough to view.

Outdoor Overcast
An overcast sky is a blessing in many ways, but creates other difficulties for you.  You won’t have the heavy shadows, but you will have less light and will need to shoot at a higher ISO.  The higher ISO isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you have to go too high you can start getting grainy photos.  Check you view finder and keep the ISO as low as possible while still getting enough light on your athlete.  Where you position yourself on this overcast day is less important from a lighting standpoint since you don’t have to worry about keeping the sun on your back.

Indoor Lights
You will find a wide variety of lights used indoors.  They never seem to be the same and the level of brightness always varies.  For the most part there is never as much light as you want or really need.  In some ways you have a tougher job than the professional photographer who works in a well lit arena.  Your key benefit is that at least you can move around.  So, what to do, well have that good lens, adjust your ISO to as high as needed.  This will often have to be up to 1600 to get enough light and to freeze the action.  This may end up limiting the size of photos you can print, but at least they will be bright and viewable.  As mentioned previously try different white balance settings until you get the one that gives you the best color.

ProPix Photography

The Sports Photography Professionals

Positioning and Timing


If you follow sports at all you’ve seen those great photos on the cover of Sports Illustrated and you see amazing action shots daily in the sports section of the newspaper.  You’re thinking hey, my family and children all participate in sports I want to get some shots like that of my family!  Well it’s possible and this article will help get you started.  Although if you are looking for that shot of your child 2 feet above the rim dunking a basketball that will take a lot more than just good photography, but we can help you get those great shots only found in a basketball game with ten 11 year-olds running around like crazy.  We all love good action shots and with children busier in activities from dance to soccer than ever before we spend a lot of time as parents supporting our children, and capturing them in action is a definite requirement. Getting great action shots takes planning and good shooting, and begins with where you position yourself.

Where you need to position yourself

There location from where you are taking your photos is very important and will vary depending on the sport or action shot you are trying to get.  Where you sit as a spectator will often not be the best place to get the ideal photos.  It might be worth a shot or two from that position, but there are a number of problems.  Take a high school basketball game for example.  As a spectator you may want to sit as close to center court as possible.  The challenge with taking photos from that position is you will likely have to stand up which will rudely block the peoples view behind you and most of your shots will be from the side or the back of the athlete.  So a better place would be behind one of the baskets up a few rows, because there may be fewer spectators in that part of the stands and being elevated will help eliminate obstacles such as cheerleaders and people walking by.  Also right down on court-side is also a good option.  If you are familiar with the sport you will know and learn where to position yourself for the best photos.  Do look at professional sports photos and see what shots they are getting and taking, think about where they are positioned and copy when you can.

Be where you can get the face
Without a doubt of the 100,000s of sports photos I have sold, 99.9% of them included the participants face in the photo.  The #1 most important part of the photo is that you capture the participants face.  Not always easy, think of swimming competition where the athletes only breath occasionally and on different sides.  That can be a real challenge.  Be sure that your are positioned in a way that when you capture the action that the athlete’s face will be well lit and looking toward you.  From the side is ok as well as long as a good portion of the face is part of the photos. 

Don’t stay in one place
If you want good sports and action shots of your family get on the move.  Don’t let yourself stay in one place.  Some sports force you to move because the teams play in different directions.  Tennis for example will require that you move to catch the action from both sides of the court.  Even if the sport doesn’t require it, make yourself move.  Try different angles, don’t shoot everything from the end of the field or court take some from the side toward the end and others perhaps from the middle of the field or court. 

I distinctly remember the day I tried a different angle while shooting photos of my children competitively swimming.  I had always taken breastroke and butterfly photos from the end of the lane where they were looking right straight toward me.  One time I was late getting in position so took the photos from an angle at the side of the pool, still captured their face and had a great angle that has actually been my favorite rather than straight on.  Moving is also important for the larger playing areas and will allow you to get much closer on a a specific player or portion of the field.

Just as any athlete in a sport must have good timing and skill you also as a sports photographer must have good timing, must be able to act and react quickly and have skill.  This takes practice and thank goodness for digital cameras that let us practice over and over.  If you are familiar with the sport you are shooting you will pick up the timing quicker and you will know what shots to be looking for.  Anticipation is key and knowing what is about to occur.  If you see the action or the moment it’s already too late to shoot it, you must anticipate it happening. 

Soccer is a great example of this.  If you press the shutter when you see the player kick the ball you will be late and what you will get is the ball already leaving the foot and the player in an awkward looking position.  The best shot is achieved by anticipating when they are going to strike the ball and pressing the shutter right before that occurs so you catch them in the "moment" or act of kicking ball as opposed to after the fact.  Every sport has these timing challenges and it’s for you to practice and learn them.  Be sure to use the review on your digital camera, take shots, review them on the field and then take more.

Unplanned moments
These are those unplanned moments in sports that can be amazing or hilarious, and are often the most memorable.  Unfortunately as they are aptly named you can’t plan for these shots.  They can happen at anytime and are quite unpredictable.  Invariably you will miss many of these, but if you are shooting on a regular basis and shooting much of a game you will have those moments and shots that will be treasures.  Really the only way to get more of these is to spend more time taking photos.

Ensure you are in the right position and practice, practice and practice to achieve proper timing and you will be well on your way to getting a sports action photo of your family that is a "keeper."

ProPix Photography

The Sports Photography Professionals

How to Take Team Photos

You’re so busy getting all those great actions shots don’t forget to get the team and group photos.  Don’t forget the team photos that help document the occasion the effort, emotion and success.  Team photos can be successful before or after the game or after the awards ceremony.  Just as you are with the action shots you will need to be quick and organized.  If not you will have whining and complaining athletes as well as parents, and guaranteed the next time you try, few will stay around.  So be quick, efficient and people will respond.

When & What to Wear
There are three primary options for when to take the team photo.  They can be taken prior to the competition, immediately after or along with the awards ceremony.  Depending on the event it might a  formal affair or simply a quick team photo to remind everyone who on the team or at the tournament. 

The advantages of doing it before the game or event is that everyone is typically in a good enthusiastic mood, no one has lost yet, and their uniforms and hair are perfectly arranged, or as good as it will get.  The challenges are they might not all come wearing their uniform as you requested and they might arrive late which holds everyone up.  If you are attempting to do this before-hand get the word out in advance if you can, tell them all what to wear and encourage them to be on time.  Also, make sure it’s okay with the coach because they often have a very specific plan for warm-up and will want extra time if you’re going to take photos to no disrupt it.

Taking a team photo after the competition or event can be good since all the athletes are present and in the team uniform.  Many like the post game photo because it shows them more in their real attire and look, sweat on their faces, dirt on their shoes and uniforms and faces with the emotions of losing or winning.  If this is the plan, then make sure to let the athletes know before they start removing jerseys or shoes, catch they won’t want to put them back on.  So hustle them together before any of that occurs.

Location & Lighting
The where to take this photo will be dependent on what’s available close by and how many athletes will be in the photo.  Can you choose a location that compliments the sport and eliminates distracting backgrounds.  Is their a geographical items to capture as part of it.  Are there physical items that can play a part such as the goal posts, the stadium, the bleachers.  Fortunately some post photo editing may help fix some of the background, but if you can generate a good angle or find a good background you will be better off.  It’s a challenge but you must also contend with the light.  Ideally allow the sun to light their faces, but invariably it will be too bright and they will close their eyes.  If the group is small enough you can use "fill flash" to remove the shadows from faces or another trick is to have everyone open their eyes just in time for the photo.

Take charge and get the athletes organized.  You may want to enlist parents or other observers to assist.  Make sure all bags, balls, towels or other sports gear that is a distraction in the photo is removed and out of the way.  It will often get tossed behind or to the side, but will still be in the way of your photos.  Enlist a parent of sibling to run around and pick everything up and put it in a single pile out of the way.  Each sport and the number of athlete participants and the location you have chosen will affect the way you organize and pose them.  From a doubles tennis team of two through a soccer team of 21 or a football team of 40+ you may have some real challenges. 

A good way to get some posing ideas is to look at professional sports magazines or websites.  For example, world cup soccer poses are a bit unique with two rows of players the first row squatting on their heals.  Each sport may have it’s own way or typical way to shoot team photos.  The key factors are to position, balance and spacing.  Position the athletes so everyone is visible.  That might mean the first row is sitting, the second kneeling and the third standing.  But just as with your action shots you need to see everyone’s face.  Balance is next, be a bit symmetrical, not all the tall athletes one side, nor allow the standing row to roll off to the left a few more feet than the kneeling row.  Spacing means ensure the athletes are tight together, no huge spaces between them either horizontally or depth-wise, what looks like a small space to use will appear much larger and disproportionate in the photo.

Make it fun & fast
Whatever you do make it fast, get them in position, take a couple shots and be done with it.  Their athletes and kids and they don’t like posing for photos.  They want to have a photo taken don’t get me wrong, but they don’t want to wait around for it, so be quick about it.  Make it fun as well, be creative, after the serious shot take a crazy one they always love that.  Make sure to include the coach and if you have a MVP or goalie or someone to highlight put them in front with the ball.  With soccer teams we always like to lay the goalie down in front with the soccer ball, and they always appreciate it.

Remember to make team and group photos part of your sports photography, and you will have more great photos to share and enjoy!

ProPix Photography

The Sports Photography Professionals