Everything to Photograph at a Basketball Game

Photographing basketball is a fun challenge.  There is nonstop action.  Of all the major sports, basketball has some of the fewest breaks in action.  There is not time between pitches or huddles between plays.  Despite that, there are time outs, half time and other stops in the action that do occur.  Just because the game stopped, doesn’t mean your camera should.  There is so much action at a basketball game to shoot besides the game.  Keeping your camera shooting is a great way to get more out of shooting a game as it is a fun challenge to get unique shots that the other 10 photographers on the baseline aren’t also shooting.  Below are all my favorite things to shoot.  These images were taken at various college basketball games during the 2017-2018 Season.

the dj or announcer

You won’t have this opportunity at every game, especially if you are shooting high-school games, but if there is a DJ or some anyone else working to provide entertainment, they can be a fun subject to shoot.  I love documentary-style photography and this is a fun way to capture some behind-the-scenes images.

The image above was taken at a UNLV vs. Rice basketball game at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas during the MGM Resorts Main Event Tournament put on by BD Global Sports.


Well, this one is a no-brainer.  Cheerleaders provide the most action on the basketball court other than the game.  Other than just the action shots of them mid-cheer, it is also fun to catch them in their more serious moments.

Of course, the action shots are fun too though.  At the UNLV games, the cheerleaders do synchronized back flips every time a UNLV free throw is made.  During a game against Illinois this year, I focused on capturing this moment every free throw I was stationed near the cheerleaders.

halftime show

Most of the photographers at college games disappear into the media room at halftime.  Since I am not dealing with deadlines and don’t need to get photos out to people at halftime, I get to stay on the court and photograph whatever entertainment is part of the show.

Sometimes this can be difficult because the halftime show involves turning the lights way down or photographers cannot get close to the performance.  This isn’t true when the dance teams perform.  Almost every half time includes some type of dance performance, and those are great for photography.

the dance team

During the game-time action, the dance team is usually not very entertaining.  They don’t do cheers like the cheerleaders as often, and you won’t see any back flips, but time outs are when they put on a show.  Many time outs offer a quick two or three minute break.  The dance team will come out to the court during most of the time outs and offer a quick little dance that is easy to capture.

The Mascot

If you are lucky enough to shoot a game with mascots, they are always fun to shoot.  you can usually find them hanging out with the cheerleaders where you can capture close-distance shots of them getting involved. A wide-angle lens works great to capture the whole scene while you get right up in the mascots face.  While cheerleaders usually don’t like photographers to get close for shots, mascots love it and will usually ham it up for the camera and give you some good shots.  It is also fun to capture images of a mascot interacting with the crowd as there is usually a lot of energy.

team huddles

Team huddles are some of my favorite moments to capture.  They can be difficult though.  Most of the time, the players form a circle around the coach and it is impossible to actually get a view of the coach interacting with the players.  It helps if you can get a little elevated.  This can be done if there are bleachers or elevated media seating behind the team’s bench if you are lucky enough that the team doesn’t form a full circle.  This shot from the Rice vs. UNLV basketball game was one of my best huddle shots because I was able to shoot it from about 10 feet away, behind the teams bench, with a clear shot of the coach.

The bench

The teams’ benches can be a fun subject to shoot, but you need to shoot them during the game action most of the time.  The two quick breaks where I like to shoot the bench are during free throws and right after a shot.  The above image was made during a free throw in a tight game. I wanted to capture the intense focus of the bench.  I also find myself turning to the bench right after a nice shot is made because the celebration of the bench is usually more entertaining than even the fans, and the bench is usually closer to make a better image as well.

the referee

The referees are a big part of the game, but are often forgotten unless they make a bad call.  In those situations, the fans are usually the better subject too.  That being said, the referee can be fun to capture on a more routine call.  This is especially true if you get a referee that makes emphatic calls after a foul.

The Crowd

The crowd, of course, is a big part of the game.  I like to capture the crowd during moments of anger, above, and celebration, below.  The other big thing to consider when shooting the crowd is whether you want to capture a small section of the crowd or the entire crowd.  For me, this choice comes down to whether someone in the crowd is standing out.  In the image above, many UNLV fans were angry and shouting, but this one man, with his two beers, was the only one in his section standing up to shout.  That made it easy to separate him from the crowd.  In the image below, all the Illinois fans were standing up to celebrate.  When you add in the bench, you get a whole sea of celebration.

Being lucky enough to get media credentials without having to answer to any actual media sources is a great opportunity to capture images most sports photographers don’t shoot.  It also makes for a great way to add a unique experience to any travels.

And, don’t forget to join our Facebook group, Photography and Travel, to share tips, favorite locations and questions!

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