Shooting the NBA’s Chicago Bulls


I’m in Chicago for my Photoshop seminar tomorrow (over 600 photographers will be there, which is awesome), and since I was getting in the day before, I got a chance to shoot the Chicago Bulls vs. Cleveland Cavaliers NBA game last night with my buddy Mike McCaskey (we were guests of our other buddy, Bulls Team photographer Bill Smith).

The shot above was taken with a 10.5mm fisheye lens. You have to see it big to appreciate the fish-eye effect, so click on it for a much larger version. I used the 10.5mm fish-eye lens, which is a DX (cropped format) lens on an FX (full frame) body, so it crops in a bit, but I like that it doesn’t look too crazy.


I had a much better time shooting this game than the Orlando Magic game I shot a month or so ago, because of one main thing I learned at that Game—buy a  fold-up portable floor chair for back support (my chair is shown below in the corner of court where we shot for most of the 2nd half).


Man, that thing is worth it’s weight in gold because you basically sit cross-legged on the floor for hours at a time, and it made the whole experience 100% more comfortable and enjoyable (I had Mike pick up one, too and he thanked me several times during the game).


Bill Smith took this shot above of Mike and me shooting during the game (that’s us in the left bottom corner, Mike’s in the light blue shirt). Also, you do have to kind of keep your other eye open while you’re shooting, because you’ll get beaned with the ball (at the very least), or run right over if not you’re watching out (by the way, even if you’re watching out, you can still get run over, but at least you can cover up a bit).


Tech Specs: Here’s what I shot with, then I’ll tell you what I wish I had been shooting with. I used a Nikon D3 with either a 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens (most of the night), a 24-70mm f/2.8 (for some wide angle shots and stuff near the close basket), and I took one series of shots with that 10.5 fisheye lens. I shot in Manual mode, at 1/640 to 1/800 of a second, at f/2.8 all night. I used a gray card to set a custom white balance at the beginning of the game, but I shot in raw in case the white balance got squirrely on me. I shot at 2,500 ISO to get that fast a shutter speed (no reduction was applied, which is the marvel of the Nikon D3).


Now, here’s what everybody was shooting out there. They all did have a 70-200mm (either Nikon or Canon), but then just about every photographer had a second body with a 300mm f/2.8 for when the action is happening at the far basket. The 70-200mm is just that little bit too short to cover the far basket the way I’d like (about 100mm too short with a full frame body).

They would sit the 300mm on the floor, lens facing straight down, and shoot the other lens, but then when the action went the other way, they just picked up the 300mm and starting shooting. That part was a little frustrating, but next time I’ll rent a 300mm f/2.8 from


Mike took this shot of me during a time out using my iPhone. This is about where I was sitting for most of the game. Here, and just on other the other side of the basketball goal post behind me. We thought Lebron James was going to be playing that night, and that he’d be playing toward our basket in the first half, but we found out right before tip off that he wasn’t able to play tonight because of an existing injury.


So, the good news is I think I made some progress on this, my second NBA shoot. It’s better than what I got on my first game, but not nearly as good as what I’ll get next time (at least, that’s the plan). Either way—-it was an incredible way to spend the night before my seminar (thanks Bill!), and Mike and I both had a ball (we had been shooting earlier in the day around Chicago, and in the Little Italy area. A little HDR stuff at St. Inglesia’s Church, and then followed by a fantastic Italian Dinner at Tufano’s Vernon Park Tap. That place rocks!!!!


Two Last Things:
(1) Don’t forget the big stuff kicking off on Monday (from Adobe, of course, and from us at NAPP, too!).

(2) Hey, isn’t there an Indy car race in Birmingham, Alabama this weekend? Man, that would be fun to shoot (wink, wink) ;-)

Have a great weekend everybody, and we’ll see you on CS5 Monday!

    1. Hi Dennis:
      Thanks for catching that—I fixed it. I’d like to blame it on the fact that I wrote this at 3:00 am, but you know, and I know, I’m capable of typos at any time. ;-)



  1. Scott,

    Very nice detail and shots. It is nice to see the details and thought process. How do you carry all the gear on the plane, safely, and get it in one piece to the other end? Those are big lens and great seats. How does one get to sit on the floor at a game? Press credentials or just be a great photographer and well known? :)


    1. Hi Eileen:
      First, many thanks for your kind comments. :)

      All my gear (except the chair, which I packed inside my checked luggage) all fits in the Think Tank Photo ‘International Airport’ rolling bag (which is the best bag I’ve ever used—hands down).

      I also took the 200-400mm just in case, but never brought it out, but it was in the bag as well. It fits perfectly in the overhead bins of most jets (expect for those small commuter jets). and it’s incredibly well designed. Most of my friends have bought them now too, because their stuff is just amazing.

      Getting credentials is harder. This time, I was very fortunate to be friends with the Team Photographer who arranged the creds for me, but I also shoot for sports wire service Southcreek Global Media, and when I’m assignment for them, they arrange all the credentials.

      Hope that helps. :)


  2. hey scott , great shots!

    just one question – are these shots directly from your cam? ’cause i have been to paris with my gf and the shots with our 450d where great(thx to the d-town/ktv lessons) but all kind of washed out (allthough i tried to expose for the highlights, low iso…). but, thx to iphoto the enhance button made my good shots into great shots.

    anyway! thx for sharing all ur knowledge and send greetings to the gang – Austria)

    1. Hi Klaus:
      All the shots were taken with my camera, except the iPhone shot of me, and the shots of Mike and I sitting in the corner of the court (that was taken by Bill Smith).

      The exposure is tricky, but I was fortunate to have the Bulls Team Photographer as a friend, so I just asked him, “Hey, what settings do you use in here?” and he just told me. I figured, this is his house; if doesn’t know the settings, nobody does. He helped with the white balance, and he had a color checker (gray card) I could shoot for setting a custom white balance.

      His settings were a little different than what I was going to use, and of course, I gladly went with his, and it paid off. :)

      One more thing; my wife and I visited Vienna on holiday the year before we were married (21 years ago), and we absolutely loved it! Wonderful people, architecture, music and food. You’re very blessed to be living in such a wonderful place (a paradise for photographers).

      All my best,


  3. Great series of shots there Scot and yeah like Mike suggests (above) the 3rd game you shoot will be on yet another level.

    Thanks for posting the ‘Sport Shooting’ settings on your camera. Just one question…because of the shutter speed are you turning off the VR as it’s not needed at the shutter speeds your shooting at and delays things by a fraction of a second?

    Monday is sure set to be a BIG day with the announcement of CS5 plus the NAPP CS5 Learning Centre; think I might be needing one of those chairs you used cos something tells me I’m gonna be seated infront of the monitor for quite some time :)

    Have a great weekened.

    1. Ken:
      Believe me, I’m very aware of all my blessings and I reflect on them every single day. Just most of the time, I can’t believe their happening to me, which is why I act like a little kid at these events. I’m so excited, that I have to remember to not act like 12-years-old and just go running around screaming with my hands in the air.

      Ken, maybe one day we’ll get to shoot one of these together. Hey, ya never know. :)

      All my best,


  4. The D3 must be an awesome camera. ISO 2500 is unreal and no noise. I shot a basketball game at our local college at 1600 to get the shutter speed and was sick after I saw the images. Never went back. I’m going to send the prison guard on a cruise.

    1. Hi Andrew:
      The D3 is just pure magic. Even weirder; when you get up over 4,000 ISO (which I routinely do for sports at night or indoors), the noise that does appear actually looks good—more like subtle film grain noise. I can’t explain it, and I don’t know Nikon does it, but they do it! :)


  5. Wow! Great shots! And I know you were in great company and had a great time with Mr. McCaskey. Two great great guys taking some great shot! Keep ’em coming.

    1. Hi Alex:
      He’s coming to my seminar today, and I’ll pass along your greetings. I would have invited you to come along and shoot the game, but Mike and I wouldn’t have been happy about you getting better shots than us while sitting just two feet away. :)

      Take care my friend,


      1. Very doubtful my friend but thanks. Yes, please give Mr. McCaskey my regards and I sure would like to see some of his shots. Enjoy your day and weekend!

  6. Nice shot with the fisheye Scott. You didn’t had the 300mm but other photographers shure they didn’t had the fisheye. That’s one way of doing something different than the rest :) Also other pics are great, nice moments, the 2nd pic of this post is amazing!
    waiting for cs5… greetings! :)

  7. Scott:

    Great shots up there in Chicago. ISO 2500 sure would be nice to get that high frame rate. About the highest I can usually go on my D300 is ISO 1600. I was more interested in your autofocus settings? Thanks for posting.

    1. Hi Brad:
      I set the focus points on 9 points. Set the focus lock-on speed to None, and the AF-S Priority Selection to Release. All three work together to give you fastest lock-on to a moving target, and of course I show in Continuous Focus mode the whole time, to help track the movement.

      Hope that helps. :)


  8. That first fisheye shot is super cool. Great shots over all.

    I do not know but, can’t the photographers move around during the match (sorry for the dumb question), cause in Football (soccer), Circket I have seen photographers move around and take their favorites spots for those “moments”.

    Like the last shot. How far were you while you clicked it.

    1. Hi Girish:
      You can move during an official time out or at the break between periods if there’s an open space, but that’s the tricky thing—finding an open space. When I shot my last game, there was absolutely no open space to move to. Here, we were able to choose a second spot, but me missed our opportunity to get to a third.

      At football, soccer, etc. you can (and have to) move around a lot.

      As for the last shot—I was just a few feet away, which makes all the difference in the world.


  9. Great series of shots. Love the one of Mo Williams off the dribble against Rose. Can you do a segment on D-Town TV about sports shooting tips and tricks? I know you’ve done the basics about aperture and shutter speeds, etc but maybe more of an insiders look at how to position yourself, shot with multiple gear, etc

    Keep up the great work, you inspire many!

  10. Scott,

    Great shots as usual! BTW-Lebron was not out due to injury. That was just the company line for all those who paid to see him play. With the NBA’s overall best record wrapped up he was just getting some rest.

    Mike T.
    Cleveland, Ohio

  11. Very nice work, Scott. Like Brad K above, I’m curious about your auto-focus setting. I’m sure you used the continuous focus mode, but what about the focus points? Center point and recompose, move the selected point around as you anticipated the action, or other? Thanks.

  12. Scott, theses photos are super tack sharp! I remember the last NBA game you did how you didn’t have the chair and I know that had to save your back. I can tell a little difference in the quality of my D3s and D3. I just wonder how Nikon is going to improve on them! Great action dude.

  13. Great, great shots, Scott! I know that learning curve of shooting basketball all too well. With a media pass in hand, I started shooting college basketball games last fall, just for the fun of it. My first game shoot literally resulted in a single useable shot. UGH!! I persisted and ended up shooting about half a dozen games over the course of the season, getting better and better results each time.

    By the time the national tournament rolled around in March, two of the eight teams competing in the Final 8 had hired me to shoot for them during the course of the tournament. As luck (for me) would have it, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies — one of my two clients — won the championship, which made my experience as their official photographer ALL the better. You can see the results of my efforts on my website,

    I’ve still got a way to go before I’m ready for Sports Illustrated ( ;-) ), but I’m learning lots each time I drop my butt onto the baseline of a basketball court. Speaking of which… I too purchased a seat after shooting half a dozen games during the national championships and man, did that make a difference!

    Keep up the great work and have a great weekend!

    Trev J.

  14. Howdy Scott! Nice shots all around. And you got to see a great game.
    I see that your legs are not folded in the shot we see of you courtside. My ailing back reminds me how uncomfortable this may be for photogs that cannot sit in certain positions for long periods of time. My legs would be back and forth (folded and unfolded) just to make sure I wouldn’t be a walking chair the next day…

    Thanks for all that you do.

  15. Hey Scott,

    Great shots from the game. I cover the Memphis Grizzlies and yep, its all 2 bodies for everyone. Its the 300/2.8 on one for far end shots and then its a switch between a 24-70/2.8, 16-35/2.8 or the 70-200/2.8 depending on what creative mood I am in. I shoot for a magazine, so its not only for print, but for the mags blog the next morning as well, so I am allowed creative leeway to my liking.

    Over the last couple of years, I have gotten to know the official NBA/Grizzlies photog, Joe Murphy and a few of the AP/Reuters who cover the Griz and learn what the NBA & newspapers look for in coverage. You got a couple shots up there that are great, love the fish-eye shot!

    I love seeing you evolve in your sports shooting, you get better every time, bro!

    Keep rockin, thanks for all you do, come to Memphis next year! – I’ll get you on the floor!


  16. Good stuff – your crops are tighter, so more intense than the last set. Are you framing tighter as well ? That’s how you know you’re comfortable shooting sports, you can tight frame in camera and not mess up much. lol

  17. Hey Scott! I love these shots! The fisheye is so cool! Probably just the perspective, but in the shot of you and Mike shooting it looks like your feet are practically sticking out ‘in bounds’. Hope you didn’t trip anyone! Haha!

    Why, I think their IS an Indy race here this weekend! See ya! ;)

  18. Hey Scott,

    Fantastic shots dude! Just wondering, what settings did you use for Auto Focus?

    When are you coming back to NYC? Katz Deli awaits!

    Stay well!


  19. Wow, great shots. I spent the night shooting the Golden Gloves in Indy. You think you had gear limitations, I was using my D60 with the kit lens. Gotta start somewhere. Thanks for the inspiration to keep shooting! I hope my shots can get as good as these.

    1. Hey Joe – I picked the chair up for Scott at our local Sports Authority. I couldn’t find it online, but it’s the Sports Authority brand and it’s around $15. Should be in the outdoors/camping/hunting section of the store.

  20. Scott – I loved the shot with the fisheye lens. I noticed you used the Dx lens on the Fx with some cropping.

    If you had two bodies D3 and D200 and were to get a fisheye lens. Which one would you get the 10.5mm or the 16mm? Thanks.

    Love your stuff.

  21. Hey Scott,

    Great work on the Bulls game. I watch the first half on tv last night and figured you were shooting the game since you where in town. I think that the shoots you posted this game were much better than the Orlando game (Bulls will do that.) Would you be so kind as to give a brief rundown of the sports photographer experience at these NBA games (This can be one of you Blog Post.) How did you get clearance to shoot?, how are seats assigned?, How are other seasoned pro’s helping you and so on. The question I would like to know is how can one prepare to become a NBA (NFL/NCAAF) photographer. Thanks. Enjoy Chicago and come back as soon as you can!

    David S.

    1. 10.5 over the 16 because, well… We have a 10.5 and we don’t have a 16 :)

      I’m kind of speaking for Scott here, so he can correct me if I’m wrong… But he’d rather stick the DX lens on an FX body (D3) and have to crop than deal with the noise that the D300s (or other DX sensors) creates.

      1. Makes sense. I have the 16mm from when I shot film. I used the 10.5 when starting on the dx format. Sold it recently when I found myself shooting full frame sensors again.

        Both lenses are awesome and really sharp.

  22. Great shots Scott. I have to admit it made me feel a little better to know there is actually a lens you want to shoot that you don’t already own.

  23. Hi Scott,

    Great shots and a great game! I really like the shot of Mo Williams. The way the light reflects off the ball and the tats on his shoulders really brings it to life, but the Bulls player’s leg in the foreground makes it seem larger than life, which I would have thought would have been exactly the opposite affect. Did you crop it a bit for final to include just the right amount of foreground?
    Ciao, Dante

  24. Scott, it is very cool of you to reply to so many people’s comments. I have had my AF-S setting to focus+release, but just switched it to release only as per your above comment. Providing all this small details really helps and ads a learning element to what is also an entertaining photo story. I think I need to start using a custom white balance as well.

    1. It’s funny that you mention that Brad I was looking at that same pic and trying to figure out are the recording video or what. Nice though I would love to see the set up of that how the fire it etc.

      Great shots Scott looks like a great time!!

      Nassau, Bahamas | Miami, Florida

      1. I have set this up many times myself. They are fired with a 10 pin cord connected to a pocket wizard. The trigger is another pocket wizard usually fired remotely by the user hitting the test button or having a built in trigger in their hand. On set-ups like this, you must pre-focus on a spot about 1 foot in front of the rim to make sure the player is in focus that does the layup. Also, you must turn off autofocus and place it on manual focus. This prevents the lens from hunting and missing the shot or back focusing and missing the shot.

        Remotes are a hit or miss camera. One should not depend on them and view them as “Oh, I got a good photos with that camera. It worked tonight!” Sometimes you get great shots and sometimes they bomb. They are hit or miss.

        With the cord coming out of the other camera, I would say that was either house video or television.

        Hope this helped a little

        Tom Quinn

  25. Hey Scott,

    I wanted to come up and say Hi but you always had a huge crowd around around you asking questions. I didn’t want to take any time away from their questions so rather then just saying “Hi!”, I just sat it my chair and thoroughly enjoyed the conference. You are an awesome speaker and an excellent teacher!

    Thanks for coming to Chicago and maybe I will see you in Indy for the 500.

    Tom Quinn

    1. Hi Thomas:
      I saw where you wrote earlier this week that you’d be coming to the seminar, and I was looking forward to meeting. I kept wondering if you had made it. I wish you had come up and said hi.

      Hope to see you next time. :)


  26. Thank you so much for an incredible workshop today!!! I learned so much!!! My head is spinning!!! I look foward to another one of your workshops…you are an amazing instructor with a wonderful sense of humor : )

  27. Scott,

    In Chicago, you took a photo of St. Igatius church. Beautiful church by the way and yes a beautiful HDR. How did or do you scout for such things. I’ve lived near Chicago for a lot of years and have never seen such things.

    You talked of your trip to Italy and finding beautiful things to shoot. Lucky? Scouting? How do you find such things. Any insight would be appreciated


    Tom Q

  28. Great work! I love sports photography. Quick question, I can never seem to find though is a centralized resource for different venues camera policies. Is there a website that says “regular event attendees (i.e. the unlucky ones who don’t have press passes) can bring XYZ gear”?

    Right now I rely on calling the venue or checking the venue’s website which doesn’t always have the best results.

    1. Tony,

      Quite a few times, the venue cannot set policies. Say the United Center Allows cameras. Then an act comes in and does not allow cameras. CONFLICT.

      Usually its the league, publicist, (insert promoter here), that sets the policy. If you call the venue, they will usually say, “No Camera’s Allowed!” because thats the safe policy.

      I have been there and called a venue and been told, no cameras allowed for the event (Trans-Siberian Orch!) only to find out that you can bring cameras and that was a “Safe Policy” to say that over a phone.

      Just my two cents.

      Tom Q

  29. Hi Scott
    Those were some great shots! As you are looking through the lens did you have to look up to make sure they were not actually landing right on you? Kind of like “objects appear closer than they are”


  30. I must admit I just skimmed through the comments. The photos almost look like a touch of Post Editing. Either way I check you blog every day. I actually have it listed under sports because you are such and excellent teacher. You share and we love that about you.

  31. Anyone watched the video for the Iphone OS 4 upgrade software? The tutorial shows some of the new features and it looks cool. Can be seen at Apple site.

  32. Scott I was at your workshop in Chicago. It was great. When I saw these photos they reminded me to try the Calvin Hollywood Technique you taught us. So went and found a high school basketball picture I already had. But when I went to do it i realized there was still too much noise in it.

    I was the one who came up to ask you about better ways to improve noise. And the only thing you would tell me is Lightroom 3. So I downloaded the beta and tried it out. Oh my gosh. It is as amazing as you said. Thanks

    1. Pamela, I agree with you, the C Hollywood guest blog is one of my favorites. I keep those 2 videos for reference. Scott should hire him to do a class on I would buy another year just for that ( I stay a year ahead, that’s how much I like the training site). Those contrasty styles are part of my workflow now and it has been an improvement.

  33. Scott,
    Your Chicago seminar was AWESOME!! There was so much information and you are a fantastic teacher. Love your sense of humor!
    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and time with us.

  34. Scott,

    Had a great time at the Chicago Seminar. You do a great job. Enjoyed meeting and talking with you before the start about shooting sports. Brought back some good memories when I used to do that. I still miss that a lot.

    Had to laugh the next morning when I was shooting a sunrise off the “Bean” at Millenium Park. Remember how you said that we would forget at some time to switch off the auto bracket after shooting an HDR? You got it….the very next day I’m shooting and wondering why it just shot a burst. Checked and it’s still on auto bracket!

    Thanks again for a fun seminar. Please come to Chicago again or maybe Indy.


  35. VERY nice pictures. I particularly like the first with the 10.5 fisheye. Got me to thinking about using DX lenses on FX cameras… That sent me to the Nikon website to learn more about that lens, and they say it is the equivalent of a 16mm on 35 mm (therefore on FX, right?) and that it has a 180 degree angle of view. The 14 -24 (FX) has 114 degree angle of view, for comparison. Your image, made on an FX sensor, sure looks like 180 degrees. So, how is it equivalent (according to Nikon) to 16mm on your 35mm FX sensor D3? AND would the image obtained using the 10.5 DX on a DX camera look any different from the same lens on an FX camera in DX crop mode? Brad!!! HELP!!!
    Since I bought a D3, I never thought about buying or using a DX lens on it (and a previous blogger says he sold his 10.5 after moving up to FX) but I LIKE THE LOOK of that shot? Could/would you rectilinear-ize it with Capture NX since you shot it on FX? Brad!!! HELP MORE!!!

  36. As always, Scott, top-notch stuff. It’s now one more thing you and I have in common (sort-of’s). I’m a keyboard-playing, singing photographer (like you, since the 80’s…love to jam with you some day!), and earlier this year I got to shoot at the United Center…of course, it was a high school game prior to the Bulls/Magic game, BUT…it was the United Center! Like shooting in mid-day. Anyway, thanks for all you do….you guys are the best!

  37. Hey, Scott – these images are great! Might I dare say these are better than the images you took at the Magic game earlier in the season?

    Just a quick question: the 70-200mm + 300mm combo – sounds great – but if you were shooting a crop sensor camera – from your experience – do you think the 70-200mm would be too tight under the rim? (I haven’t yet shot hoops – just curious)

    Thanks for sharing.

  38. I’ve met Bill a couple of times and he’s a great guy. If you ever come to Chicago and shoot hockey with Bill, can I please come? I’ll buy the calamari at Tufanos afterwards! Lucky you landed there since it’s the best place in town.

  39. I know that somewhere in your collection od game photos is a closeup of that gorgeous blonde cheerleader to your left (just around the corner in the photo Bil Smith took of you and Mike). Don’t hold back now …

  40. Scott
    I was there at your Chicago seminar also, and as was Matt’s last year on Lightroom 2, you put on a great learning session.

    I have a friend who shoots professional hockey, and I’d be interested in seeing what you could do at the Blackhawks playoff games. I feel that hockey has to be one of the toughest sports to shoot, as it’s so unpredictable. If you ever get the chance, please jump on it for us hockey fans.

    Thanks for everything, especially NAPP.

  41. Scott, absolutely stunning photos! Is it okay if I post these photos on Facebook and Twitter for some bars in the Chicago area? I want to tell our fans when the next Bulls games are!

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