Photographing Basketball

In theory, basketball should be one of the easier sports to photograph right? All of the action happens in a 4,500 square feet rectangle as opposed to let’s say, a football field which is 57,600 sq ft. The players are also driving at a hoop that is only 18 inches wide. How hard can it be? You would be surprised.  But, with some practice, you can be shooting for the NBA in no time.

I love shooting basketball. There is a quickness and intensity that is exciting and challenging as a photographer. Let me warn you of a few obstacles you may encounter and then I will give you some tips on how to snag great looking action photos.

The number one challenge you will encounter doesn’t even begin on the court. It starts up in the rafters. Blurry, grainy and strange color shifts are the complaints I hear most from first time basketball photographers due to the lack of light. Chances are you are photographing your son or daughter at the local Rec. Center, Middle School or High School Gymnasium where the light is dim to say the least. Although the gym looks bright enough to our eye, your camera will immediately start screaming for more light. Grabbing for your flash? It’s not that easy. You want to go with available light. A flash will light up only what is right in front and everything else will go black. Also, the players and refs don’t like those flashes popping in their eyes during play especially coming from the floor. Do you want to learn how to use the existing light? Head over to the Advanced Photo Tips category. There you will find a whole article about overcoming lighting and color shift problems when photographing indoor sports.

Speed of play
The next thing that will become apparent is how fast the action happens. I remember when I photographed my first college game. I was having a hard time balancing how to look through my camera and look over my camera to find out where the ball went. The main thing is to get quick at looking up, finding the ball and then back through the lens to snap the photo. You will need to learn to be fast on the trigger and do more editing later. Don’t over think it. With basketball, you need to shoot on instinct and be bold.

The angle you choose to photograph the game will dictate the types of shots you can get. The baseline (the out of bounds line beyond the backboard) on either side of the net is a great place to be. The players are coming straight at you and you don’t need a long lens. You can get by with a 50mm, 85mm or 105mm. You can’t say that for many sports that require longer glass. If you are allowed to sit on the baseline, move back 3-4 feet so the refs can do their thing. Oh, speaking about refs, you will most likely get more than you fair shots of referee behinds. Be patient. It is a reality of this sport at any level. If you are in, near, or underneath the net, you can get some nice lay up photos. However, keep in mind they are right on top of you so beware of flying bodies. I also like getting out to the far corner. This allows you to get a great angle of the lay up as well as the passing and defense before the shot. Another great angle is from the stands on either side of the hoop. Depending on the length of your lens, you can get some amazing shots at the net and remember, the higher you go up in the stands, the cleaner your background gets without so much background clutter.

So what are you prime shooting opportunities in basketball? You always have a chance to get some dribbling shots as the team brings the ball down court. There are chances to photograph the strategic positioning around the net both offense and defense. You have a chance to get a shooting shot should the offense shoot from outside and then of course you have the play at the net with dunks and lay-ups. Also watch for scrums on the floor. This is when there is a loose ball and there is a mad scramble. The bench is always full of drama both from the coach and the players as well. Finally, don’t miss the celebration during close games. Is that enough to get you started? Basketball can be an exciting sport to shoot once you learn how to overcome the lighting obstacle and know where to look for the peak action. Have a blast!

Guidelines To Reduce Overuse Injuries In Young Athletes

Dr. Neeru Jayanthi sees quite a few young athletes in the primary care and sports medicine clinics at Loyola University Health System and the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Surprised by the growing number of sports-related injuries he was treating, he organized a research project to track and document patterns in their occurrence.  Since its start in 2010, the study has enrolled 1,190 kids, ages 7 to 18, with the goal to follow them over three years of sports participation.  In his latest update, Dr. Jayanthi reported that kids from families who can afford private health insurance are much more likely to specialize in one sport and, as a result, suffer more serious overuse injuries than children on public health programs.

In previous research updates, the Loyola team has found some interesting twists in youth sports injuries. For those kids that spent more hours per week either practicing or competing in a single sport than their age, they were 70% more likely to pick up an overuse injury, like tennis elbow, stress fractures, youth pitching elbow, runner’s knee, Achilles tendinitis or shin splints.  So, if a 10 year old soccer player spent more than 10 hours per week on the field, their chance of injury jumped by over two-thirds.

At the recent American Medical Society for Sports Medicine Annual Meeting, Dr. Jayanthi reported that the athletes and their parents were surveyed on their socioeconomic status to look for differences across families.  Focusing on just one sport was much more common in families that had private health insurance, with 30% of those athletes specializing versus 18% of those with public insurance.  The data also showed that kids who were restricted to a single sport had about 2-3 hours less per week of unstructured play, whether that be just running around outside, pick-up games of any sport, bike-riding, etc.

Due to repetitive use of the same muscles, 13% of private insurance athletes suffered a serious overuse injury as compared to just 8% of public insurance kids.

“Intense specialization in one sport can cost thousands of dollars a year in equipment, fees, transportation, private lessons, etc.,” Dr. Jayanthi said. “Having the financial resources to afford such costs may provide increased opportunities for young athletes to participate in a single sport.”

His recommendations for parents to limit these injuries include:

  1. Increase the amount of unstructured free play.  Spend at least twice as many hours per week in free play than structured sports.
  2. Do not spend more hours per week than your age playing sports.
  3. Do not specialize in one sport before late adolescence.
  4. Do not constantly play competitive sports. Take at least 2-3 months off per year.
  5. Take at least one day off per week from sports training.

To help parents understand and manage their children’s sports schedules, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the National Athletic Trainers Association have created a campaign called Stop Sports Injuries.

“Kids often receive pressure from their parents or coaches to be the best in one given sport, when in reality participating in free play and a multitude of sports from an early age is the best strategy to create an outstanding athlete,” said William Levine, MD, Chair of the STOP Sports Injuries Advisory Committee.

By following these common sense guidelines, kids can still develop their skills in their favorite sports but also avoid time on the sidelines because of preventable injuries.

2-Man Rebounding Drill

The purpose of this basketball drill is to help with boxing out, rebounding, and outlet passes. With this drill, make sure to teach you defense to attack the boards, keep their stance wide, and use their legs and rear end to contain their man. For offense, emphasize that they be aggressive, and always anticipate the rebound and be ready to put the basketball back up with power. Look at the diagram to see how to execute this effective rebounding basketball drill in your next practice.


Download Document: 2manrebound.pdf

Wall Ball


For this youth basketball drill divide your team into two teams and put them on opposite baselines. Give each player a number.


Place a basketball in the middle of the court and call out a number. The player with that number on each side runs to get the ball.

The player that gets the basketball is on offense and tries to score, the player who does not get the ball must try and stop the offensive player from scoring.

Players on the baseline cannot defend the basket, but if the ball comes to them, they can pass it back to their player to keep it in play. Play until one person scores.


  • Call out more than one number as the game progresses.
  • Call out shirt colors, hair color, sneaker color, etc.

Dribbling for Beginners

The first drill you do at your first practice… Each player begins with a ball and works in one spot before moving with the dribble.

Pitter-Patter: Have players practice batting the ball in the air from hand to hand using only the tips of their fingers. As they get better at this, have them change elevation of the ball relative to their bodies.

Around the waist: Have the players warp the ball around their waist from one hand to the other. Then change direction and have them try without looking down at the ball.

Figure 8: With their legs shoulder width apart, have the players move the ball in a figure 8 pattern around their legs. They are not yet dribbling the ball, just moving it between their legs without it hitting the ground.

Dribble in place: Show the players the TRIPLE THREAT position – knees slightly bent, back straight, feet forward and shoulder width apart, head up. Have the players dribble in place without moving or losing the ball. Emphasize keeping their heads up and looking at you and using the fingertips. Switch hands.

After a break, move on to these movement drills:

Right/Left Hand dribble: Have the players dribble with one hand all the way across the court. Switch hands and dribble with the other hand all the way back. To encourage them to keep their heads up, hold a number of fingers above your head and have them call out how many they see.

Crossover Dribble: Have players dribble to free throw line with one hand, then switch to dribble with their other hand to the free throw line, then switch back to the next free throw line, then again at the far free throw line to the end.

Change of Pace: Have the players dribble at normal speed, blow the whistle once to dribble on the run, two whistle toots returns to normal pace.

Double Ball Dribble: Have players dribble two balls at the same time all the way down and back.

This practice plan was put together with the assistance of YMBA Basketball Coaches Guide.