Commack High School Boys Varsity Basketball vs. Sachem North
Congratulations to the Commack boys basketball team on their win over Sachem North. I covered the basics of photographing a basketball game in my post on the girls game last week. For this game I thought I'd talk about how to deal with the different types of light on a typical high school basketball court. Our high school converted to fluorescents a few years back. Fluorescent lights tend to provide very even (assuming they're not spaced too far apart) but not very bright light whose color is easier to balance than the vapor lamps they replaced, although the vapor lamps were considerably brighter. Fluorescent light can be so diffuse and soft that you need to add contrast, especially for shots of players in the center of the floor. We have black mats for cushioning on the walls under the baskets and these create a lot more contrast near the ends of the court, which is a good thing except that they also limit the amount of light reflected off those walls.
One thing you need to contend with, generally in post-processing, is the color of the light reflected off the gym floors and bleachers which will be a yellow-orange. I find this has less of an effect under fluorescents than it does under vapor lamps, probably because vapor lamps tend to have an orange color cast to begin with. The bottom line is that you have much less color correction work in post if your gym has fluorescent lamps. To remove this color cast you can use the brute force approach of cooling your white balance in post or you can use a curves adjustment on the blue channel in either Lightroom or Photoshop to decrease the yellows for a specific luminosity. The problem with adjusting the overall white balance is that objects not affected by the color cast will have their colors shifted also. Using curves you can limit the range of the adjustment. If you're using Photoshop you can even get fancier by creating a selection of just the skin tones you want to correct.
If your gym walls are painted a funky color you'll also have to deal with light reflected off the walls, which may only affect one side of the players, depending on where on the floor they happen to be. There are a bunch of tutorials out there that deal with removing color casts using various photo editing software. It's basically a question of deciding whether or not it's worth it based on how many photos you need to produce and how much time you have.
Shooting from up in the stands you'll get cleaner skin tones simply because most of the parts of the players facing your camera will be the same parts being lit only by the lamps above and not reflections off the floor. So, see, sometimes it does pay to shoot from the stands.