Basketball photography is as much loved in the Philippines as I love cake. 🙂
The reason for this is that FILIPINOS LOVE BASKETBALL! In fact, a friend from the US who once visited was amazed at how we Pinoys would have a makeshift basketball corner in almost every corner they drive by. Everyone was playing either a 3×3 or 4×4 without much regard for passing cards. At times, sections of long roads are even closed for a full basketball court.
I guess this passion for the sport is evident as well with how we support players well before they turn pros. Schools, as well as their whole student body, are very much invested in their basketball teams. Buses and long lines at the parking lot are to be expected when college teams play each other for glory. There are rivalries in college hoops that make the sport exciting.
Now, when you talk about professional basketball in the Philippines, you now start to look at elite athletes playing at the top of their games. As widely as it is covered by television networks, print media is also helping kindle the Filipino’s passion for the sport. I mean when you see a photo of your favorite player taking a shot, that moment is forever immortalized. This is one of the reasons why basketball photography is important. It might just be a small part of sports photography in general but because of the extreme fascination we have with the sport, Pinoys depend a lot on exciting photos of the game.
Now, if you want to take it up or simply want to know if it is for you, these tips can help you take that first step.
Understand the sport
It goes without saying that you need to understand the sport. It is not enough to just “wing it” when you get to the venue. Remember, having an expensive DSLR and letting it dangle over your neck does not automatically make you a photographer. Much like anything in life, you have to put in some serious effort into things you wan to succeed in.
It helps if you play basketball and that should not be a problem because a lot of Filipinos play the sport. Don’t worry if you don’t, there is a big chance that a friend does and he or she can help you understand it better. But this is already something you need to pause and think about – do you really want to get into basketball photography even if you do not know about the sport? Something to ponder on before you invest time and money into it.
Why do you need to know about the sport? it‘s much like cooking your favorite dish at home. If you want it to come out perfect and not give everyone at home a bad stomach, you have to know the recipe. In basketball, having a feel of how the players move, the rules, even where the officials will be can make you feel a lot more comfortable in shooting a game.
Check the venue
Basketball photography has a lot of steady factors in it and one of the biggest (literally!) is the venue. If you are taking on professional games, there is a high probability that you know the venue already. However, if you are shooting a recreational league (rec league), or even community (barangay) games, you need to do an ocular on the venue if you haven’t been there.
I had a shoot one time in Manila and I did not know where the court was. I was thinking about the travel time, traffic, best route, the best time to leave, and a lot of other things. What I did was a week before the league started, I biked my way to it. This gave me a feel of how far it was, the best route and even the time I had to leave home for the games.
Admittedly, we all have what we endearingly refer to as “Filipino time” and as much as I hate to admit it, it is not something we should be proud of. You cannot wear it like a badge whenever you come in late. The same thing for basketball games because there are a lot of factors in play and everyone else will not wait for you to arrive before they start. In short – be on time.
Talk to the officials
It is not in any of the rules of basketball photography but it helps to talk to the officials. This includes not only the referees but the table officials as well. For smaller leagues, it helps you feel part of the team and you are. Especially if you are hired by the league itself. If you are there to cover only a specific team (or even a specific player), talking to the officials helps them know who you are. As you move around trying to look for your spot, they know what you are doing and you will not be called out.
You can also approach the teams and let them know what you are doing. If it is not yet obvious enough while you are holding your camera. Some would even ask you to take a photo of them or the team prior to the game. It also helps players be more aware because you might be sitting near the basket. They can make a mental note where you are and try not to crash on you.
This is part 1 of our topic where I talked about some of the non-technical aspects of basketball photography. Watch out for the second part where we look at camera settings and tips to help you get that shot that you want.