How to shoot BBall without too many pictures?


Registered: Aug 17, 2002
Total Posts: 3788
Country: United States

Russ Isabella wrote:
rather than identify and then delete the 'bad' images, spend your time identifying the ones that are not bad, then treat the rest as 'bad' and delete in one fell swoop..

great advice.

this is what i do and it saves a lot of time.

Carl Auer
Registered: Mar 15, 2004
Total Posts: 9620
Country: United States

First in response to:
I cant imagine ever using flash photography at these games. I would get bounced! Flash is sure to distract players and screw up the flow of the game.

Strobes, not on camera flash, when mounted correctly, are not a distraction. In Colorado, the High School Activities Association actually has written into the rule book regarding photography that Strobes are approved for all sports. The only exception is the start of swimming because the flash can compromise the start computer electronic eye. After playing HS basketball in many venues strobed, as a player, you never notice them. Since you are in Canada, I suggest watching a Raptors game. You will notice flashes every once in a while. 4 or more strobes up in the rafters.

Scott brought up something too I was thinking about. I shoot differently for who I am shooting for.

If I am shooting for a paper, I am looking for that one to four great shots. If I can get that in the first quarter, great. I might shoot 50 or 60 shots and move on. Might be with my paper strobe quick kit (2 vivitar 285's, Pocket Wizards, and super clamps) or it might be shooting ambient. Either way, I shoot as long as I need to to get what I need.

If I am shooting for MaxPreps, I am using 2 to 4 strobes, and I will shoot between 200 and 500 shots a game. I will download via PhotoMechanic, and do an initial edit. I will quickly go through the photos looking for missed shots, out of focus, strobe miss fires, etc. After that initial edit, I will go through again, at 50% zoom looking closer at focus. After two passes (maybe 10 to 15 minutes) I will be down to about 80 to 150 shots. I import these into Aperture, edit one photo, then batch the rest (strobes, your exposure should be pretty close to the same in every image). I export these, open in photoshop and crop via MaxPreps requirements and send off.

If I am shooting for the wires, I do not ingest all the photos. I tag photos in camera as I can, and open the images in PhotoMechanic on the cards and copy over to my computer only the 15 photos I will send out. That could be 15 out of 200-300 images per half. I will edit and caption those photos quickly, then after the game when I get home I will go through all the images, delete junk, and archive.

When I shoot, I am constantly looking for different things. For example, when shooting the University of Colorado, I know there are three players to really focus on. Spencer Dinwiddie, Andre Roberson, and Askia Booker. Dinwiddie is on the Cousy Award watch list, so I look for that iconic NBA logo Bob Cousy dribble, play calling, jumpers and lay ins and will shoot heavy on that. Roberson is rated as one of the most underrated players in D1, and he is fun to watch. So anytime he has the ball, he is going to do something special, and Booker, when his game is on, he is almost unstoppable. So I will go heavy on these three players, and go heavy on any of the opposing teams star players, and then just follow the action of the other players and grab anything that looks like it might be interesting. Break-a-ways, jubes, ally oops, etc. Also looking for interesting shots of mascots, fans, cheerleaders all are important.

The key when doing a final edit is dumping the junk quickly. At first it will take a while, but as you get a routine going, you will see it speed up.

Zander Alberts
Registered: Dec 25, 2007
Total Posts: 1743
Country: United States

I usually average 800-1000 shots per game, using a 1 series on high fps but only firing off 3-4 shots at a time. I shoot ambient.

Workflow: pop in the CF and use Photo Mechanic ingest to a folder (location... wherever). Then start viewing and clicking through the images full size on the screen, with one finger on the right arrow key and another on the "1" key. I go fast. If it's a candidate for the paper, it gets a 1 (for me, a pink color tag is assigned). This moves *fast*. Not looking at 100% sharpness, etc. Just picking out candidates based on composition and action in the frame. Then I tell Photo Mechanic to display just the images flagged "1", and I narrow things down again, this time considering sharpness, etc. The ones I want to edit and transmit are marked "2" in the same manner as before.

I can do a game of 1000 photos in less than 15 minutes that way. Post processing, well that's as much time as you like, but Photo Mechanic makes the editing quite speedy. One of the best $150 I have spent.

You could also apply this same technique in Adobe Bridge, Aperture, etc. I have done it in all three. It takes time to get good at flying through photos, but practice is the only way to get there.

Registered: Dec 09, 2011
Total Posts: 279
Country: United States

Bfindlay wrote:
Great responses folks. To Scott - I am shooting for myself (learning, fun) and for our school. Final destination of these shots are our in-school video (TV in the hallways), and possibly yearbook.

So far I have spent about an hour and a half culling the 600 or so of the first game down to 29. This is what I was referring to in 'hours of post' I have not 'processed' any of them as yet - typically beyond cropping - I don't. I still have the second game to cull, so call it an estimated 3 hours of culling, wheedling and eventually cleaning slightly the 60 or so shots from this one shoot.

The bit about strobes is interesting, and I will look into it, but image quality is not my main concern yet - simply managing the sea of too many pictures.

What I did in that hour and a half was this:

1: Download into Aperture, tag the first game (batch processing) to separate it out from the rest, then go through each shot tossing oof and face blocked bad shots - shots that were not interesting etc. Spending usually 3 to 5 seconds each, some longer than thirty seconds. Keepers I arbitrarily rated at 2.

2: Go through the 150 remaining with the viewer window set to '3 up' and raise the rating on pictures based on interesting composition, attempts to get as many different players in the action (we are talking teenagers - who want to see themselves on screen), and general (comparative) 'feel' for the shot.

3: This gets me to about 60 pictures. (My goal was 20 for each game). Then I go through a final time and demote pictures that are redundant (same action/player captured elsewhere), or not necessary to the story (interesting expressions or postures that are good shots, but don't include dynamic action)

I arrived at 29 pictures final.

First round, I am trying to be brutal and quick, just doing an obvious cull of a large amount. Second round, takes much more time on each picture. Third round takes me less time per picture than round 2, but much more than round one.

Maybe its just me, but I still cant understand where you are coming up with anything over 30-45 min to go through even 600 images. In my opinion, your wasting time on round 2 and 3. Also, take your camera out of your higher burst rate and try something slower so you are not capturing every little move, just the important stuff.

Registered: Jan 11, 2013
Total Posts: 45
Country: Canada

Thanks again folks for your input and discussion. This has really helped. I just finishd culling and cropping the boys game (only about 340 pics, because i could only stay for half) in about 15 minutes. Russ you were right that tagging the keepers really sped things up.

Next game, i will pay much more attention to getting short bursts, and nuking the obvious trash in camera during lulls.

Would love to post pics, but am too cheap to spring $30 :-(


Registered: Dec 09, 2011
Total Posts: 279
Country: United States

post a link to where ever you show them off.

Registered: Jan 02, 2013
Total Posts: 600
Country: United States

What I usually do is the ones that look too similar I choose out of them and leave the rest. That way you can weed out the repetitive ones and then you usually cut down the picture amount by nearly half

James Taylor
Registered: Feb 15, 2006
Total Posts: 790
Country: United States

Flickr is free and you can copy the link to your post. The image will show up in the post.

Bfindlay wrote:
Thanks again folks for your input and discussion. This has really helped. I just finishd culling and cropping the boys game (only about 340 pics, because i could only stay for half) in about 15 minutes. Russ you were right that tagging the keepers really sped things up.

Next game, i will pay much more attention to getting short bursts, and nuking the obvious trash in camera during lulls.

Would love to post pics, but am too cheap to spring $30 :-(


Registered: Nov 17, 2004
Total Posts: 2491
Country: United States

I shoot High School Sports for the local paper, it is a twice a week publication.On an average week I shoot 3 to 4 Varsity Boys and Girls games.
I shoot with 2 Elinchrom 600's. I average 60 to 80 frames per game and normally come away with 25 to 30 frames I consider keepers.
I will usually submit around 8 to 12 for the paper.On Friday nights I have a deadline of 11 PM for Saturdays paper, that means I usually have about an hour to hour and a half to cull and submit a Boys game and Girls game.

So my suggestion, get some strobes or some off camera speedlights and start timing your shots for peak action.I couldn't imagine going thru 1000 shots from a single Basketball game.

Scott Sewell
Registered: Dec 08, 2003
Total Posts: 8606
Country: United States

With all due respect to those who have made this suggestion, but I am not sure "strobes" is a good solution to this issue. And no offense to the OP, but it would seem to me that someone who's asking a question like this in the first place, probably just needs more experience. I will be honest, I can't say I've heard a seasoned sports photographer ask this kind of question.

Strobing involves a lot of equipment besides just the strobes, permission from the facility or organization and--most importantly--liability insurance!! Again, no offense to the OP, but these aren't the kinds of things most amateurs are prepared for.

I can't say the answer to the original question is easy, but it would seem to me that experience and time is extremely important here. Experience anticipating action and being able to get usable images by shooting smaller bursts and not machine gunning the shutter button, and experience learning how to quickly sort through images to make the processing time more efficient.

Good luck!!!

Ben Amato
Registered: Dec 06, 2004
Total Posts: 1108
Country: United States

Bfindlay: I realize I'm late to the game but I'd like to add a couple things I've noticed. I shoot both with strobes and without. Today with better high ISO cameras much less with strobes. I try and shoot a couple basketball games each season because they are much cleaner and it gives the athletic dept. a nicer image to blow up if needed. With either system I find that during most games I have time to tag good images during the game. I only keep the good images. I usually shoot short bursts 3-5 images when shooting ambient. Things I've noticed:
Cleaner pics with strobes but generally not as much peak action. Especially in basketball with players driving the lane. I just seem to find better action with bursts in these situations.
Using the right software saves time. I use photomechanic and lightroom on a mac. Doing a search for workflow will gain you lots of good info.
Spending the $30 to upload and doing it will be the best investment you will make in your photography.

Good Luck!

Registered: Dec 09, 2011
Total Posts: 279
Country: United States

I just bought the idea of strobing since the op was on how to cut down on the number of frames they are shooting. That is going to force him to slow down since they wont be able to motor drive their way through a game.

Registered: May 28, 2003
Total Posts: 2306
Country: United States

Bfindlay wrote:
Shot 2 high school games last night, and now i have over 1000 photos to wade through and select. Too many!

You are kidding, right?

I usually shoot 3 games a night (Fresh, JV and VAR). Average about 1500 photos per game. It is usually no problem to sort through them the same evening and have them ready to go.

Perhaps you are being too picky? My photos get the 0.5-second test. Close-calls get a 1-2 second re-examine.

Registered: May 06, 2010
Total Posts: 368
Country: N/A

sklar wrote:
clarence3 wrote:
As you improve your timing, your keeper rate will improve. But even when you get down to 100 per half, it's a lot faster to cull before you PP.

I use a freeware program called irfanview from

Irfanview can read RAW and JPG. I press enter for fullscreen slideshow mode. Press space bar if I want to keep. Press D if I want to delete (move to the recycle bin). I spend less than a second per picture to cull. So 200 pictures from a game takes about 3 minutes.

Then with the keepers, I use irfanview to rename as 2013-mm-dd_####

Then I import into LR4 and PP.

Anyone know of something like this for mac?


Registered: Mar 21, 2009
Total Posts: 380
Country: United States

I shoot 800-1000 frames in a basketball game, often in short bursts of 2-4. I import them in to Aperture, and like Russ, spend my time identifying the keepers. Once I finish processing the keepers and have the set I want, I delete all the images that I didn't select for processing. It's pretty quick.