Home Forums Photography Showcase First Attempt — Basketball Flash Photography

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    My school has a fairly small gym, and I have some decent equipment for a senior in high school, so I figured I would try this out and see what happened. I don’t think it turned out too bad for a first time attempt, but any critique or advice on the photos is welcome.

    Please feel free to ask any questions about the setup/equipment/whatever; I’m happy to answer, but don’t know what would be helpful to mention so I’ll just wait til someone asks.


    The first four basketball photos


    Thanks all. 🙂


    I like them.  Pretty good for a first attempt!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/63706846@N08/10683675694/in/photostream/ reminds me of Norman Rockwell.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/63706846@N08/10683692784/in/photostream/ has an interesting running style, both feet in the air!  Good expression.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/63706846@N08/10683903793/in/photostream/ is weak because the ball is just hanging there.  It would be a stronger shot if it were clear the ball was going in the net, or not going in.  Shooting digital?  Set drive to multiple exposures, so it takes shots as long as the shutter release is depressed and there is space in the buffer.  That kind of photo is the reason the sports cameras from Nikon and Canon take more than 10 frames a second.  Then you can choose the exact frame you need to tell the story.   Even at 3 or 5 frames a second, you can get good results with a little luck.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/63706846@N08/10683724346/in/photostream/ is not quite as good as the second.  Great expression, toes are cut off.  It may be worth cropping in a bit tighter, try mid shins, see what you think.


    Doing good!  Keep shooting!


    Thanks for your comments- definitely helpful:)


    I shoot with a Nikon D4, so the continuous drive is definitely very helpful; unfortunately, when I am using a strobe I am limited to about 1 frame every two and a half seconds. Still trying to get some of the timing improved on my part.


    Nice camera!  I shoot with Canon so I don’t have any Nikon strobes to test with, but I think there are a couple of options that could help, one costs money and the other is free.

    Extra cost option:  I think Nikon makes an external battery pack you can plug into an SB9XX which drives the flash head, you still need batteries in the unit to run the electronics.  This gives more power, thus longer, battery life, while reducing recycle times.

    Free option:  Your camera should be able to deliver decent, low noise photos at ISO 800 and possibly even higher ISO settings.  Figure out how high you can set ISO before noise becomes a problem.  If you can set it high enough, and the light in the gym is good enough, you may not need flash at all.  That would completely solve recycle times.  Even if you need some help from flash, if you bump ISO a stop from what you were using you should be able to reduce flash power by a stop, which will reduce recycle time.  If you can bump it two stops, you can reduce flash by two stops and get more benefit from reduced recycle times.

    Boosting ISO also makes your flash reach further for the same output power, so if you need your flash to reach extra far, it is an option.


    I did consider using speedlights, but I don’t have enough triggers to pull it off, and I didn’t want them to be accidentally slaved by a parent (they always seem to flash during free throws).

    I have considered Nikon’s SD-9 before, as I’ve heard good things about it. I will have to take a look again.

    Since I was only using one light, I opted for a large monolight instead of any sort of speedlights, but I could probably do something similar, but the lights would just have to augment the existing light instead of overpowering it like I did here.

    Oddly enough, I was going to reduce the power and bump the ISO to get better recycle, but turns out that the lower power I go on my monolight, the longer the flash duration gets. If I go too far, the motion will start to show. I opted to keep it at full power for fastest duration, which worked well.

    On a side note, I do love the D4 — Noise is rarely an issue even at higher ISOs for most of what I end up doing. 😀

    Thanks for all of the advice. 😀


    At full power a Canon 600 EX RT (Guide Number, 197′ (60 m) at ISO 100) is roughly equivalent to a 250 WS monolight.
    From the manual:  The SB-910 is a high-performance Speedlight compatible with Nikon Creative
    Lighting System (CLS) with a guide number of 34/48 (ISO 100/200, m)
    (111.5/157.5, ft) (at the 35 mm zoom head position in Nikon FX format with
    standard illumination pattern, 20 °C/68 °F).

    That suggests it may be equivalent to a 200 WS monolight.

    Speedlites recycle faster at part power because their circuitry allows them to keep unused charge.  Most Monolights use different components and dump the entire charge every flash.  Flash from small flash is about 10 times faster than from a monolight.  Flash using High Speed Sync is slower than when a single burst is used, but that should not matter when shooting people.  On the other hand, you don’t get as much power when using HSS.   I expected you to be using a speedlight because monolights are large and you can’t really run around with them, or at least, I wouldn’t want to with mine.

    The Nikon Creative Lighting System is more complicated than just “flash when you see another flash”.  It should not be affected by P&S flashes, though they may mask the CLS control flashes and cause it to not fire.  Radio is more reliable.  Some radios are inexpensive, and some not.

    Your light must be up high!  Even the shadow from the backboard in the first photo is dropped a little.


    What was your aim with the flash? To brighten up and stop action a bit better (it looks pretty dark in there otherwise) or just to give a distinctive look? If is just to help illumination a little a powerful speedlight on camera or a couple off camera at 1/8 – 1/16 power and a little negative exposure comp dialled in can give good results and will allow for fast frames per second. It may be difficult with such a fast sport but for slower things it can work pretty good actually. I don’t know what the D4 manages as a fastest shutter speed with flash but on my 1D I’ve used it a couple of times to decent effect but then that manages 1/400 as highest shutterspeed with flash. It doesn’t give enough light to light the scene but it will bring out whatever you are pointing the camera at out from the background and it’ll make the background seem darker. Obviously usual caveats of direct flash apply but small amounts of fill can look good.


    I was triggering with a radio in this instance.

    There was one fairly strong light near the baseline about 12 feet high, shooting into the ceiling (a bounce was the only way the AD would allow me to try it) which is my only fear with speedlights that trying to bounce them will not be a favorable outcome. I didn’t know about CLS not triggering from any flash, so I’ll have to look at that. If I want to do TTL that may be the case, but I do know that SU-4 mode is an optical slave that will be triggered by anything.

    You’ve given me good things to look at (and desire to go buy SB-910’s, in any case! :-))


    In this case, the flash was there to completely drown out the ambient. I only set up one because long story short my other was out on loan. 😛

    Without any flash, meter is at about 1/320, ISO 6400 at F/2.8

    I haven’t tried extensively, but 1/250 on the d4 is about Max with radio triggers.


    Sync speed varies by camera, it is the fastest speed at which both curtains are completely open (1Dx and D4 have 1/250th, most others are slower, all the way down to 1/125th for modern cameras.  I have old film bodies that sync at 1/60th). At faster speeds, the second curtain is closing while the first is still opening.  Studio strobes only fire once, so they are used at or below sync speed unless you want black bars across top and/or bottom of the frame.  Both Canon and Nikon have High Speed Sync which fires multiple flashes during the exposure to evenly light the frame.  Because they are firing several times, they are not using full power for each flash, so you don’t get the light the guide number suggests for a single flash.   Because of multiple flashes, stopping action like water drops does not work, a single flash is better for that.  For fill flash, it works pretty well, however.  And you can control a bunch of them off camera, so you can get the same power as studio strobes just by adding more of them.

    Medium format cameras have a different shutter arrangement and higher sync speeds.


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