Sports photography is far from easy. Use these basketball photography tips, and you’ll be capturing incredible, fast-action images in no time!

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Get Action-Packed Images with These 7 Basketball Photography Tips

Kim Fetrow’s primary focus is commercial photography, but she began photographing basketball when the coach at her daughters’ school invited her to document the games. Kim’s husband was already running the scoreboard at games, so the decision was easy. “At first, I didn’t realize how hard it would be,” admits Kim, “but I quickly learned to nail great shots at every game. Now I love sports photography!”

Read on to learn Kim’s tips and techniques…


5'10
Photographer Kim Fetrow stands beside 7’4″ varsity player Riley Sorn

#1: Gear Tips

You can’t shoot sports without the right gear! I use two professional Nikon bodies (the D3s and D4s). The 50mm f/1.4 lens sits on my D3s and the 70-200mm f/2.8 is on my D4s. I use a Spider Dual SpiderPro holster to quickly switch between cameras—depending on where the action is on the court.

The 70-200mm f/2.8 is my preferred lens, but it really isn’t long enough to get great photos of players on the other end of the basketball court. However, anything longer, and you risk some serious camera shake—not to mention the wear and tear on your body, as it is HEAVY!

a young man in a green jersey slam-dunks a basketball
Kim Fetrow

Camera Setting Tips

I prefer to shoot in manual mode. First, I use the lowest possible ISO to get both a fast-enough shutter speed to stop any motion blur, and an f-stop that will still provide a sharp image. For me this usually looks like ISO 4000-6400, 1/500th shutter speed, and an f-stop no smaller than f/3.2. (Wide open apertures make it hard to nail your focus.)

Next, I set my camera’s custom white balance using a white wall or piece of paper in the gym. This changes from gym to gym. I shoot RAW so that I can easily adjust the images in Lightroom.

a high school girls basketball team plays aggressively
Kim Fetrow

Light & Shutter Speed

Due to recycle times of gym lights and influences from other light sources such as big TV displays, the frame-to-frame color temperature may not be consistent, even with a custom white-balance. Watch for other things at play, like the yellow tones from the court and reflections off colored jerseys and walls that may affect the skin tones in your photography..

I also use a fast shutter speed which allows me to shoot in burst mode to capture things like a player making a breakaway dunk. You don’t want to miss those shots!

A high school athlete shoots a basketball toward the backet. A cheerleader holds up a sign and yells for victory
Kim Fetrow

#2: Establish the Setting

Part of telling the story of basketball is capturing the fans, fanfare, and traditions of the event. Capture what is going on in the gym before the game. This is a great way to take test shots to make sure your photography settings are where they should be.

#3: Find the Best Camera Angles

For the tip off I make sure I find a spot that sets center court in the center of my viewfinder. Depending on whether I am capturing the game for one team or both determines where I generally shoot the rest of the game.

If I’m shooting for one team, I place myself right outside of the key to capture the team on offense. (The refs don’t like you to stand right under the basket, plus it’s a great way to get pummeled). Thus, I change positions at every half.

If I’m capturing BOTH teams, I change every quarter in order to capture both teams on offense and defense equally.

A wide angle lens helps photographer Kim Fetrow capture this image of cheerleaders at a high school basketball game
Kim Fetrow

Shoot from Above

If there is a deck or a place to shoot the game from above, I’ll move around and capture the entire scene with a fisheye, or I’ll use a long lens to focus on a play from a new angle. But truthfully, my favorite place to shoot basketball is right under the basket!

Identify which is the player’s preferred hand for shooting layups, and that will also help you to know where to be. It is very common to get a player’s arm covering their own face if you aren’t on the correct side of the basket.

Two high school backetball players face off on the court
Kim Fetrow

Body Position

I shoot two ways:

  1. Standing, with my feet firmly planted, while I keep my arms close to support my lens and avoid camera shake. (A fast shutter speed helps, too!)
  2. Sitting on the ground (with my back braced against a wall, when possible) or kneeling.

In both cases, I do whatever I can to keep my camera body and lens stable as I press the shutter button. Some professional sports photographers use a special chair that supports them while sitting. Just be aware and stay ready to jump out of the way at a moment’s notice—especially when using a longer lens for your photography. The basketball players in your camera lens are closer than they appear!

A female basketball player concentrates on nailing a basket, while a male player leaps into the air with the ball
Kim Fetrow

#3: Shooting Tips

Stay alert and follow the game! I equate shooting basketball with shooting ballet. Anticipation and timing are key!

I basically watch the entire basketball game through my viewfinder and focus on every shot. In other words, I don’t just set my camera on auto-focus then “spray and pray.” I actually press the shutter button down half-way for every shot.


#ShootProofPRO Tip: Fear Not!

Don’t be surprised if half of your photos are garbage. Mine still are—even after photographing high school basketball for years! Capturing players at the peak of the action, while still in-focus, with the ball, isn’t easy. A little motion blur is okay; but out-of-focus shots just aren’t. Don’t be afraid to liberally hit the delete key while culling!


a girls high school basketball player dashed across the court with the ball
Kim Fetrow

What makes a good shot? Should I shoot vertical or horizontal?

I think it’s easier to shoot vertical, as you are more likely to get the ball in your photos and more likely to get your shot in focus as you are less zoomed-in. However, coaches and sports agencies like balls in photos. I’ve found that horizontal photos are preferred, as they like to share these photos on T.V. screens, on social media, and in their news feeds—most of which require a horizontal or square image. Shoot both.

Get close and zoom in. A bunch of photos showing the entire court aren’t very interesting. Try to capture the action of one or two players up-close.

High school boys battle for control of the basketball during a game
Kim Fetrow

Know the Game

One of the best ways to be successful shooting basketball is to know the game. Anticipate what is going to happen next. Keep your camera focused on the player all the way through shooting the ball. Some of the best defensive shots occur after the ball has left a player’s hands, when they are getting mauled by the opposing team!

In my opinion, the more fast-paced and physical the basketball game, the better the action photos—but it also takes more skill to shoot.

Two high school girls battle for the basketball during a game
Kim Fetrow

#4: Rules are Meant to be Broken

  • Move the subject around in your frame. Don’t center every shot!
  • Follow a player as they run past you down the court, and use a slow shutter speed to create a little motion blur.
  • Use super-wide angles and closeups to capture the details of the event. These detail shots help to tell a story.

After a while, every basketball game does start to feel the same, so get creative and mix it up!

A young man dribbles the basketball across the court and past an opponent
Kim Fetrow

Be Respectful

Talk with the athletic director or head basketball coach before the game. You may need a press pass or permission from the school to be down on the court shooting.

There are often other people photographing in the same areas you are, so be mindful not to walk in front of other people’s camera lenses. They are there to do a job, too.

Ensure that you aren’t blocking the view of the fans in the stands.

Be respectful, but don’t be a wallflower. Don’t be afraid to get in the mix and get the action shots you need!

Two different angles of a boys high school basketball team in a huddle on the court
Kim Fetrow

#5: Plan Ahead

Be prepared to shoot other requests while at the basketball games. Often, I’m asked to shoot a quick team photo, a senior night with parents, or the younger kids’ team with younger to share on social media.

Sometimes this requires additional gear or technique changes, such as:

  • a flash on your camera to compensate for horrid gym lighting
  • higher f-stops to get more in focus
  • a wide angle camera lens to get everyone in the frame
A kids basketball team poses for their annual sports portrait
Kim Fetrow

These are some areas where you may be able to gain added revenue!

If the team has had a good season, it’s common to shoot events like “cutting down the nets” and team portraits with trophies. Be ready! Parents, players and coaches will want these celebratory shots.

Make sure you have a very wide, fast lens on one of your cameras for the action at these important end-of-season games. As soon as that buzzer goes off, I guarantee: the players (and sometimes the fans) will rush the court. Be prepared to rush out there with them to capture the excitement! (You might want to set the auto-focus and hold down the shutter!)

A boys high school basketball team drenches their coach in Gatorade after a big win
Kim Fetrow

#6: Share the Photos

There are many platforms out there that allow you to successfully share photos. I prefer ShootProof, as it allows me to set up different permissions for different uses.

  • Coaches get unlimited access to download and use the images throughout the season.
  • I allow parents and players to purchase both digital files and prints.

At the beginning of the season I set up a ShootProof online gallery for each team, and I continue to add optimized images as the season progresses. The players and their families automatically know where to go to find images after each game.

A group of high school girl basketball players celebrate their win on the court
Kim Fetrow

#ShootProofPRO Tip: Maximize Your Web Traffic

Rather than send out the direct gallery link, however, I send players and families through my website to access their online gallery. Sports photography offers the potential for hundreds of new people to see my work. Perhaps they’ll even spend a few minutes browsing my portfolio and choose to hire me for commercial photography, senior portraits, or family photos.


High school basketball players face off on the boys court
Kim Fetrow

#7: Have Fun!

Sports photography is fun! I love being down on the floor as close as possible to the action. I get excited when I capture an amazing play—especially when shooting a team I care about. You are right there celebrating their victories and defeats while preserving some very special memories that you just can’t get with a cell phone. So get out there and have a blast!


Written and Photographed by KIM FETROW


Share online galleries with your photography clients using ShootProof! Also get contracts signed, invoices paid, and email campaigns launched – all with one easy online app. Try it for free!

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