Often times people think the main objective of a sports photographer is capture action. To capture that split second image that properly displays some incredible athletic feat that the average couch potato could only wish he could replicate in Madden 17.
But the truth, is photographing sports is much much more than that. Don’t get me wrong, I love when I get the perfect action frame. There’s a certain adrenaline rush you get when you know you “nailed it.” However, while action shots are exciting and fun to look at, they rarely tell the story. They communicate a short split second in time of a specific play, but most of the time say nothing about the essence of who a player is at his core, the stakes of a game, the mental fortitude, level of focus, frustration, or effort. For those you need portraits.
Shooting portraits during sporting events is very very different than shooting other types of portraits. Very little is in your control. You often are limited in where you can shoot from. There’s usually no moving forward or backward to adjust your perspective. You have no control of the environment that the player finds himself in. There’s no adding props, removing distracting elements from the background. There’s also a very short amount of time in any given situation to make your shot. Players move around, they’re not generally going to stand there like most portrait subjects while you shoot, check your LCD and then try again. Most importantly, there is absolutely no interaction with the subject. A photographer who tries to illicit a reaction from a certain from player to make a frame is a photographer who is going to find his credentials instantly yanked.
The vast majority of the time the player has absolutely no conscious awareness that you’re even taking the image. In most instances this isn’t a bad thing though. I generally want the people that I’m photographing to be “camera unaware,” and to not be thinking about the fact that I’m sticking several thousand dollars worth of equipment in their faces. With most portrait situations that takes a lot of work to build up that level of trust and rapport with a subject. With sports it comes automatically because of the situation.
Here’s a few of the portraits I made yesterday during the freezing cold Broncos Patriots game.
Pre-game right before Brady and Edelman take the field.
Taken right after the opening kickoff as Brady prepares to take the field for the first series.
This image actually took place during a TV timeout. There was really nothing going on. Players were standing around waiting for the OK to get started again. The sun had just about set behind the stadium walls and there was literally the tiny sliver that Von Miller just happened to be standing in. I’ve taken hundreds of images of Von Miller over the years. This might just be my favorite. The light. The expression on his face. His stance. Those eyes. This image certainly isn’t one you can go into the game trying to get. It just presents itself to you and you have to be looking for it.
Till next time!