How to Set Up a Remote DSLR for Professional Basketball Photography

From slam dunks to graceful tip-ins, shots taken from basketball’s action epicenter–the net–capture some of the most intense moments during a game. At the NCAA Men’s Final Four in Dallas, Texas, the stakes are high for players and sports photographers alike. Brett Whilhelm of Wilhelm Visual Works came up with an effective and safe backboard camera system to capture these exclusive shots:

Fastened to the backboard with redundant magic arms and safety cables (and a whole lot of tape) the cameras have the strength and security needed in the midst of action.

The camera, a Nikon D4s with a 17-35mm lens, gets set at 1/800 of a second at f/5. The ISO is set surprisingly high at 6,400, due to the fact that the added circular polarizing filter cuts the aperture f-stops by about two. Hardware is installed to trigger the shutter, instead of a radio transmitter, greatly reducing the chance of interference.

Regardless of the type of photography, composition is always important. During the games, one camera faces straight down at the basket while another is set with a wider composition to incorporate logos. The focus is set eight feet in front of the basket. This is most often the space where players’ faces are when they’re working their magic.

But in high pressure situations, there is nothing more important than having a juiced up battery. Wilhelm explains the setup:

“We run AC power in the camera so we can mount it early in the week, and we don’t worry about having to change batteries. We keep the camera on and live the entire time.”

The product of all these meticulous details is drool-worthy photographs on high demand. The images are live streamed back to a server, where editors busily edit and caption the photos to wire to national and international news agencies.

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Black gaffers tape is used to secure everything into place.

A lot of inspiration can be taken from Wilhelm’s technique to create personal backboard set ups. Listed below are a few tips for capturing your own backboard shots:

  • Protect yourself, others, and your gear. Secure the camera well with Magic Arms or clamps, Gaffers tape, and a safety line.
  • Get up close and personal with the players. Use wider lenses like 40mm or less
  • Hard wiring your camera to trigger might not be necessary in most cases. Trigger your shots with wireless transmitters or a remote.
  • To freeze the action, try faster shutter speeds: 1/200 or higher.
  • Get creative and experiment with your camera’s settings and backboard setup.

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