Winter’s here for many of us, and so is the common place for indoor sports. Basketball. Volleyball. Gymnastics. Sure, indoor sports are fun to participate in and watch, but let’s face it; Indoors sports aren’t the easiest of events to shoot for a photographer.
During my time as a high school basketball photographer, I spent significant time developing the skills to produce sharp, action packed, and exciting photos for the team. It was not uncommon to find myself in a gym with such low light that even 1600 ISO didn’t produce results. Like the time when district championships were held in the gym with the worst lighting in the county. Even the big photojournalists there were limited.
Here are some things to consider when photographing sports indoors:
- Watch for action and movement. Sports like Basketball and Volleyball are consistently fast paced. Your job is not simply to capture the event, but also the connection between players. This takes some skill and anticipation.
- Set your camera to a high ISO setting. Most recent SLR cameras will now allow you to shoot on 1000 ISO or even 1250 ISO. These options will reduce your concern for noticeable film grain (from ISO 1600). At the same time, your camera’s sensor will be more sensitive to what little available light you have.
- Shoot with a fast shutter speed – at least TV/200 if you can. Once again, because you need to capture movement, a fast shutter speed will freeze the motion of the athletes, giving you a clear photo. [And if it comes down to it, settle for an underexposed image in camera. You can always adjust a sharp photo later].
- Use a lens with the lowest aperture possible, say f4.0 to f2.8. Because you don’t have much available light, and you are working with a faster shutter speed, a wide aperture is your best friend in this setting. A wider aperture will increase the intensity of the light hitting your sensor, maximizing the available light.
- Look for expression. Anger. Aggression. Rivalry. Teamwork. Excitement. Victory. You cannot successfully shoot any sport without watching, waiting, and capturing the emotions and relationships of the game. You will win at the end of the day if you have an emotional picture that isn’t completely sharp.
- Shoot in RAW. The likelihood that you will achieve perfect coloring in camera is slim. Gym lighting is as notorious for green tinted lighting as it is for low lighting in general. Shooting in RAW will enable you to fix the colors in your post processing.