I have received a lot of requests for info from a couple of posts in the photo sharing section regarding how I go about shooting volleyball so thought I would write up a summary and post it here.
This will focus mainly on locations I shoot from and why and is also based on covering HS volleyball. As with all things photography related, there is no single right way to do anything and these are only general guidelines I use. Anyone with additional insights, by all means, please add to this discussion.
In my area, we are not allowed to use strobes. If I could use strobes I would in a heartbeat and recommend anyone who can use them and wants additional info to read this post by Phil Zivnuska.
There are three levels of teams. Bad, Average and Good.
Bad teams can be the hardest to cover. They have no control over the ball when they serve, return or pass and rarely can they spike with any effectiveness. Because the game is a free-for-all, a lot of this info does not apply and you have to do the best you can with the situation.
Average teams are the easiest to cover because they tend to do the same things over and over. They will serve toward the middle of the back row. They will try and return every serve or volley to the girl in the middle of the front row and she will try and set the ball in the direction she is facing, generally left.
Good teams are the most fun to watch but can be a bit more challenging to cover. They will tend to serve to the player they think is the weakest returner. They will return serves and volleys to more than one spot on the front row and that person will set the ball forward or backward with ease and no real indication which way she is going before she does it. They will also send multiple people at the next to confuse the defense on who is going to attempt a spike and constantly are changing positions.
It doesn't take long to figure out which category a team fits in and the distribution is very much a bell curve with most teams fitting in the average category with only a few really good or bad teams along the way - at least in my part of the world.
If I have not seen a team before I try and get there early enough to watch them warm up before their game. I will pay attention to which girl is doing most of the setting and which girl(s) are the strongest hitters. Some hitters are only good from a certain spot on the floor, most of the time, the left side of the net. Some are better hitting from the middle position and only the really strong players are good from all three front row positions.
Since most teams fit in the average category, here is how I approach covering them. Below is a basic layout for reference in the discussion.
|IMAGE IS A REDIRECT OR MISSING!|
Content warning: NOT AN IMAGE
The shooting spots are only shown for the left side of the net. The same spots apply to the right side but left them out for simplification.
For this discussion assume I am covering only one team.
This is best for covering players in locations 4, 5, 6, 10, 11 and 12 but most of the time when I am in this spot I am targeting spots 6 and 12 because they are tough to shoot from any of the other locations. I don't spend much time here during the match because I find you miss a lot of the general action.
This is the spot I normally start at for each match. The main locations being covered are 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8. When in position B on the left side of the court I will target position 1 more than 2 because of the idea that position 2 is going to be setting the ball to the left side of the net and her back will be to me most of the time. When in position B on the right side of the net it is reversed and she would be my main target since most of her sets will be coming toward me.
I tend to shoot on the same side of the net early in the match to get the basic shots out of the way and then try shooting through the net toward positions 7 and 8 later in the match since the keeper rate really falls off due to the net killing the AF so often.
The main locations being covered from here are 1, 2, 7, 8 and 9, 10 and 11. Same logic as with shooting position B but tend to shoot from this spot when covering 7, 8 and 9, 10 and 11 since it gives a bit of a better angle. Position 9 is the toughest from this spot due to lots of things getting in the way.
Basically the same as C. I will pick spot between C and D based more on how the team sets up on the floor and where I get the least amount of players in my way. D tends to be easier to shoot position 9 than the others.
These are the same and the only criteria I use when deciding which to pick is which position, 7 or 9, is getting the ball the most often.
I move around during the match but my starting spot for virtually every match is location B on the same side of the net as the team I am covering. Most of the time I sit on the floor. I also almost always shoot with a 135 f/2 prime so how far I position myself away from the court is based on what I need for good framing in the camera.
Looking at it another way, here are my suggestions for the best spots to cover a given floor position. They are listed in order of my preference for targeting that position. The L or R indicates left or right side of the net for the shooting position. Ex. B-L would be the B position on the left side of the net like is shown on the diagram. B-R would be the same spot but from the right side of the net and is not listed on the diagram.
POSITION 1: B-L, C-R, C-L, D-L, D-R
POSITION 3: E-R, D-R
POSITION 4 and 5: B-L, A, C-R, D-R, E-R
POSITION 6: A, E-R, B-L
POSITION 7: B-R, C-L, D-R, D-L
POSITION 9: E-L, D-L
POSITION 10 and 11: B-R, A, C-L, D-L, E-L
POSITION 12: A, E-L, B-L
POSITION 2 and 7: This position can be shot from about anywhere and really depends on which way they are facing.
If you want to see some examples, check out this post.
Shot 1 from B-L
Shot 2 from C-R
Shot 3 from C-R
Shot 4 from C-R
Shot 5 from E-L
Shot 6 from closer to D-L
Shot 7 from C-L
Shot 8 from C-L
I have so many photos already from the B positions it is why I spent most of this match in the C, D and E.
That covers the basics for shooting from the floor. Please also keep in mind that there are lots of other great spots to shoot from depending on the specific gym. Places like 2nd level walkways, catwalks, the stands, etc. can offer a bunch of additional variety to the mix and encourage you to find these locations. It does not take covering too many matches from the spots I mentioned before all the shots start to look the same.
Also note the team I was covering in the photo example is one of the few in my area that I put in the good category. They are all over the place and attack the net from virtually any position. This is why you will see several shots of spikes from the right side of the net which is not the norm or the basis for a lot of the discussion above.
I have seen them play a lot so know who the strongest players are and what they like to do on offense so my strategy when covering them is more around where specific players are at than any general approach.
Hope that this is at least somewhat helpful and you are able to follow my crazy codings and references. If not, drop me a PM or post a question here.
Again, any others with additional input, please add it.