BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Sandy Engler

Photographing Basketball Games

I have been trying to take pictures at basketball games but can't get it to use a fast shutter speed (trying to not use a flash). I've tried the sport program on my Nikon D50 but the fastest shutter speed I've gotten about 1/200 and most are slower than that. When I've tried the built-in flash, it seems like it takes too long to take the picture. Would a flash attachment help?

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10/11/2006 10:36:44 PM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/18/2000
  Without a flash, the most you can do to get faster shutter speeds is to set the ISO as high as possible (1600) and/or use a lens with wider maximum aperture. With flash, the built-in is not very powerful and so has limited range. At ISO 200 and f/5.6, it is good to just 9 feet. At ISO 1600 and f/5.6, it is limited to subjects no more than 24 feet away. A powerful accessory flash will give greater usable range.

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10/12/2006 6:50:47 AM

Dennis Flanagan
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/31/2005
  Don't use the sports automatic mode. Go shutter speed priority if possible and go no less than 125. Better yet, go straight manual. If you go manual, you will need to go down to the court before the game to get your meter reading since the lighting where you are sitting is probably lower.

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10/12/2006 11:17:32 AM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005
  Hello Sandy,

Jon's advice is sound, the only problem you run into is if you blow the pics up more than 5x7..They'll look grainy.

You have a few options if you don't want to raise the ISO:

1) Get a more powerful flash.

2) Buy an expensive fast lens.

Lastly; be careful with the white balance in a gym setting as the overhead lights are not what we call "daylight balanced."
Bring a white piece of paper and do a custom white balance before shooting.

All the best,


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10/13/2006 7:19:01 AM

Robert Hambley

To expand on Pete's comment about white balance. If you have the option of shooting in RAW, you can leave it on auto white balance and handle the white balance when processing the RAW file. If you don't or can't, they using the custom white balance as Pete recommends is a must.

Good Luck!

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10/13/2006 7:46:37 AM

David Cook   ditto with pete. I decided to invest in several good lenses. I use an 85mm f1.8 the most as it seems to give me enough light to work with and takes pics on the closest half of the gym. Sometimes I even use a 50mm and stand right under the basket against the wall. Other than that, I have a 70-200 f2.8 L lens that gets me great shots from the balcony when I shoot the volleyball games- check out

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10/17/2006 6:27:02 AM

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