Shooting in the Gym
Often in gyms the light tends to be yellow, so it is best to have the Tungsten setting on within the white balance settings of your camera. If you do not, in extreme circumstances, the photo will have a red cast; or it will simply be extremely yellow. In the photo on the bottom left, the lighting is rather orange. This is because the white balance setting is on Auto. However, the photo on the bottom right is much whiter as a result of the Tungsten setting.
If the lighting is white and you are not sure whether to use Tungsten or not, take a photo with it on and with it off during the warmup and decide which one you like better. Be careful though, if the Tungsten setting is on with a well-lit gym with white lighting, the photos will come out blue.
Aperture, ISO Speed, and Shutter Speed
Since many gyms are badly lit, it is important to watch your F number to make sure that it is not red or blinking and that your pictures are not coming out too dark. One important thing to do is set the ISO speed to 400 or 800 when shooting inside. This is light speed and causes the camera to take in light faster when taking the photo. At ISO 400 when shooting at 1/200 of a second your aperture should not open to more than 2.5 or 2.8. At ISO 800 you can shoot at either 1/320 or 1/350 of a second and this will provide good light. However, this requires an aperture of 1.4, which not all cameras have.
One good place to be sitting when shooting in the gym is in the front row of the bleachers by the half court line. This way you can get good pictures of your team on defense and them taking the ball up the court. Also, this is the perfect place to get a good tipoff shot in basketball. This is really the only place to sit when taking volleyball pictures that will come out well.
However, the best place to be when shooting basketball is on the baseline. The players are then turned towards you when they shoot or coming straight at you when they drive in.
During a game, a good thing to do is spend the first quarter or the first half in the bleachers and the rest of the game on the baseline. One of the worst places to shoot is at the corner of the court. People standing on your side of the court will be too close, and people on the other side will be too far away. The referee will often be in your way as well.
Framing the Player
For any sport, a full-length photo is usually best. When players are jumping, it's a good way to show how high they are jumping, and when they are dribbling, it shows their speed. However, your final product need not be full length but it is always good to begin with a full-length photo so you have more cropping options. In volleyball, a good shot is on a spike when the player is jumping up and is just about to hit the ball, or when he or she has her hand on the ball. In these circumstances, it is possible for the photo to go down to about mid-thigh. In basketball, a good shot is a player driving in or when they are just about to release the ball when shooting.
Sometimes, the camera has a lot of difficulty focusing when the players are moving quickly or when the lighting is bad. Manual focus is the best way to go in this case. If you are sitting on the bleachers to shoot basketball, you should focus on one o the baskets. If you are at the baseline, focus on a player at the free throw line. If you are on the bleachers shooting volleyball, focus on a player near the middle of the net. If you have a more advanced camera though, auto should be fine. However, on auto you should be sure that your focus is only on the center square. If you look throught the viewfinder, you should see several squares; perhaps seven horizontally and then one above and one below the center one. If you do not focus on the center square, your camera will pick where in your image it should focus, which results in complete mayhem and terrible photos since the camera unfortunately does not have a brain of its own. If you set your focus to be on the center square alone then the camera will focus on whatever is in the center of the image. Be sure you do not accidentally focus on the wall behind the player! This mistake occurred in the image on the left: the player is completely out of focus while the basket and the wall behind her are perfectly sharp. In the right image, the focus is correctly on the player so she is in focus. On your camera, you might also have the settings of One Shot, AI Focus, and AI Servo. Each of these settings regards focus. One Shot means that once you prefocus your camera, it will preserve that focus regardless of whether or not you move the camera. AI Servo means that once you prefocus, your focus is still not fixed. The camera will track whatever is in the center square of your camera (if you have the focus set on the center square). AI Focus means the camera switches betwen One Shot and AI Servo. AI Servo is useful for following players without having to constantly refocus as they move around. However, a common problem is when you accidentally have the player just out of the center square and the camera decides to focus on the wall behind him or her instead. As a result, I personally prefer the One Shot setting which lessens the chance of the focus slipping to the wall, but you should probably try both One Shot and AI Servo and see which one works better for you personally.
Shutter Delay: Capturing the Action
There is always some delay when taking a photo. This delay is the time between the shutter button being pressed and the photo actually being taken. If you are manually focused, the delay lessens. If you are auto focused, you should half depress the shutter button when pointing the camera at something in the same distance you want to be focused on. Since the camera is therefore already focused, it takes less time to shoot the picture. If it is not focused, the camera has to focus the picture after you press the button. It will usually only take the photo when it is focused, so if it has trouble focusing, the shot will come out long after the action has taken place.
Try to predict what is going to happen. If you think someone is about to shoot the ball, you should take the shot, since that way they will probably not have released yet, or they will be in the process of doing so. If you take the photo during the action, it will come out with the action having already happened. In volleyball, they will already have hit the ball, and in basketball they will have shot. This makes for a less interesting photo, and it is also harder to tell what is going on. In the picture to the far left, the shutter button was pressed when the player was in the process of shooting. Because of shutter delay, the player is back on the ground and the ball can barely be seen. In the picture to the near left, the shutter button was pressed right before the player shot, so the ball is still in her hands.
You do not always want the same pictures: of people shooting or driving. If you try to predict what is happening, even if the players do not do what you expect them to do, you might still get an interesting shot.
At a big game, always make sure to get reaction shots as well. After a three pointer or an important shot, be sure to quickly snap a photo of either the fans in the stands or of the players on the bench. Usually they will be jumping up and down and cheering but only for a few seconds, so you must turn quickly and get the photo. After a big game, take a lot of photos of the team celebrating since those are often the types of photos that get printed in local papers and are the ones the players will definitely cherish.