|By JJ Harrison (firstname.lastname@example.org) (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons|
The light in basketball courts and gymnasiums may have a variety of sources. Overhead lighting of all sorts, warm and cold, may be mixed with daylight streaming through windows, so white balance can be tricky. The best option is probably to settle for auto white balance and accept that some adjustments may have to be made later. The light is likely to be relatively low, so a high ISO setting and a wide aperture will be required for high shutter speeds. A good modern DSLR makes life somewhat easier because the ISO setting can be increased above 1,000, perhaps, 2,000, before noise really becomes a problem.
The best location for capturing the action is likely to be behind the court line close to the basket, but don't forget that a player might land in your lap! Of course access to this location is not always possible, but all is not lost. The corners of the court also offer good opportunities although a longer focal length lens is required - perhaps a 80 - 200mm zoom or similar with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 or wider. Other locations can be interesting of course but the scoring action is obviously centred around the basket. Use a standard or short portraiture lens, perhaps 50mm or 85mm with a wide maximum aperture, and keep the ISO setting and the shutter speed high. A speed of at least 1/250 sec is necessary to stop the action, but higher speeds do a better job if there is sufficient light.
Tracking fast-moving action is never easy, but many modern DSLRs feature focus tracking options that can be used very successfully. Once the camera has locked on to a moving subject, the focus setting automatically tracks movement provided the focus point in the viewfinder remains on the subject. The shutter is then released at the decisive moment. It sounds easy but requires practice and familiarity with the equipment.
It is also worth trying rapid bursts of shots at the fastest frame rate your camera will allow. Modern DSLRs can deliver 6 or more frames per second and it costs nothing to take lots of images. However, an approach of this nature does not guarantee that the decisive moment will be captured - it may just occur between two images.
As with all sports photography, anticipation of the action is a key technique. Understanding the sport helps this process, so be prepared to watch a few games before attempting serious photography. Having played the game is also certainly an advantage. Having said that, basketball is a relatively predictable sport compared with many others. Nevertheless, it is important to realize that not all the action can be photographed. In general, it is best to adopt one or two positions during the game and wait for the action to enter your prime shooting area. It is then not too difficult to predict where a player is going and what he or she intends to do. Follow the player with his or her body filling most of the frame, and wait for a jump or some other move. Be patient and grab the move at the peak of the action..