Shooting International Basketball, My Observations

Shooting the FIBA World Cup qualifying series at John Cain Arena, Melbourne, Australia was a lot of fun. It was high quality basketball with big crowds. Here are some observations from shooting international basketball.

What was the Assignment

This assignment was through my business, Melbourne Sports Photography. It involved shooting the games for an international photo agency, and transmitting images to them during the game.


I photograph a lot of basketball but it was unique to be shooting international teams with multiple games across 5 days.

Observation 1 – The Higher the Standard, the Better the Facilities

It often seems ironic, and also obvious, that the higher standard of sport brings higher quality facilities. At John Cain Arena the lighting is very good and that has an impact on the quality of images.

At my local basketball stadium, I am typically shooting at 1/800s, f2.8 and ISO8000. The high quality lighting at John Cain Arena meant I was able to shoot at 1/1000s, f4 and ISO2500.

This has a positive impact on the image quality.

Great stadium lighting helps shooting international basketball

Observation 2 – Big Crowds Mean Limited Mobility

Big crowds bring great atmosphere to the event, but they also limit where the photographer can move. In addition, having multiple photographers at the event also means there are several people vying for the key court-side spots.

Observation 3 – High Pressure Environment

Shooting, downloading, selecting and transmitting images to an international agency while the game is in progress comes with pressure. I am grateful there is a lot of action in international basketball. That allows action images to be shot in the early part of each quarter, leaving time to select and transmit the images. Teams taking time outs certainly helps when there is time pressure too!

Pressure

Observation 4 – Expect a High Energy Environment

A big crowd and lots of action results in a fun atmosphere. Throw in a vocal announcer and loud music and you have a high energy environment. Expect this and plan for how you will work effectively in similar circumstances.

Thanks for reading my thoughts on shooting international basketball.

Tips for Action Sports Photography

I’m returning to Beyond Here having been so busy in my sports photography business over the last 4 months that there hasn’t been time for much else. What a welcome change from the last 2 years where coronavirus restrictions were a major impact. And ironically, right at the moment, I’m writing this while in covid isolation! What to write about? Given my sports focus it seems right to share plenty of tips for action sports photography.

Tip 1 – Moments of Crazy Action

There are times in sports games when there is so much crazy action it is too much to take in. This is a time to be shooting heavily. Moving from subject to subject and looking to capture the action that the eye and the brain don’t have time to process. First of my tips for action sports photography, when the action gets crazy that’s the time to shoot heavily.

When the action heats up, keep shooting

Tip 2 – Don’t Be Afraid to Shoot an Extreme Close Up

It’s not easy to shoot extreme close ups. You will have many misses and failures. But extreme close ups can show detail of the game that you will not see from afar. The players expressions, their concerns, their determination. Shoot really close up images using a long lens, or crop significantly in post production to get the same effect.

Extreme close ups show a view you can’t observe with the naked eye

Tip 3 – When There’s no Action Look for Images which Tell a Story

There is not always fast paced action at sports events. Sometimes there are weather delays or injury breaks or just normal scheduled breaks in play. This is a good time to seek out images which tell a story even though they may not have extreme action.

This night when I went to the cycling, after about 15 minutes of racing there was a major crash and injury. All racing for the evening was called off, and at this point cyclists were returning to the starting area with their own bikes and others which had been involved in the crash. No great action is shown but it tells a story cyclists can relate to. Pushing your own bike, and carrying a friend’s mangled one.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy these brief tips for action sports photography.

Tips for Photographing Tennis

Summer is a super time for shooting outdoor sports and capturing action. Lots of people are enjoying the warm weather, getting exercise, and enjoying social time. Here are some tips for photographing tennis.

Tip #1 – Making use of Different Light Conditions

In this post I am including images shot in very different lighting conditions – day, evening / twilight, and night. All offer great opportunities to shoot different styles of images.

Daytime images will typically offer the brightest lighting conditions

Day time images will usually offer the brightest light and will make capturing fast action easier. Twilight images create opportunities for silhouettes and more unique images. And night shots will often give you the opportunity to have the well lit player stand out from the dark background. Explore all lighting conditions for variety in your images.

Tip #2 – Explore Different Shooting Angles

On a tennis court the action takes place in a defined space. If you’re not careful your images can begin to look the same. Try exploring different shooting angles to create variety and interest.

A low angle adds interest in this image

Tip 3 – The Ball Adds Interest

It is not a universal rule, but in general, images which include the ball are more interesting than those without. Don’t take this as a golden rule, but do observe your own images. That makes your timing important to be able to capture the ball in your images while it is close to the player.

Try including the ball in your image

Tip #4 – Use Fast Shutter Speeds

Capturing the split second action while the ball is close to the player requires good timing and equipment. It is something which definitely gets better with practice. Use fast shutter speeds to help you freeze the action. How fast? The image above is benefiting from shooting into the bright sun allowing a shutter speed of 1/8000s.

Tip #5 – Close Ups Can be Very Interesting

Try shooting very close up images of tennis players. I don’t mean to stand super close (!) but use a zoom lens to create an image which captures the player’s facial expression. Very close up images can be super interesting.

Tennis close up images can be very interesting

Thanks for reading these tips for photographing tennis. Happy shooting!

Shoot to Two Cards

On a recent shoot, a client shared that her friend had lost all her wedding photos as the photographer had a problem with the memory card. A nightmare scenario for both the bride and the photographer! What a nice reminder to shoot to two cards.

Most readers of Beyond Here are professional or semi professional photographers. I hope that for many this is a piece of advice that you don’t need as you routinely shoot to two cards.

Canon camera with card slots for CF and SD cards

Older Digital Cameras Only Have One Card Slot

In early generations of digital cameras, the camera typically only has one card slot. In many ways, this made things easier as I didn’t have to think about whether I wanted to shoot to two cards. My second shooter at weddings was also my backup should anything go wrong with any of my cards.

Newer Digital Cameras Come with Multiple Card Slots

Digital cameras evolution has led to cameras with multiple card slots. Pause for a moment to think why would this be? It is to overcome the odd occasion when something goes wrong with a card. How handy to have the images recorded to another card.

An older Canon digital camera with single CF card slot

Get into the Habit – Shoot to Two Cards

I know several photographers whose standard procedure is to shoot only to one card. It saves them money on buying cards, and time in managing files. I hope they don’t learnt the hard way that shooting to two cards is a lot wiser and is worth a little extra cost of buying some more cards.

Purchase some extra cards, and make shooting to multiple cards the default setting for your camera. It will be great peace of mind should anything go wrong with one of your cards.

Fish Where the Fish Are

Here in Melbourne, Australia we are coming out of covid lockdown number 6. Vaccination rates are increasing and it looks like the economy will re-open fully. Photography business opportunities will vary and in the short term it is important to fish where the fish are.

What Do You Mean ‘Fish Where the Fish Are’?

The economy is opening at different rates with some things bouncing back immediately and others taking time.

A good example is sports, and my business is in sports photography. Community sport is beginning with training and a shortened summer season. It will be a little while until competition and tournaments commence. In other words, there is likely to be a delay until demand for team and action photography increases. There is not likely to be too many fish in the sports photography pond in the very short term.

Community sports are about to recommence in Melbourne

Where will there be opportunity?

I am seeing strong demand for kindergarten and childcare photography. The end of the calendar year is fast approaching and these facilities have permission to have photographers on site from November.

There is only a short time until Christmas. As a result, kindergarten and childcare photographers are likely to have a very busy final 2 months of the year.

This is an area where we will see very strong demand in the immediate future. If you have contacts in this space, now is an excellent time to touch base and see how you can help.

Kindergarten and childcare photography is an immediate opportunity

Making the Most of Short Term Opportunities

In normal times I recommend photographers stick to the area where they want to build their business. That means specialization and focus. Wedding photographers shooting weddings, sports photographers shooting sports, and family photographers shooting families. You get the idea.

My recommendation with 2 months to go in this calendar year is to be flexible and look for opportunities. Government financial support is coming to an end and cash flow is important. Fish where the fish are. All the best.

Outstanding Customer Service Experience

This week I have had an outstanding customer service experience. Let me give you the context, explain what happened, and consider lessons for photography businesses.

Context

Here in Melbourne, Australia the state government has taken a conservative approach to the coronavirus pandemic. ‘Lock downs’ are the tool of choice to contain and eliminate the virus. We are currently in our sixth lock down.

During this time I have started cycling. It’s a terrific way to keep fit, lose weight, and to enjoy the 2 hours of exercise time allowable each day.

When it comes to bike servicing, I have been going to the local bike shop. Cycling is enjoying great popularity right now, and bikes shops are busy. On my two most recent bike services, the bike has been in the shop for a week. That’s been annoying for me as I only have one bike and am keen to ride.

What was the Outstanding Customer Service Experience?

One of my cycling buddies recommended a mobile bike mechanic who comes to your home and fixes the bike on the spot. Not wanting my bike to be in the local shop for another week, it was time to give the mobile bike mechanic a try.

10.15am I call the mobile bike mechanic and it goes to voicemail.

10.20am My mobile phone rings. The mechanic is in my area and may be able to come today. They will get back to me.

11.30am The mechanic calls to let me know he is finishing his earlier job, and can be at my house in 15 minutes if it suits me. Yes, yes, yes it does suit me.

11.45am Bike mechanic arrives. We enjoy 10 minutes discussing bikes, and agree what will be done to mine.

1.00pm My bike is fixed

1.30pm I go for a ride!

What did this Outstanding Customer Service Experience Cost?

The irony is that it cost less than it would have if I had taken the bike to the local shop.

Yes, the bike was fixed 3 hours after I first left them a message, at a lower cost than it would have been otherwise. In addition to fixing my bike, the mechanic added value by discussing likely future service issues, and brands to consider when I come to purchase a new bike.

As you can imagine, I will be using the mobile bike mechanic again.

The mobile bike mechanic has provided an outstanding customer service experience (not me in the photo!)

Lessons for Photographers

This experience is a fantastic reminder that while my business provides digital images, prints, canvas prints, albums and other products – I am really in the business of customer service.

I want my customer to be happy with their images but I really aim for the experience to be so good that the customer doesn’t ever think about going anywhere else. That is the experience the mobile bike mechanic gave me.

If you’d like to read about other customer service experiences I have had please see these links. Investing in Relationships, and How Not to Run Your Small Business.

I hope this outstanding customer service experience lesson can be useful in your photography business. Keep smiling. (And if you live in Melbourne and need a great mobile bike mechanic – get in touch – I can recommend one!)

5 Lessons from Speaking to a Local Camera Club

Last month I was the guest speaker at the Maroondah Photographic Society meeting. It was fun to share images and talk about ‘action photography’. I particularly enjoyed the discussion and the questions, and while I was the presenter, I also learned a lot. Here are 5 Lessons from Speaking to a Local Camera Club.

Lesson 1 – It’s Fun to Talk with Other Photographers

My first lesson was more of a reminder than a lesson, and that is – it is fun to talk to other photographers. We share a passion for creating images, and I really enjoyed sharing images and talking with this group.

Lesson 2 – Photographers like to Know Your Camera Settings

During the discussion on action images, with nearly every image someone was asking about camera settings. It took me a little by surprise. Perhaps it’s due to experience (or old age!) but I rarely ask about camera settings. I have either experienced taking different styles of shots, or can estimate by looking at the image what the camera settings will be. That aside, the lesson was that the members of this club were interested in camera settings. Next time I will include them for each image.

Sports images are my main subjects and provide lots of material to discuss

Lesson 3 – Positioning and Timing

I mainly shoot sports images and so the discussion did focus on sports photography. Positioning and timing are key to generating high quality sports images. Two simple tips – images will be more compelling if you keen see the players faces, and if you can see the ball. Position yourself to capture both in your images.

Lesson 4 – Amateur Photographers Would Like to Know How to Generate an Income from Images

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have been active in stock photography. There are many posts on Beyond Here which discuss the process of shooting stock images and uploading them to an image library where they are then available to purchase. In our discussion on action photography I mentioned that many of my wildlife images are available as stock. This drew questions and was a good lesson for me – there are plenty of amateur photographers interested in how to generate an income from images. See here for what to expect starting in stock photography.

Positioning and timing are important in action images.

Lesson 5 – Photographers Like to Know About Your Equipment

While equipment was not a major component of the presentation, it did feature and drew some discussion. I briefly covered the equipment we use for sports photography and more generally for action images. You’ll find it easier if you have a camera body which shoots a high number of images per second, have lenses which focus quickly and shoot at shallow depth of field, and use a mono-pod if you are going to be shooting for an extended time.

Thanks for reading these 5 lessons from speaking to a local camera club. To Neil and the photographers at the Maroondah Photographic Society – thank you for having me!

More Tips for Photographing Basketball

Here in Melbourne, Australia we are in Covid lock down number 4, giving me plenty of time to reconnect with my love-hate relationship with this blog! Prior to lock down it has been a super busy time shooting basketball, football, tennis and hockey. Through the local basketball club I have made a connection with another sports photographer who is looking for some advice on shooting basketball. Check out this post 5 Tips for Photographing Basketball. Below are more tips for photographing basketball.

Tip #1 – Include the Ball in Your Shot

Basketball – like most ball sports – revolves around the ball. As a general comment, images which include the ball are going to be more interesting than images without the ball. The ball provides context and focus for the action unfolding around it. Aim to have the ball visible in the majority of your images.

Tip #2 – Players Faces Make Images More Interesting

As a general rule in sports photography, images where you can see the players faces are going to be more interesting than players backs. For this reason I generally sit at the end of the basketball court and aim to create images of the team running towards me, where I can easily see their faces. Side on images can be interesting too, but if you want to see the players faces more consistently, shoot from the end of the court.

Shooting from the end of the court makes it easy to see players faces

Tip #3 – Look for Emotion

Basketball is a terrific game for capturing action and emotion as it all happens in a confined space. Displays of emotion are fairly predictable in a close game. Your can almost guarantee that there is going to be lots of emotion on display in the early stages of an important game, and at the closing stages of a close game.

Look for emotion on the bench and between players.

The bench is a great area to capture the emotion of the game

Tip #4 – Experiment with Slow Shutter Speeds

Basketball is a fast paced, high intensity game ideal for fast shutter speeds to freeze the action. Once you have plenty of those images, experiment with slow shutter speeds to create unique and interesting images. I usually look to a shutter speed around 1/20s but the exact speed you choose will depend on the age and speed of the players you are photographing. Pan along with the action as it unfolds. Expect to have lots of ‘failures’ with this technique, and a handful of winners which are unique.

Experiment with slow shutter speeds to create unique images

Tip #5 – Consider Your Background

It’s most common to focus on the subject of your image, and easy to forget about your background. Basketball can have a range of different backgrounds – crowds, signs, blank walls, other games – so consider what you what your background to be and the story you want it to help tell.

Consider the background for your images

Thanks for reading more tips for photographing basketball. Happy shooting.

5 Business Reminders from a Challenging Year

We will remember 2020 for the global pandemic and it’s impact on health and business. Photographers and other creative industries are hit hard with many relying on government support. Here are 5 business reminders from a challenging year.

Business Reminder #1 – Look for Opportunities

The first of our business reminders from a challenging year is that even in a global pandemic there are opportunities. In my sports photography business it has been a very difficult year with community sport cancellations applying for most of the year. The result? I’ve cancelled more jobs than we have actually shot. Where’s the opportunity? Although it has been a tough year, the opportunity has been to really connect with sports clients who are also going through a challenging year. I have been working on cementing relationships, providing support, and offering to help when more normal times return. I’m feeling positive and laying foundations for the year ahead.

In addition, there is an opportunity presented by the pandemic for stock photography. See this post for more details Ideas for Coronavirus Themed Stock Photos.

Be ready to accelerate when more normal times return

Business Reminder #2 – Be Ready to Accelerate

Are you ready to accelerate when more normal times return? Business is not going to bounce back immediately and the new year will bring new challenges. Some businesses will flourish and others will die. Are you ready to accelerate into the new year? Will your business be one that flourishes?

Business Reminder #3 – Follow Those Who Have Been Before

Not many know what it’s like to go through a global pandemic, but lots of people and businesses have been through difficult times. Do you know someone who has been through a tough business environment who can help you? Are there survival lessons to learn from them? Can they assist with rebuilding your own business?

Can you follow people who have experience with tough times?

Business Reminder #4 – Refuel Ahead of Time

It is going to be tempting to work super hard in 2021 to make up for 2020. While everyone is looking forward to being busy and good times returning, it is important to manage our energy levels and workloads. Refuel ahead of time rather than waiting for burn out to hit you.

Refuel ahead of time

Business Reminder #5 – Good Times will Return

Let’s remember the good times will return. People will continue to want high quality photography solutions. Be positive. There is opportunity in every situation if we look hard enough for long enough.

Thanks for reading 5 business reminders from a challenging year. Best wishes for a positive year ahead. Keep smiling.

Celebrating Being One of the Best Microstock Blogs

I have a love – hate, on again – off again relationship with writing this blog! It is exciting to see Beyond Here make this list of the best microstock blogs.

Today I’m celebrating Beyond Here making a list of best microstock blogs

Why Love – Hate, On Again – Off Again

Writing a blog is for me is a little like stock photography. There are times when the ideas flow, there’s lots of reader feedback, and it’s easy to generate new content. And there are other times when I struggle to come up with new ideas, or execute them in a way that generates quality content.

2020 has been particularly challenging when for a good proportion of the year here in Melbourne, Australia has been in coronavirus lockdown.

That has meant that the normal flow of ideas from being busy and shooting lots has not been there.

My recent microstock content has focused on coronavirus themed images

Using World Events to Drive New Ideas

New ideas have not flowed easily this year, and financial motivations have been challenging. See this post about changes at Shutterstock which negatively impact contributor’s earnings.

However, the smaller amount of new images have been very successful. Content relating to coronavirus and the world wide pandemic has been hugely popular, and will continue to be so. Make the most of this. Get a face mask for your model and think of stock themes!

Celebrating for Now

As we are coming out of virus lock down in Melbourne, Australia and heading towards summer I’m busy working on rebuilding my sports photography business.

I’ll celebrate Beyond Here making the list of best microstock blogs and begin planning my stock content for 2021.

Reading

There is great content on the list of best microstock blogs. I encourage you to read them and see how the content can be applied to your own microstock efforts. Thanks for reading this post. Best wishes.