Ryu: Why being different is difficult

To my dear wonderful listeners:

First and most important of all: welcome to Big Lens Fast Shutter.  I hope Syd and I will be able to provide you with information that will make you want to start shooting sports and/or be interested in how the magic happens behind them gigantic glass.

Both of us will be posting weekly blog posts on this site, so come back and tell us how wonderful we are. :)

This week, I’d like to give my 2cents on the difficulty of being different in sports photography.

With more and more work going to mega agencies (bless them), a lot of sports photographers are cowering in fear of losing their jobs.  Some have already lost it and doing something else and some have had their work reduced to the point that they are considering taking up a second job as a French waiter.  In a nutshell, the picture out there is not rosy: It sucks to be working as a sports photographer at the moment.

Having said that, non-sports photography jobs out there are suffering from the same plight.  Which in turn should make you feel slightly better if you are considering becoming a professional short shorts hunter.  So what can you do to increase your chance of having a future wielding big lenses and having more male fans than female ones?  Simple: shoot different.  There are enough cookie cutter photographers out there.  This is not because they don’t have any skills, on the contrary some of them are … gulp, better than me.  The problem is that their client is asking for the same type of pictures out of them, day in and day out.  Why?  Because the end client, it be newspapers, magazines, websites, etc… is asking for the same lame pictures.  Why?  Because they think that if they use something different, they won’t be able to sell their products.  This obviously does apply to other things in life, but in essence people don’t like changes and are comfortable with status quo.  Hello music industry.

If you are lucky enough to get a job working as a staff photographer for a newspaper, you will be told to take lame pictures every single day of your existence there.  “Creativity is for artists, not for photographers.”  I have no idea if someone said that, but I won’t be surprised if an editor out there blurted that to one of their photographers.  That might be a good mantra to follow until they sack your mantra following ass.  Armed with your exceptionally standardised but easy to replace skill set, you are now faced with the stark reality of having to compete for jobs with photographers who are also exceptionally standard.

What are you going to do ? The answer is, what could you have done?  You could have used your free time to shoot something creative.  Something different.  You could have negotiated with your employer to retain rights or at the least have the right to use your “other” photos for your portfolio.  You could have gone to museums, read books, watched films, gone places where you would never go if you were content with becoming a cookie cutter sports photographer.

As more and more photographers are produced daily, there are finite number of jobs out there.  What I am trying to say here is that this is a survival skill, not an Apple slogan circa 1997.  After reading this, if you still have the balls/ovaries to become a sports photographer, your first thought should be, “Tomorrow, I’m going to shoot different and I’m going to shove this blog post into Ryu’s bleep’n bleep”.

That’s the spirit. :)


*Please Read Below*
Big Lens Fast Shutter is funded solely from the pockets of Ryu Voelkel and Matt Cohen. If you think the information we give you about sports photography is making you a better sports photographer and as a result a well balanced human being, please show us your appreciation by supporting us on Patreon and send some of your hard earned dollars/euros/Brixton pounds our way. People who donate will be mentioned on our next show unless you want to remain anonymous. Thank you for supporting us and may the force of sports photography be with you, always.

7 thoughts on “Ryu: Why being different is difficult

  1. Congratulations on the first podcast – it is good to see someone having a decent stab at this type of photography.

    A suggestion for topics of discussion –
    Tracking moving objects?
    White balance – particularly under artificial lighting.
    Marketing your images, and brand.
    Applying for media access as a freelance photographer.

  2. Simon,

    Thank you thank you thank you. We’re very proud of our little baby and hoping she’ll be running like crazy in no time. :)

    Thanks for the topics suggestions. We were thinking about doing Master Class in practicing how to track moving objects, so you might hear it in the next podcast. :)

    There will be two blog posts per week, so hopefully you’ll find interesting tid bits there as well as on the podcast.

    Let’s hope this becomes a great hub for sports photographers out there.


  3. Hi Simon

    A simple answer to your Media Pass for freelance’s topic. Most if not all national and international sporting events require the freelance photographer to be covering the event for an agency or publication of some kind. You will find it pretty hard otherwise to get accredited. The down side to that is trying to find an agency or publication to pay you to cover the event. If you are serious about becoming a sportshooter, sacrifices will have to be made, ie: shooting the event for free or on commission (Even then you’re not guaranteed cash for your hard work)…
    I have been shooting sport for 6 years and only now have I been able to make some kind of progress. I have invested a lot of money and time into this profession so I don’t intend on giving up too easily.

    1. Or lie and make up your own agency and make your own press card. I know people who have done this and successfully gone into sporting events. But that being the ultimately last (and obviously illegal) resort, I’d stick to what Simon said (not says, although I want to say “says”).

      Do contact your local journalist union and ask what you need in order apply for a press card. When I got mine, I had a chief editor of a Japanese newspaper write a recommendation letter. If you can get someone to write something like that, you’ll have a strong case for receiving a card.

      In any case, we will talk more about this in future episodes. As for earning money from sports photography, we’ll dedicate an entire podcast to it. So sit tight and yoru questions will be answered. I promise. :)

  4. Congrats for this blog/podcast.
    I look forward to reading your next articles.

    I’m sure this blog will give a lot of good advice for people interested in sports photography. When you see the quality of your work, you can not doubt it.

    1. Thanks. We’ve got lots of stuff planned over the coming episodes. Keep sending us your feedback.

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