Try taking volleyball photos from a perspective above the court. This photo of an outside hitter was actually taken from a seat in the opposite stands in a high school gym. This is a cropped photo that was also taken at the 200mm end of my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens
I recently shot a volleyball tournament at a high school where I had an opportunity to shoot above the courts as well as at the court level. When shooting above the volleyball courts, I had an opportunity to shoot from the three different elevated vantage points:
From the perspective of the ball coming toward the camera
From the perspective of the ball moving away from the camera
From the perspective of ball moving parallel to the camera
The first 3 photos below are from each of the abovew vantage points. The 4th photo is from a sitting position perspective shooting up at the action on the court. Of the 4 vantage points, I'm not sure which I prefer. But having the opportunity to try different shooting locations is very useful. Don't be afraid to explore multiple shooting locations.
Of all the sports I photograph, I find volleyball one of the more challenging. It's normally shot indoors which is always a challenge due to less than optimal lighting. And following volleyball action is always very challenging. A fast-focusing camera/lens combination along with a high frame rate camera helps immensely with volleyball.
This photo was shot at the Indiana Convention Center which has decent lighting for sports. It was shot using a Nikon D700 with a 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens attached. With the vertical grip attached the D700 can shoot at 8 frames per second. The camera was set in manual mode: Auto ISO (ISO 6400), 1/1250 shutter speed, f/2.8 aperture. I was also sitting on my duff close to the net.
I find volleyball to be a very difficult sport to photograph. Not only must you deal with the normal challenges of capturing action in poorly lit high school gyms. But also you must face the challenges of capturing the action in a very tight playing space. Beyond focusing on the kids serving (which is very easy to capture) my best advice is to the shoot early and shoot often. Don't be afraid to take plenty of photos. Get out of the stands and get on the floor. Get as close to the action as a referee will allow. Always remember, faces are good; while backs are bad.
Normally I like to take my sports photos at field or court level from as low of a perspective as possible. I believe this low perspective makes the athlete appear larger, particularly photos of kids. While photographing a volleyball tournament recently, I noticed an opportunity to capture the action from a perspective almost directly above the athletes. So I tried it. The photographs below are the result of taking advantage of that perspective.
I must admit. I like it. I found the higher perspective easier to isolate the intended athlete from other players. And most importantly I found it easier to capture good action that also included faces an those necessary athletic facial expressions.
I find volleyball to be a challenging sport to photograph. There are the normal difficulties of poorly lit indoor facilities. But, for me, tracking the action is a bit of a challenge. Some of this is due to the vantage point I prefer utilizing for volleyball - which is sitting (yes sitting) at the center line on the opposite side of the referee. This position allow me to capture dramatic shots. Yet it's also more challenging to follow the action. A fast autofocus lens is a must. I use Nikon's 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens. I also try to do a little predicting. I take educated guesses about where the ball and player will meet.
Although I'm still not comfortable with volleyball. With more repetition and practice, will come more and better results.
Gym lighting can wreak havoc on getting colors just right. The automatic white balance setting of my Nikon D700 works very well for outdoor photography. But for indoor photos (and action taken under stadium lights), the automatic white balance setting probably won't produce proper colors. If you're not able to adjust your white balance manually before your photography session (see a post about how to do this here), make sure you set your camera's photo quality setting to RAW. RAW will give you much more freedom to make color adjustment during post-processing.
The top photo below is the original RAW shot taken using the automatic white balance setting. The bottom photo is the same RAW shot after a white balance temperature adjustment using Apple Aperture.
I've posted previously that I use the Auto ISO setting on my Nikon D700 when shooting sports. While shooting indoor sports, however, I'm not sure Auto ISO is always best (As a reminder, I normally use the Auto ISO setting when I manually set the shutter speed I want to achieve and an appropriate aperture setting (see post here). On the Nikon D700, an ISO setting as high as 6400 still produces very acceptable photos with very little graininess. Thus I allow the ISO to automatically adjust from a low of 200 to a high of 6400 to achieve proper exposure at the shutter speed and aperture that I manually set).
With the past volleyball tournament I shot, I found that I got more properly exposed photos by shooting a few photos using the above Auto ISO technique. After reviewing the ISO level automatically set by the camera with these photos, I manually set the ISO to that level at the shutter speed and aperture level previously set. I'm not sure why I achieve more properly exposed photos this way. My guess is that under some conditions the Auto ISO setting just isn't fast enough to attain a proper exposure all of the time.