The sports photography community is one of the most passionate and supportive groups of professionals we know. While we have the honor and pleasure of working with a ton of these creatives to help power their game day workflows, we also recognize the sheer size of this ever-growing community and are always eager to connect with more photographers!
Now, it’s time to flip the script and hear directly from the pros themselves.
In our first installment of Real Talk, our informal Zoom chats dedicated to our creative Slack community, we spoke about sports photography workflows and how things have changed in the industry throughout the pandemic. A handful of photographers including Shanna Lockwood, Joseph Guzy, Heather Barry and JC Ruiz (among others!) joined us to network, tell their stories and share their advice for fellow photographers.
One thing they all agreed on – It’s important to be a good person. Whether it’s on the field, during an assignment, or throughout your typical day-to-day, this sentiment goes a long way.
Dive into the tips and words of wisdom we gathered from a great group of incredible sports photographers below. What’s your top tip? Let us know on social! Tag us on Twitter or Instagram (@psforbrands) and share your advice for fellow or emerging sports photographers. We’ll share our favorites!
Remember to take a moment to soak in every game. The last year hit everyone with a lot of challenges and hurdles, so for me every chance I get to photograph I make sure to stop for a second, look around me and remember how lucky I am to be doing what I love.
Everything you shoot has life well beyond the day it’s posted on social. Who knows what that moment could mean to someone in 5, 50 or 100 years. Learn the ins and outs of metadata. Learn good archive organization. Make things easy to find for yourself and your clients. The greatest image you’ve ever made becomes the worst if you can’t find it.
Related content: How Workflows Are Changing for Creative Professionals
I think my best tip for those who are aspiring to be in a sports photography setting would be to reach out and connect any chance you get. You never know what it could lead to. Connections and community lead to so many new and exciting doors! Also, never stop chasing that dream. Shoot as much as you can and put together an awesome portfolio of all your best shots, with it being ready to send at any time! And finally, your talent will speak for itself.
Study the sport you are photographing. Know the storylines, the big players, game flow, etc. Have a plan but always keep that head on a swivel and like Todd Rosenberg says, “Get there early.”
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My top tip for sports photographers for 2022 is to keep learning, growing and networking. Try and try again. Not every visual approach in your head is a winner. And share your work!
My best advice for sports photographers, especially those just starting out, is to look beyond the game action for compelling, storytelling photography. Look for all the other things — the pageantry, colors, fans, food, etc. — outside of the action. There’s an entire world beyond the field, and that is part of the story of sport as well.
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My top tip would be not to think that once the play is over that you should stop shooting. Players show emotion after a big play, if they strike out or drop a potential game winning touchdown. There is always more to shoot after the play ends. There are times when the emotion of the player makes a better photo than the play itself.
Metadata! I’m working on organizing photos now, and the best image is the one you can find—it’s one of my favorite aspects of PhotoShelter, the ability to search metadata. 🙏🏻
Related content: Download our Metadata Policy Sample Template
Get to the stadium early. Get your mind in the game. Be prepared. Don’t overthink it. Keep it simple.
For aspiring photographers: Continue to network and make connections. Whether it’s through social media or direct contact on the sidelines or arena, you’ll get further in this industry by knowing more people. I’m more likely to recommend or hire someone for future work if I already have a connection with them.
- Do not base your talent or potential solely around what others show you on social media. Remember everybody wants to show the successes but never the failures and the rough times.
- Build genuine relationships along the way. Be able to communicate with others in more than just photography. Get to know people for who they are and not just what they do.
What I often tell photographers the most is to stay on the play after the action is over and get the reaction. Often photographers are so excited to look and see if they nailed the action that they miss an equally important part of our jobs which is capturing emotion.
I also think the more you cover a team or a sport, the better you can predict what will happen and therefore be prepared to capture different moments and the more it all becomes second nature.
Biggest tip I can give is to continue taking photos in between the action. Those little moments between warm ups and kick-off are sometimes the best shots of the day that can really encapsulate the day’s storyline. This time allows for more intimate moments to really show the athletes character and true self. Personally, this is my favorite time to photograph during a game, more so than any type of action shots.
Think outside the box on your shots, getaway from the norm and make your images stand out from others, whether getting low on the field, use of DOF, obstructions and perspectives, allow yourself to stand out, it’s not always about the gear!
My advice to newcomers in our profession is to treat everyone with respect and to never devalue an assignment. Excel with what you’re given and where you are in your career. You don’t need to cover professional sports to make a compelling image nor do you need to be assigned the most glamorous story to truly touch someone’s life. Keep pushing your own bounds, and don’t be shy.
The top tips that I would give aspiring sports photographers would be for them to step back and look at things differently. A lot of times, when we first get into shooting sports, we get tunnel vision and get caught up in only trying to capture the “Action” shots and forget that there is so much more to the game.
Some of my favorite and best shots have come from instances that have had nothing to do with a “live” play or been “Action” related.
There are moments before the game, on the sideline, in the locker room, of the fans, etc., that are more intimate, tell a story, and showcase a different side of the sport that the fans don’t usually see. Those are the images that I value the most.
Go out and shoot. Great content can be made at any level; you don’t have to shoot college or professional games for your work to be top tier.
Lastly, don’t forget to showcase your work. You gain nothing from keeping images stored away in your hard drives. You deserve to have your vision and perspective be seen by the world.
My biggest piece of advice is to always say hello and introduce yourself. Networking in the industry is rewarding in so many ways — & not just for making friends or references. You never know when you might run into that person again or if an opportunity could arise from your brief interaction!
- Work on mastering the basics before trying to get too advanced (I.e., composition, light, etc.). Sports photographers are, after all, still photographers.
- Come into each shoot with a goal or skill that you want to focus on
- Find mentors who you look up to and be open to honest critique
My advice… Refine your style to tell your story. Make connections to hear others’ stories. As cliche as it sounds, how can you make a picture worth 1000 words?
Know your sport, my passion is sailing and learnt to sail while at school I was lucky in that respect as I live by the sea.
If you are new to any sport, go and watch them multiple times (without the camera) and see where the peak of action is. Then look up that sport on the internet via Instagram, stock photo libraries and Photoshelter of course. See what other photographers are doing in the form of techniques. Looking at different peoples photographs, it does tell a lot on how they got the shot…
How does your work compare to the people you researched? Probably not that good in comparison – why, I hear you ask? Well they have been doing this for many years and have shot tens or hundreds of thousands of photos over time. You may have a few hundred – that’s not enough. Go and shoot some more, and do more research. You cannot become an expert overnight. Just don’t give up and you will get better. As Henri Cartier Bresson said, “The first 10,000 photos are your worst.”
Try new things within photography as a whole, so if you’re into sports maybe try studio, landscape, photojournalism, etc. Another great thing is to take breaks from daily creating so burnout doesn’t become a thing. Don’t freak out if you miss something, forget about it and refocus for the next moment. And at the end of the day, be nice to those who are with you in the wells or pits. Not because it will help you gain valuable connections and friends but because it’s the nice and right thing to do.
My top tip would be to establish an organized workflow of how you’re going to process and distribute your images. Be cognizant of restrictions and be prepared to work from your photo position. A great deal of emphasis is on getting the shot but you MUST have an effective workflow system established to make it all work for you. Even if you have the luxury of loose deadlines, establish that workflow. I make it mandatory for all my photographers to learn the ins and outs of Photo Mechanic and push themselves to put out some content during the game. Even if that is as simple as a tweet or IG post, get used to working with a little bit of pressure.