Ten Tips To Help Make Better College Basketball Photos

We are now in the stretch run of the college basketball season. From here on out the atmosphere just keeps getting better and better until March Madness is finally here. I thought that this would be a good time to write a post listing ten tips to make better college basketball photos. I am by no means the authority on the subject, but I have learned a lot over the last few years on the sidelines. I thought that I could maybe speed up someones learning curve with a few pointers. Here are ten tips for better college basketball photos.

10. Stop the action – This can be a challenge in some venues. The light may not be quite what you want it to be. I normally would say that you need to be above 1/1250th of a second to stop the action. In the photo above though the light dictated that I was at 1/800th of a second. Basketball is a fast sport with a lot of quick action. You need to have a fast shutter speed to stop the action.

9. Shoot In RAW and Manual – I am going to contradict myself a bit here. I always shoot in RAW because it gives me the most data to work with later. When I am shooting outside it helps me in case a stray cloud comes over right as the big play happens and I don’t have time to change my settings. I always shoot in RAW even if to just one card. When you are indoors though the conditions are very stable to you don’t have to constantly be changing your settings. You can set your camera to manual, figure out your settings, and then forget about them. That is one great thing about basketball is that you don’t have to worry about your settings during the game.

8. Use Back Button Focus and AI Servo Mode – This can be a hard step at first, but very quickly you will forget how to shoot any other way. Back button focus allows you to keep tracking your subject as it moves towards you during a burst. When you have the focus switched to a button on the back of your camera you can hold it down while in AI Servo mode (on a Canon camera) while the play comes to you. That ensures that you are not a step behind as the shutter closes. My keeper rate went way up once I switched over to back button focus.

7. Know Your Client – This has always been important, but never more than today. You always want to know what your client expects from you. If you are shooting for the wire you need to know what sells. Basketball has always been a sport that has shot better vertically. I shot a lot early on from the vertical position. Lately though it seems as if all of my clients have a website that is oriented for horizontal photographs. Knowing who you are shooting for before the game starts allows you to meet the needs of your clients.

6. Pick a Good Spot On The Floor – This is a point that might not be applicable to you. Your spot on the floor might be assigned. If it is then that is where you must sit. At some schools though it is first comes first serve. I like to sit next to the TV camera if I can. The ref does not like to block the TV camera so he or she will move very quickly through that area. Another great spot that is not always available is right on the end line all the way out. This gives you a much different look at the action. In a perfect world I like to sit out wide during the first half, and under the basket for the second half.

5. Make Varying Images – This one can help your gallery go from good to great. If you shoot at 200mm for the entire game everything will start to look the same. If you vary your styles it can give your gallery a fresh look as the client is going through it. Also getting super wide at times gives you a sense of place photo. You can include the crowd and any identifiable features of the stadium.

4. Capture The Emotion – The great thing when basketball season rolls around is that you are close to the players, and they do not have anything covering their face. After football season it is great to get the full emotion of a player. When someone makes a great play don’t chimp at your LCD right away. Stay on the player to capture the emotion of the game. I think that action photos are a dime a dozen. A good emotion picture usually ends up being my favorite from the shoot.

3. Capture The Fans – Part of what makes college basketball so great are the fans and the bands at the games. They are an important part of the game so make sure you are including them in your gallery. When you have a student section all dressed similar it can make for good photos. Look for those that stand out as well.

2. Make Use Of Remotes – A remote is a great way to make sure that you have all of your angles covered. You don’t want to miss the big play because a ref came running into your frame at the last second. A remote should never be something that you count on though because it is out of your control for the most part. A remote or multiple remotes is a great way to be in multiple places at the same time so to speak. Even if it is a wide angle remote at your feet it allows you to capture a wide and tight view of the same play.

1. Respect the Other Photographers – This is the closest that you will be to other photographers in any sport. Most likely those around you will be there for the rest of the season. A little respect for other photographers goes a long way.

This is not the definitive list. This is a list thought that if I can accomplish will help me feel like I have covered a game well for my client. Do you have any tips that you feel should be on this list? Let me know in the comments.

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About Pinola Photo

I am a sports and lifestyle photographer based in West Lafayette, IN home of Purdue University. I cover sports for Big Ten teams as well as other colleges. You can follow me on twitter @pinolaphoto. You can also view my website at www.davewegielphoto.net

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