The NCAA Photo Team covers a wide variety of college athletics: 90 championships across 24 sports and 3 different divisions, to be exact.
But, as we’ve all come to know, the NCAA’s premiere event is ‘March Madness,’ the Men’s Basketball Tournament, when the attention of the sports and higher education communities turns to the basketball court, as we all begin to fill out our brackets. Over the last few years, this photo team has had the unique opportunity to document the radical shift in fan engagement and in-person activity, as the world of college sports (and just about every sporting event) had to pivot to a new reality.
During The PhotoShelter Summit, Jamie Schwaberow, Owner of Clarkson Creative and NCAA Photos’ Director of Photography, and C. Morgan Engel, NCAA Photos’ Staff Photographer, joined us to discuss how their approach to covering March Madness shifted before and after the “COVID Bubble.”
Plus, they walked through a handful of incredible images, detailing how they were able to adjust their workflow to accommodate their brand, partner and audience’s content needs.
Take a closer look at their typical March Madness game day workflow below, and read on for a few highlights and takeaways from their presentation.
6 Tips and Takeaways from the NCAA Photo Team…
Get the most out of going ALL-IN:
1. Internships are often great opportunities to get your foot in the door in an industry you’re passionate about. For both of these speakers and photographers, Jamie and Morgan, internships and networking amongst peers resulted in budding photography careers with NCAA. It goes without saying that taking chances, shaking hands, and going all-on on creative and professional opportunities can take you far.
2. Gear up. Between the Men’s and Women’s tournaments, Jamie and his team cover over 130 games per year. Equipped with two, three or more cameras on their person, each photographer has a collection of gear ready to go so they don’t miss a moment. Believe it or not, in a single game, two or three photographers can be using 14+ cameras!
Get creative and think outside the box:
3. Try a new perspective. In addition to having photographers stationed on different sides of the court, the NCAA photo team encourages the use of remote cameras too, to document new angles and exciting moments from unique perspectives. These include photos from the backboards, images from up on the catwalks looking down at center court, or low angle photos from down in the ‘mousehole’ at the bottom of the stanchions.
4. The in-between moments always make great photographs. We hear this from a range of creatives working for pro sports teams, college athletics programs and more. The powerful behind the scenes images, the locker room celebrations, and the photos that aren’t quite ‘typical’ are sometimes the ones that resonate with fans the most on social media.
5. When tasked with new rules and new challenges, you make it work! While working in the “COVID Bubble,” limited access meant getting extra creative with how this team communicated with each other and documented each game. The combination of arriving early and relying on each other to set things up ahead of time resulted in a new-found appreciation for their camaraderie and a strengthened sense of trust amongst their team of photographers. 🤝
Fans make a world of a difference:
6. The energy of a packed arena is unmatched. When looking back at the images documented during the 2021 March Madness tournament, the in-person experience in a nearly empty space was drastically different for this team, and the content and photos created throughout the tournament reflected that new normal.
- Jamie told us, “One of the biggest themes you’re going to see in these photos is the lack of fans. They limited the spectators to 25% capacity, along with social distancing, which really changed the dynamic of photographing live sporting events… it was very hard not to show empty seats.”
- Once the crowds returned, the photos alone show just how much of an impact the fans have on all of the in-person action. “We really got to feel the emotion again,” Jamie told us.
“The joy of having fans cheer for all of these players… our locker room access… we’re pretty lucky.”Jamie Schwaberow
Follow NCAA Photos on Instagram to see more exciting images from across a wide variety of sporting events!
Want to see how different brands and creative teams work their marketing and photography magic? The entire PhotoShelter Summit is available on-demand! Watch 10+ inspiring sessions with industry leaders from brands like the Los Angeles Rams, Texas A&M Athletics, Slate, Hashtag Sports and more…