Photo Tips

How to Shoot Sports Indoors With Artificial Light : Beth Wendland

Elizabeth Wendland

I’m so excited to be back this week to talk with y’all more about light and how to shoot sports indoors!

Can you believe how fast the season is going?!  Most of the country has completed their district cross country meets, and are getting ready for state meets.  In fact our state meet is tomorrow (go Ryan!!).  Football is in playoffs, as well as soccer.  Just as fast as we come to the close of this season, the next has already started.  Basketball and wrestling have begun, and I’m already seeing a few die-hard lacrosse players sneaking in some field time!

This week we are going to chat about artificial light, or more specifically, how to shoot sports indoors a gym or stadium with artificial light.  If you have a kid (or other family member) in sports, you’ve undoubtedly had the experience of having to shoot sports indoors with gymnasium lights or under stadium lights.  Both create an awful color casts for your images.  How many of you have pictures taken in a gym and the color is yellow/orange?  What about in a stadium, and everything looks a little blue? It’s not you, it’s the light.

This week I’m giving you some tips on how to overcome the dreadful artificial light you will be encountering.  These tips will not only show you how to shoot sports indoors, but also help with any other school function that takes place in the gym.  So for everyone that is feeling like Lisa F. who left me the message “trouble spots for me are gymnasiums”, here are some tips to help you get great sports photos, even in a gym or stadium!

Learn how to shoot sports indoors with artificial lighting on

Stadium and Gymnasium lights –

Why are we talking about these together?  One is inside and the other outside.  One has incandescent or fluorescent lights, the other tungsten or metal halide.  We are talking about them together because they both create hideous color casts to shoot under, and they both require the same measures to correct the problem. 😉

Your Camera wants to help –

Camera manufacturers know that people shoot in all sorts of awful light, and they have built a little cheat right into the camera.  It’s called the White Balance (WB) adjustment.  Most cameras now have built-in adjustments for sun, shade, clouds, incandescent, fluorescent, flash and sometimes even Kelvin temperature.  If you know what kind of lights you are shooting under, change your WB to correspond with that lighting.  If you aren’t sure what kind of light you’re dealing with (because you totally know the difference between tungsten and metal halide, right..?) just run a little test.

Set your camera to the incandescent light setting and take a picture.  Now change it to the fluorescent setting, and repeat, repeat, repeat.  Do this with all the WB settings your camera has available. Then use your camera’s display screen to choose the option that most closely matches what you see with your own eyes.  If you want to try your hand at adjusting by Kelvin, most stadium lights are in the 3800-4400K range and most gymnasium lights fall into 2800-3200K.  Keep in mind, using the WB setting in your camera still isn’t a perfect solution, but it helps tremendously.

Learn how to shoot sports indoors with artificial lighting on

If you’ve tried all the WB settings and still aren’t happy with the color, is there a “perfect” solution? 


There is one way to get perfect white balance…you need to use something called (conversely enough) a grey card.  These “cards”, which can come in many forms, can be picked up from any camera store or online, starting at just a few dollars.  Each camera is a little different in how to set your WB with a grey card, so check your manual.  It took me years to find my “grey card” of choice.  This little gem seems to get my WB dialed in better than anything else I’ve tried.  No matter which way you choose to go, either built-in WB settings or setting it with a grey card, remember to set it back again before your next camera outing.  If you forget, the colors will be truly awful.

Learn how to shoot sports indoors with artificial lighting on

Have a point and shoot, or don’t feel comfortable playing with your camera’s settings?  There are some program modes that may help.    Many cameras have settings for candlelight, indoor party, and beach/snow (and more).  Yes, I know that none of those things involve sports, well maybe the beach/snow… 😉 Each of those program settings understands that there is a certain color of light in those particular situations, and it sets the camera to try and automatically correct for the light.  Keep in mind, these are not designed for sports so you may have some blur with fast action, but they will help with the color.  Just like with the WB settings, take a test shot with each of these settings, and see which gives you the the best color correction.

Please keep leaving me your questions and comments, I love reading them!  I’m trying to make sure that everyone gets their questions answered.  If you haven’t seen your question come up yet, don’t worry.  I have the list taped right here to the computer, your turn is coming up 😉

Join me next week as we talk a little (okay, a lot) about shutter speed!

Play hard, and have fun!


Get More Sport Photo Tips from Beth!

How to Photography Kids Sports, Part 1

Kids Sports Photography Lighting: 5 Types



  1. […] we talked about in How to Shoot Sports in a Gym or Stadium With Artificial Light, a grey card is an absolute necessity to get your white balance setting dialed in perfectly.  So […]