Basketball Photography Tips

Basketball is one the most exciting sports to photograph. The action is fast and close, and the uniforms don’t obscure the faces of the players. Many people will photograph local teams, as they don’t have the chance to photograph the NBA.

Use a Large Aperture

Basketball arena

Your choice of lens and composition are important because you will be assigned a seat at the game. A wide-angle lens is not a bad idea for a basketball game. In low-light indoor environments, use the widest aperture (f/2.8-f/4) to get sharp images. A monopod or chair can be used as a support for your camera. Blurring can be avoided by using a stable tripod.

Zoom in on the Subject

Basketball shooting. Hands of sportsmens plaing basketball in action on full tribune background.

A 70-300mm zoom lens set wide open and with a focal length of 70-300mm should work well if you’re not close to the action. Make sure to include the player in the frame and capture his facial expressions. To automatically refocus the image on the player, set the lens focus mode as AF (Autofocus). Another option is to prefocus on a fixed object, such as the net, and then wait for the action.

Capture the Action

Basketball player takes a jump

To freeze the action, make sure you’re in a bright area and set the mode dial at M (Manual). If necessary, open the aperture wide (f/1.8 to f/2.8 is the ideal), and increase the ISO setting to 800 or higher. You should capture the most interesting moments of the action such as when the ball is suspended in midair, or when a player drops the ball. Use the burst mode to capture multiple shots. Hold down the shutter button for as long as you like. Each DSLR has a different frame rate and burst mode capture rate. This determines your camera’s ability to take multiple shots quickly.

Select a slow shutter speed

Basketball game motion blur

You can create motion blur in a basketball game by setting a slow shutter speed (1/15 to 1/60th of an second), holding your camera still, or placing it on a tripod. Then point at the players to take the shot. The players will appear blurred, while the rest of your photo will remain sharp. Another option is to use the panning technique. Pre-focus on the player and then follow him horizontally with your lens while you press the shutter button.

Dramatic Angles are a great way to get attention

Young healthy man play basketball game indoor in gym

To find local talent, visit high school gyms and ask permission to take photos. They might offer to take photos for college recruitment purposes in exchange for a free image. For dramatic compositions, position yourself in extreme positions and set the shutter speed at 1/250th of an second or faster. Also, the aperture should be f/5.6 or 8 – these settings will freeze explosive action and allow you to isolate the court’s events. For memorable shots, you can stand on a sturdy ladder at the backboard. You must first get permission from the coach or players if you plan to use flash.


Although most basketball arenas have good lighting, smaller high schools use artificial lights which may flicker and cause color shifts. You can choose to leave your camera set to Auto WB (White Balance), or you can use the Custom WB setting, which allows you to meter off of a grey or white card. A fast shutter speed of 1/500s is recommended for action shots. Also, a large aperture (f/2.8-f/4) is recommended. You can capture movement by lowering the shutter speed to 1/15s to 1/60s.

Recommended Equipment

A telephoto lens with a focal length of 300mm is required if you are sitting far away from the action. If you are closer, however, the versatile 70mm-200mm zoom lens might be more useful. With good seats and a 70mm-200mm zoom lens, you can take portraits as well as wider shots that show some context. Use a high-quality DSLR camera body to view images and adjust settings as needed.


Basketball is one the most exciting sports, and you can capture some amazing shots of world-class athletes at their best. Basketball is full of vibrant colors and dynamic players in action. Photographing basketball games is all about composition and timing. Professional sports photographers usually use a 300mm zoom (prime or zoom) to get close. The zoom can be used to capture the emotion of the players, which is especially important when you are shooting during a game. Because of the variations in the overhead lighting, it is important to verify your white balance. You must also get permission from the teams before you take photos of the players or the game.