D500 autofocus settings for basketball

Amin Sabet

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I am getting ready to do some basketball photography of my son this weekend. It will be my first time using a Nikon for this. I will be using the D500 and Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8.

Nikon has some AF tips here for various sports but not basketball: D500 TIPS - Details: Settings by Event | Technical Solutions | Nikon Professional Services

I'm assuming basketball will be similar to soccer:

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In my searches, I've found that most people recommend D25 while some use Group instead. As I understand it, D25 will always prioritize the center while Group will prioritize the nearest subject within the target area.

It seems like regardless of which of those I use, I will have to go for centered compositions since the action is too fast to toggle the joystick before the shot. Is that right?

Any tips appreciated!
 
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Amin,

These are some good base settings to start out with. One thing I would do is assign the "Focus track with lock-on" to your My Menu so that it's easily accessible, as you will likely fiddle around with the "blocked shot response" as well as the "subject motion" (I find myself adjusting these settings depending on what I'm shooting).

Because of the nature of basketball, I would suggest using D25 or single point AF if you can. Group AF may not be ideal because there will be players between you and your son, and as you said Group AF prioritizes the nearest subject, which may not be ideal. You may want to give 3D-tracking a go as well to see how it does.

As for centered compositions, you don't have to, but you likely won't have time to adjust the focus point via the joystick (which is why I said give 3D tracking a go). You could always just position the focus points off-center to give you a different composition, but sports shooting is typically more about the subject and emotion, and less about the composition.
 
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I will obviously be in the minority here with all of the newfangled AF modes, but I can only tell you what has worked for me over the years. For almost all sports, I use single focus in the center reticle, in AF-C mode with back button focus. I plant that focus reticle on my player of interest and track along holding the back button focus down while I depress the shutter as I wish.

Simple really and doesn't get fooled by nearby players or adjacent objects. I'm in total control over what is in focus. Took some practice, but is now second nature for me and produces consistently good results for almost all sports.
 
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Just a quick follow up. Basketball can be tricky. Fast movements in a usually poorly lit gym can be tough on your autofocus. Another reason why I like to decide what the camera will focus on with my own single point focus reticle tracking as the action develops. Here's an example at f1.8. Virtually everything but the player I select will be OOF. I'm not sure what the camera would pick in this shot with 25 point dynamic mode.

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Basketball is tough to shoot. I like to use AF-C D9 to give a little wiggle room over a single point. I usually select a primary AF point to suit my intended framing, and track the player I want in focus so that the focus points stay on them. Group tends to grab the wrong player unless you get lucky and the player you want in focus is closest to you! I don’t find 3D tracking to work so well on my D750 due to the AF point grouping being so limited (the D500 is much better), and it can jump to a different teammate’s jersey too easily...

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Hope you plan on shooting raw+jpeg.
Seems like every time I had those special "keepers" the gymnasium lighting would cycle at the wrong time and I would end up using the raw files to PP to my satisfaction. There are quite a few older posts on gymnasium lighting cycling on the Café. Might be useful for you but the gymnasium you will be in might have improved lighting.
 
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Do you folks use spot metering for these situations? And what about white balance? I think I would take a few test shots and adjust Kelvin temp until it looks right.
 
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Can you accurately remember the colors when you're sitting at your computer?
I just ensure the whites (many uniforms have some element of white) and skin tones look good.

Back when I was shooting a lot more indoor sports, I found that the white balance was shifting on nearly every exposure due to the cycling lights. As a result, I had to correct in post as a matter of course.

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Glenn
 
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Commodorefirst

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Amin, indoor dance and basketball, I echo others, single point af, and also sometimes 3d, that can be handy to follow a fast break. Your lens I would set at f2 and be done with it. Set your wb to either incandescent or flor, and fix in post. I like AF lock on short or medium in case players get in front of your subject. Good luck. Oh....portrait is your friend in bball. Your wrist will get tired but rotate that body. Focus on the face, sometimes the bball will be sharp and face soft.
 

Amin Sabet

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Thanks, everyone! Here's a few shots from today using the suggestions above:

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Amin Sabet

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Thanks, Nick and Mitch! It was also my daughter's first day of basketball :)

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