I heard from Liz of Kansas City who is very interested in being a sports photographer.
So I thought I’d write about it having dabbled with it in my previous life.
Foremost on the minds of those of you with similar aspirations should be this: sports, a past time, happens in the evenings and on the weekends.
So, if you have a family with young kids, expect major negotiations with your spouse on the scale of SALT talks (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks of the Cold War era)
Naturally you’ll have to take me on my word that I know what I’m writing about.
If you’re that gullible, I’d like to introduce you to some Nigerian princes who have oil fields.
Luckily for Liz, this is not her situation.
She has a free pass since her hubby is a sports fan and her kids are grown.
So what would someone like Liz need?
Access & Equipment
Skill and talent aside, access and equipment are often the biggest hurdles for most folks.
If you’re interested in shooting sports, you’ll need at least a 300 mm telephoto lens and at least 2 bodies.
Sorry, there is no 2 ways about it.
The long lens is for your safety and the athlete’s safety. I’ve seen my share of linebackers plowing through a row of photographers on the sidelines.
Think bowling if you can’t picture it.
And the 2nd camera body?
That’s for when the action has approached your long lens’ minimum focusing distance and all you see is the player’s nostrils.
Most of the time, sports photographers use a 70-200 mm zoom on the 2nd body.
If they have a 3rd body, they might stick a wide angle on it.
Carrying any more bodies is bordering on showing off because you only have 2 hands.
In case there are some of you not familiar with telephoto lenses, they are not created equal.
The difference of one f-stop can be quite a chunk of change as this comparison shows
- Canon EF 70-200mm f / 4 L IS USM Zoom Lens $1,179.95
- Canon EF 70-200mm f / 2.8L IS USM Zoom Lens $1,949.95
If you have to ask which of the 2 lenses, I’d recommend, let me put it this way: I’d willingly eat Top Ramen for however long it takes to save for the $800 difference. That answer your question?
Original manufacturer’s glass or lenses always cost more. But they tend to be built better and therefore can handle your abuse better.
Let’s pretend you’ve won the lottery because you’ve read this far. Money is no object so you got your 2 bodies and your requisite telephoto lens.
So how exactly can you gain access to those very crowded sidelines or sporting events?
Every sports fan I know wants to be there too. Without a sports portfolio, you have very little chance unless you have the goods on the media person of a sports team.
Building a Sports Portfolio
There is no formula or recipe to building your “book” of sports photos.
If I were hiring, I would want to see something different. Think of how many wannabe’s have come and gone before you.
The poor editor has probably seen so many basketball, football or baseball pictures that the bar has been set pretty high in his mind.
Might I suggest you show some guts and shoot sports that are not seen so much?
If you don’t have a long lens or a fast lens, don’t sweat it. You can always rent one. You do need to have a body of work which shows you can capture action or reaction.
You could offer your pictures for the school to use in exchange for closer access on the field.
Just expect to pay your dues. There is no shortcut.
Don’t be a jackass when you’re new and learning the ropes.
If there is one advice I can give. Please be aware of your surroundings.
The access you are given is not yours alone.
Respect that others have a right to be there as well.
That means consideration and probably priority should be given to working professionals who make their living from photographing the event.
You are there to better your portfolio. If you blow it or miss a picture, it’s not that crucial.
But if you walk into someone’s frame at the worse possible moment, you will likely incur the wrath of the big boys.
They have the clout and won’t hesitate to have you thrown out.
While I was at the US Open Badminton tournament earlier this year, I was probably the only person that I could tell that had a credential.
Folks with cameras just walked down on the courts and sidled up next to me to shoot. My pictures were for IBF–International Badminton Federation.
I didn’t have a problem with that at all. Then one of them walked right in front of me at the worse possible moment.
I’m not the most competitive person nor am I the most egotistical.
I don’t believe that the world revolves around me, but I had to tell Invisible Man, “You didn’t have to walk in front of me there, you could go behind, you know?”
His answer was, “Oh, the action was over already so I didn’t think it mattered.”
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