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Indoor Basketball

edited December 2014 Posted in » Nikon D3200 Forum
I've been shooting for almost a year, and I'm still learning and having fun.

I have a question on how to get decent shots at my daughter's basketball games.

Spent most of the night shooting with a 35mm f/1.8 S-Mode (1/500-1/800) Auto ISO (ranged from 1400-2000).

The large majority of the shots ended up blurry and/or grainy.

I realize most of this is due to the poor lighting in the gym, and also my inexperience - def the latter.

I opted for the 35mm versus the kit lens hoping it would be better given the low light.

Any tips on how to improve would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance.


  • edited December 2014
    Guessing here, but you might try lowering the shutter speed a little, down to 1/250 or so, and see if that can get you a bit more depth of field. S mode will use up all the apertures available before it ups the ISO. Or perhaps keep auto ISO on, and use a manual shutter and aperture setting.

    Sports in a dark setting will always be a challenge.

    Make sure your focus is not at auto, or it will look for faces and not always the ones you are aiming at. Try dynamic-area and AFA or AFC. Make sure too that the focus point is over what you're aiming at. It's easy to move by mistake. Practice panning to follow the movement of a particular subject.

    Do not be afraid of continuous shots. If motion and camera jiggle are factors, sometimes one of a series will be better. As long as you're going digital you might as well "spray and pray." It's easy to erase errors.

    A D3200 gives you fairly decent grain at ISO 1600, but above that it is pretty noisy. The darker things are, the more noticeable it will be.
  • edited December 2014
    One thing other than camera settings and technique that may be causing you difficulties, is your gear. The 35mm f/1.8 is a great must-have lens, but using it to shoot a basketball game is going to be tough.
    If you’re shooting from the stands, all you’re getting are wide shots and you probably don’t have a vantage point where you can get a shot without loads of distracting background elements.

    With that lens, if want to shoot anything memorable, you’re going to need to be courtside. If possible, try to get into these positions:

    (1) Right behind the baseline. This is probably the best location. From here, you’re in good position to capture these:
    - Everything happening along the baseline. For example, layups, blocks, rebounds, baseline drives, etc.
    - Free throws.
    - Be sure to capture the box-out where all 10 players are looking towards the rim at the missed shot. You’ll be able to see everybody’s face.

    Downside here is that you only get to shoot half the game since unless you move, the play only comes to you about half the time.

    (2) The next best location is on the right sideline where you’re almost level with the top of the key. Why the right side and not the left? Well, most people are right handed, so most of the action happens on the right side of the court. This is especially true for amateur games. So if you’re photographing your daughter and she’s a lefty or she’s adept at using the left side of the court, then go to the other side. From here, you’re in good position to capture these scenarios. Of course, I’m referring to when these happen on your side of the court. If they’re happening on the other side, your lens will be too short. So just wait until they happen on your side.
    - Player bringing up the ball
    - Player in triple-threat
    - Post-ups
    - Sideline inbounds
    - Corner and elbow J’s

    Similar to the baseline location, you don’t get to shoot the full game. You’ll likely shoot less than the baseline location since not only do you have to wait for the offense to come to you, you have to hope that the offense comes to your side of the court.
  • edited December 2014
    I was at court level, and I was shooting in AF-S (Single Point). Wondering if AF-C might help some?

    After doing more reading online today, I'm beginning to understand that indoor gym photography is quite the task.

    Thanks again for the tips, and I will continue to read up and learn.
  • edited December 2014
    I think your best bet for a subject that is moving around but not at a regular speed, such as a basketball player, should be AFC for Focus Mode and "Dynamic Area" for AF Area mode. You can try 3D focusing too, which may go wider, but I've found in some situations if there is a subject and something that resembles it and both are moving, it can switch to the wrong one. If the subject moves to something else of its color it is lost. Try both and see which works best. As I understand it, Dynamic Area uses five focus points, the center and the four that surround it, while 3D uses all 11. Don't quote me on that, as I could be wrong.

    If you use AFC and Dynamic area or 3D, the initial focus will still use the single point. The difference is that when the subject moves, the focus will continue to adjust to some extent. When you're locked into AFS instead of AFC, then once focus is achieved, it will stay locked at that distance even if your subject jumps out of focus. Since AFS does not change focus after the initial hit, it works only in single point mode.

    Note that there are two separate parts to setting auto focus. The first part (focus mode) determines whether the focus stays nailed at its initial position, or whether it continues to operate after you've hit it. The second part (AF area mode) determines how and where it moves when the subject moves.

    "Auto Area AF" supposedly automatically detects your subject and uses multiple focus points. It also includes, I think, facial recognition software, so it can be useful when you're in point and shoot mode. In a busy area it can focus on the wrong things and I don't recommend it for this. This is the only area mode that does not start at the single focus point you select.
  • edited December 2014
    Definitely AF-C (or AF-A) would be a much better choice than AF-S for sports.
    It would definitely help if you used a longer lens. Look to get one if you intend to do lots of these types of shoots. The 55-200mm f/4-5.6 is the most affordable option, but expect to always shoot at uncomfortably high ISO levels and slow shutter speeds when indoors.
    The 70-200mm f/4 is a good choice. There are third-party ones as well.
    The 70-200mm f/2.8 is probably the best choice, but obviously, most expensive. Again, there are third-party ones. Beyond this lens, you’ll be looking into very huge, expensive, and exotic lenses that are more appropriate for professional sports.
  • edited December 2014
    I currently have the 55-200mm f/4-5.6, but based on other readings I've done, I decided to go with the 35mm f/1.8. Maybe I will give the 55-200mm a shot next game.

    I'm not opposed to investing into another lens. I've read good things about the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8.

    Before I pick up anything else though, I want to continue to practice and better understand.

    Good info here and thanks again.
  • edited December 2014
    The Tamron sounds good and fast, but before you pop for that, I suggest you take the 55-200mm out and set it at 75mm for a while. If you're continually wishing for a longer reach, then the Tamron will disappoint even if it's good.
  • edited December 2014
    If you have the 55-200mm already, definitely give it a try at the next game.
    The tighter field of view will give you a chance to practice your subject tracking, and you’ll get more compelling compositions than the 35mm. Just a lot more noisy (high ISO) and probably shutter speed won’t be reliably fast enough to freeze action.

    If I were using that lens, I’d have it like this:
    S-mode. Shutter speed at 1/500.
    Auto-ISO on. Max ISO at 6400.
    Continuous release.
    Dynamic Area AF
    Shoot RAW. Set exposure compensation at between -1.0 or -2.0 help with the shutter speed. Then just boost it back up in post.

    Edit: Something just came to mind. Whenever I shoot sports, I always reach for my 70-200mm f/2.8. One time I left it at home and just shot with a 24-120mm f/4. That’s actually quite sufficient for something like basketball or tennis since the court size isn’t that large, unlike something like football and soccer.
    You won’t be able to shoot from the baseline to the opposite side, but it’s fine if you’re shooting sideline to sideline. A great thing about this particular focal range is that it goes sufficiently wide if the player(s) approach close to your location and you’re unable to move back. So from that perspective, a 70-200mm or even a 55-200mm may be too long. It all depends on where you're shooting from.
  • edited December 2014
    I've read about exposure compensation, but never tried it. I will def give the 55-200mm a chance.

    Excellent tips here. Thanks so much for the info.
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