Basketball Photography: Where should I be to capture the best images?

The best thing about photographing basketball? The continuous, back-and-forth scoring around a very specific area (the hoop). This enables you to capture critical action shots at almost any time.

Furthermore, there are a number of different opportunities that exist outside of the action. Player introductions, time-outs, and crowd interaction are all integral in basketball.

This gives you a lot more time and creative flexibility as a photographer.

Recommended Photo Positions

There are three places I like to frequent when shooting basketball:

  • Centre court.
  • The baseline, at the three-point line.
  • The baseline, underneath the hoop.

There are also a number of other creative locations to photograph from:

  • Behind the backboard (remote camera required).
  • On the court during player introductions.
  • Team benches during a time-out.

Recommended Camera Lenses

My two must-have lenses for basketball are:

  • 24-70mm f/2.8 Mid-Range Lens
  • 70-200mm f/2.8 Telephoto Zoom Lens

With extra room in the bag, I would add:

  • 16-35mm f/2.8 Wide-Angle Lens
  • 300mm f/2.8 Prime Lens
BRAMPTON, ON – NOV. 27, 2016: A ball sits on the Sheridan Bruins court prior to OCAA women’s basketball action.

BRAMPTON, ON – Nov. 27, 2016: A ball sits on the Sheridan Bruins’ court prior to OCAA basketball action.

Centre Court

The best location to capture the tip-off.

I’ll be blunt. In basketball, this location is only useful for one important thing:

  • Game tip-offs.

At a monumental game, tip-offs can be one of the most critical pictures you take. Use a wide-angle lens to capture the environment, or a telephoto lens to capture the players stretching for the ball.

Below, you’ll find some examples of photographs taken from this position.

Baseline, at the Three-Point Line

The only position on the court with total flexibility to photograph anything.

In all likelihood, this is where you will want to spend the majority of a basketball game. There is no other position that will provide you the total flexibility to turn and photograph just about anything.

The only thing to decide is whether you want to be across or next to the team benches, and which team you want to capture on offense.

If you fully rotate inward (toward the hoop), your proximity to the fans can make for some interesting crowd interaction shots.

Turn toward the court, and you can capture just about every type of basketball action imaginable.

Turn outward toward the benches, and you can capture player/coaching reactions to refereeing decisions or big plays.

Specifically, the types of images here will generally include:

  • Dribbling.
  • Jump shots.
  • Blocks.
  • Dunks/lay-ups.
  • Player reactions.
  • Bench reactions.
  • Crowd interaction.

Below, you’ll find some examples of photographs taken from this position.

Baseline, Under The Hoop

When you’re looking to be a bit more creative.

When you position yourself directly under the hoop, you can capture action that is invisible to the majority of fans.

Many professional photographers will prepare one of their cameras before the game, and affix it to the side of the basketball support structure. Whenever the action approaches under the hoop, they use a remote trigger to release the shutter. At the same time, they’ll be covering the rest of the game from a different spot on the court.

Unfortunately, some basketball support structures will be overhead, making this impossible.

Even without a remote trigger, you can still capture some creative photographs from this position. With game action always taking place around the hoop, you shouldn’t need to wait long for something to happen.

You also open yourself up to the possibility of being steamrolled by players. Always keep an eye open, and any surplus equipment in your lap, to ensure player safety.

The types of images here will generally include:

  • Dunks/lay-ups.
  • Rebounds.
  • Wide-angle action shots.

Below, you’ll find some examples of photographs taken from this position.

Creative Locations

There are a number of other unique and creative locations to consider!

As I alluded to in the introduction, basketball gives you a lot more time and creative flexibility as a photographer than most other sports.

Below, you’ll find a number of other creative opportunities to consider.

Behind the Backboard

Action photographs taken from behind the backboard can make for some of the most gratifying images you will ever capture.

There is a significant amount of equipment and preparation that goes into a backboard camera configuration, which is beyond the scope of this article.

To learn more, please click here to visit the SportsShooter website.

Player Introductions

Player introductions in basketball can make for high-energy photographs.

Prior to every game, the names of each starting player are broadcast over the public address system. They take the court one-by-one, surrounded by teammates who will try to hype each other up for the game.

Below, you’ll find some examples of photographs taken from this position.

Time-Outs

During time-outs, you have a lot of opportunity to capture the emotion of players and coaching staff.

Given that team strategy is frequently discussed during this time, ensure that the team is aware of and comfortable with you roaming around the space.

Below, you’ll find some examples of photographs taken from this position.

How to Spend Your Time

At most basketball games, the order of operations should be fairly standard. Spend your time as follows:

  • Start by capturing player introductions.
    • If you’re specifically being employed by one of the teams, ensure you’re on the court to capture the hype surrounding the player introductions.
  • Make your way to centre court.
    • Once the introductions have ended, move to centre court and ensure you capture the tip-off. If the game is monumental and your mobility is limited, I would go as far as to suggest skipping player introductions altogether – to guarantee you get this shot.
  • Move to the baseline.
    • When the game begins, make your way to the baseline. I would recommend sitting near the three-point line, but in many professional situations, you won’t have a choice.

Other Suggestions

While there are undoubtedly spots around the court that will consistently produce great photographs, you shouldn’t hesitate to experiment and move around.

I’ve included some miscellaneous images below, in the hopes of triggering your creative thought process.

If you have any additional suggestions or ideas, don’t hesitate to share!

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