5 Lessons as a High School Basketball Photographer

Medical Lake High School vs Cheney High School Girls Basketball Spirit Game

Medical Lake High School vs Cheney High School Girls Basketball Spirit game

Over the weekend I had my first official opportunity to photograph a basketball game. In college, I brought my camera to basketball games with my trumpet and fired away during the game. This time I had the proper approvals for photographing the spirit (rivalry) basketball games between Medical Lake High School and Cheney High School. The game was set to be a great high energy showdown.

Practice shots for Medical Lake High School vs Cheney High School Girls Basketball Spirit game

I like to prepare for any photo situation I go into, especially new ones. The game was to be played at Eastern Washington Universities Reese Court. I showed up early to get my bearings and established my base camera settings. Being a band member for so many years, I sat near the band. The bands sounded great!

After taking a few test shots I began to wander around the entire court and take a few pictures. I often explore new shoot sites but it was at this game that I realized what I was doing. By walking around a venue and exploring I feel I have laid claim to the territories that I can use during the event. I also discover what the venue had to offer for angles, shots and light.

Medical Lake High School vs Cheney High School Girls Basketball Spirit game

At the beginning of the game I did a fair amount of moving around to understand where the best shots could be taken and with which lenses. I knew basketball was a fast sport, but I have a whole new appreciation for full time basketball photographers! I cranked up my shutter speed to 1/1000 of a second while doing my best to maintain a low ISO to keep noise and grain out of the final images. I do have some fast lenses and I was very thankful for those but was limited to photos on my side of the court. I did try cross court photos with my 75-300 zoom lens, which is not super-fast and found that I was able to get closer to the action like I wanted but had more difficulty when it came to shutter and focusing speed.

The girl’s game was a nail biter with the two teams going neck and neck, trading leads, all the way to the final buzzer. The Medical Lake girls won by a narrow four points and the fans erupted with joy! Between games and timeouts I photographed the excitement happening to the sidelines and in the stands. I take pictures of both the main subject, the basketball game in this case, and the things surrounding the subject to add emotion, memory and depth to the photo story.

So here is what I learned photographing high school basketball:

1.       Fast lenses are a must. My 24-70 F2.8 and 85 F1.4 lenses were great but a fast zoom lens would allow better close up action shots and cross court images.

2.       If a player you are photographing is right handed, take pics from their left side. This will reduce body parts covering their face and show off long arm lines.

3.       The best places to shoot from are the corners of the court, along the baseline and just outside of the lane lanes.

4.       Take pictures low and aim up to make the jump look higher.

5.       The most exciting pictures are the ones showing both an action and a reaction.

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