Photographing My First Basketball Game

Chandler is probably one of my favorite people at my university, and my plug for all things photography. Whenever I need something, I send one little text to Chandler, and everything I need has appeared in front of me within 20 minutes. Chandler is best described as an old man stuck in a 21-year-old boy’s body. He takes everything incredibly seriously, but also has the ability to talk to anyone about anything. We bonded over photography, Adele, and having notifications on for Wall Street Journal.

When I texted Chandler asking if he could get me a press pass to photograph at the university’s basketball games, he responded to me five minutes later that he had a pass ready with my name on it to pick up at the entrance of the stadium. Chandler never tried to gatekeep anything which is one of the main reasons people like him so much. He knows he can be successful even if you’re in the industry. After all, he was photographing for the athletics department and I was photographing for the school newspaper. Two separate deities.

I wanted to shoot the basketball game for the newspaper of course, but also to selfishly enhance my own portfolio. I’ve done a lot of sports photography in the past, but never got the chance to do basketball since I was working for the professional hockey team last year during basketball season and didn’t have much free time. Other than hockey, I’ve also photographed soccer, football, volleyball, surfing, and softball. The broad idea of getting good photographs is the same for each of these sports. You have to know what’s going to happen before it actually happens, so you can click the shutter at the exact right moment. This is a major reason that soccer is one of my favorite sports to photograph. I played so long and learned every intricate move that each player could make that it’s easy for me to predict what a player will do, or who will get the ball next.

I had never photographed basketball before, but it went along with this same idea. Get an unobstructed view, then figure out what’s going to happen before it actually happens. Of course, there’s a lot more that goes into it than that. Here’s a summary of what happened yesterday while shooting my first basketball game:

Problems that arose:

Just like football, photographers could only shoot at the baseline. In football, shooting at the end zone meant only getting good pictures of touchdowns, which are always good but it meant you missed a lot of action in the middle of the field. As the football season went on and I met more people, I began to creep down the sidelines. I could do this same thing for basketball, but wasn’t going to try during the first game. 

The lighting was horrible! I had expected the stadium lights to be harsh, but didn’t understand just how dull they would be. I worked under similar lights with hockey and had to adjust the settings continuously, along with changing exposure levels due to the whiteness of the ice. The settings for basketball were similar, just without the exposure change, and a slower shutter speed as the players weren’t running as fast as the hockey players were skating.

The ref was always in the way, and it didn’t seem like there was any rhyme or reason as to which side of the basketball the ref would be on. In soccer, you always know which sideline to sit on if you don’t want the ref in the way, but basketball isn’t as self-explanatory. I would hold up my camera, excited because I knew a big play was coming, then all of the sudden all I could see through my lens was black and white stripes.

A seven-foot man who had to be almost 200 pounds dunked the ball and then almost landed on me. He put his hand on my head and it was so sweaty. Granted, if he hadn’t he probably would have kneed me in the face, so I’m okay with the hand.

For next game:

There were various seats for fans along the sidelines of the court, and I had seen the photographer for the team sit there to shoot. That would give better views for the middle of the court action and different angles for the shooting and dunking pictures.

My 25-70mm lens wasn’t long enough to get defensive shots of the team, which were an important addition to get a variety of the shots. The next game I would have to alot time to shoot defense with my 70-200mm lens.

Get there earlier so that I don’t have to sit in the worst spot. I arrived a bit late since I was finishing up some homework, and when I arrived there was already a string of photographers sitting in all the good spots along the baseline.

Start to look for more creative shots– like shooting from the stands, at the very top of the stadium, or getting down lower when the players dunk. I like to look through other people’s work to get inspiration for my own, it’s called stealing like an artist.

I plan to continue photographing the team all season, but I have a feeling I’ll gravitate more towards the women’s team as they have a proclivity to win, unlike the men. It will be interesting to see if the patterns I recognized as the men’s game went along to get better pictures will be the same or slightly different during the women’s games.

Yours truly,



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