Before digital cameras came along, you had to set your "F stop" to the proper setting to have the right exposure for your photos. There was a saying among photojournalists: "F8 and be there."--set your camera to F8, and get to the scene ready to go. Not that much has changed, really.

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Truth be told, I wanted to be a photojournalist when I grew up.


"If your pictures aren't good enough, you aren't close enough."

"The pictures are there, and you just take them."

WW II photographer Robert Capa

Saturday, February 13, 2010

On Photographing Basketball

Practice makes perfect--and not just for this Ruskin High player.
It had been a long time since I had taken photos at a basketball game. Yesterday, I decided to take in a high school game, and brought along my camera. I had some successes and failures, and learned the limits of my equipment. Here are some things I learned and relearned.

1. Take lots of shots. Two things will happen: one is that you will get a feel for the flow of the game and what it takes to get good shots; the second is that you will get some good shots.

2. Be a student of the game. Know whether or not a team is playing zone defense or man to man. Watch picks and cutters. See where players set up. Because basketball is such a fast game (and the higher level you are watching, the faster it gets) the photographer has to have some anticipation as to where the action will be.

3. Recognize the limits of your equipment. If you have the best of the best, great. But if you have only a normal lens (50 mm, for example), know that your best shots are going to be of action closer to you on the court. With my point and shoot digital camera last night, I found that if I went to the setting that eliminated blur, it made pictures darker and the range of the flash shorter. I adapted by shooting closer action mainly.

4. There is a delay between you seeing the picture and the camera recording it. If you have a 35 mm classic film SLR, this is a very small delay. With my digital camera, it's quite significant, possibly as much as three quarters of a second. Take a peak at the photo on the sports blog entry: if this shot is 0.75 seconds sooner, you will see the player who put the ball in the hoop in the picture. I started trying to build this into my technique; when the teams came out for second half warm ups, I shot pictures of the players shooting jumpers, to see when I needed to be pushing the shutter button to get the shooter near when he was releasing the shot. I was rewarded with one almost perfect picture of a jump shooter.

5. Experience is a great teacher, but on the way to improving, you will shoot a lot of crappy pictures. Take it in stride. If you come out of a basketball game with two or three terrific shots, 15 or 20 reasonable ones, and the rest are eminently forgettable, you have done well.


  1. Dear The Observer
    These are some great tips, thank you. I am still trying to even Take a picture of a person. I feel like I should apologize in advance!!

    Ann T.

  2. Ann T

    I have always wished I could take a photography class; everything I know I learned in the school of hard knocks and crappy pictures!

    The Observer



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