Ryu: Don’t be a fan

Before we start, I need to advertise myself.

Please checkout the June 2011 (latest) issue of Digital SLR Photography at your local dead tree stores.   Albeit not massive, I’m on it. :)

Just recently (like last week), I was in Barcelona shooting the Euroleague Final Four.  It’s supposed to be professional basketball, but played mostly by Europeans.  What they lack in physical ability and pizzazz (what a word) compared to their counterpart across the Atlantic, they make it up with one of the best atmosphere ever to be created by fans in a sporting event.  You have to see it to believe it.

Anyhow, I was there shooting mostly white dudes playing ball and sat next to several photographers who were obviously shooting exclusively the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team.  Sadly, they were more interested in how their team was performing rather than photographing what was going on the floor.  Suffice to say, I have a bigger than average problem with this.

It’s quite common to see amateur photographers at sporting events sitting next to professionals.  I for one think this is a great way of introducing amateurs who would like a chance to shoot professional athletes so to gauge if this is a profession they would consider getting themselves into.  But some people are not too happy with a notion that amateurs are allowed to shoot alongside professionals.

Case in point: Fat and lousy middle aged photographers v Scott Kelby, recounted by Thorpe G.

“Ok basically, there is a famous US photog named Scott Kelby.  You may or may not have heard of him, he does a lot of training and writes photography books.  This past summer he held a contest for amateur photogs to submit their best sports photo.  The winner would win the chance to work as an assistant to another pro sports photo on the sidelines of a big Division 1 college football game.  And get to shoot a little and learn for one amazing day.  Well, a winner was selected and as soon as it was announced a large group of pro sport photographers through a huge fight about it.  They ended up pressuring the division 1 school to revoke the contest winners field pass.  Their claim was that by having an amateur on the field, he would be in the way and it was too dangerous.  Which I think is a load of crap.  I visited the forums and website of this group (sportsshooter.com) and read the things they were saying.  It actually came down to many of them being very angry an amateur photog would get this opportunity without “earning” his way up to it. Even though he was just working one game! ”


Jealous and narrow minded photographers who only care about themselves.  Great.  I’m ashamed that I’m roped into the same profession as they are and it’s pitiful.  Honestly, I hope these people realise that they also were given a chance by their seniors when they could barely change their own adult diapers.

But I digress a bit.  The point is that young amateurs should be given all the chance to shoot alongside the pros IF they have the right intentions. Most of the amateurs at a professional sporting event are not honing their skills.  Rather they are busy shooting their favourite team/player because nothing good is on the tele.   That’s nice, but if Mr. Smith, a Liverpool fan who’s got the connect with the organisation and has been coming to Anfield for donkey’s years is there, why can’t an aspiring amateur sports photographer take his place instead?

Being a fan of a team or a player is fine.  I love basketball and would love a chance to shoot alongside my Mormon comrades in Salt Lake City.  By the way, I’m not Mormon, in case you were really wondering.  But when I’m shooting Blake Griffin posterising the opposition, all my nerves in my body are soldered onto my photography side of the brain and not the fan side of it.   I am fully aware that I am there to capture the moment and not there to clap and cheer.  That’s not what I’m paid to do.  Our first interviewee, Kenny Ramsay is a massive Man U fan, but I have never seen him show any of sign of Red Devil love when he was shooting  Man U matches.  We are there as sports photographers and not busy tweeting because it’s cool to be so close to the players whilst not paying anything to get the best seat in the house.

So, if you are considering sports photography as something you want to do professionally, my arms are wide open.  Even if you don’t want to do it professionally and you are passionate about sports photography, you’re my insta-friend.  Come on in, let’s break bread and take Koola-Aid shots.  But make sure you check your fan side of the brain at the gate, because if you can’t, you don’t deserve to be there.


*Please Read Below*
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9 thoughts on “Ryu: Don’t be a fan

  1. And you can practise this too – go and shoot a game your child is playing in and see if you can get more shots of other players than your child!

  2. This is a great read! I got my first opportunity to shoot D1 sports this fall and winter. I found almost everyone to be very friendly and helpful.

    I was pretty scared because I follow Scott Kelby and knew of the infamous contest.

    While I didn’t advertise myself as an aspiring amateur, it was probably obvious :-)

    Thanks for supporting those of us interested in the profession!

    Please contact me through email – I have an idea for you.

    1. Troy,

      Congratulations on your first D1 shoot. :)
      Our motto is that sports photography should be more accessible to amateurs IF he or she is really serious about it. Not too keen on it being an exclusive club.

      I’m really sorry about not getting back to you earlier regarding your idea, but I will get back to you soon on it.


  3. That’s too bad. I was actually thinking about joining that site in order to help myself along. I think I’ll stick with people like yourselves and Scott Kelby who are willing to share their advice and experience, not to mention their place on the sideline.
    My first experience with a pro was at a practice for the Washington Capitals hockey team. I bumped into the local beat photographer and saw that he was using the same gear as I was, so I asked him if he had a moment for a newbie. I asked about white balance and he proceeded to share some great information about this particular venue and its peculiar lighting. I thanked him and let him go on his way, very happy to have gotten a moment of his time. I wish I had gotten his name because he was that cool.
    Years later I attended a class that featured Bruce Bennett, a Getty professional hockey photographer. Yes I paid for the course, but it wasn’t some boring class. Bruce is a genuinely great guy who was happy to share his knowledge with a bunch of potential competition. OK, so that might be a bit generous, but he answered all questions and even reviewed some pictures from a game we shot during the day long class session. He even complimented a number of the shooters.
    I had the opportunity to shoot three AHL games this year, two home and one away for my favorite team. It is difficult, but if you focus on the game and catching the action, you can always cheer later.
    Great write up, as usual. Thanks for continuing to share your advice!

    1. John,

      You were very fortunate to have had great professionals who were happy to give you advices. Hoping that all pros will be as generous as the ones you’ve met.


  4. Glad to see you getting some use out of that email I sent you last winter Ryu. :-) Great points you’ve made here. I think many amateur photogs understand their role and are fully capable of acting professional while shooting their favorite teams. Its unfortunate some “professionals” cannot.

    1. Thorpe,

      I was thinking about a great example of petty sports photographers and your story came straight into my brain. I will have to take this time and place to “thank you” properly.

      Thanks. ;)


  5. Wow, this post really connected with me. I love shooting professional (major league) baseball, but I’m only an amateur. However, I shoot with a Nikon 300mm f/2.8 lens and I often sit in the front row right next to the photo well at the games. I take shooting the games very seriously and I literally just made contact with sportsshooter.com this past week to inquire about joining. Now after I read what you posted it makes me a little nervous. I’m fairly positive the photos I’ve produced are worthy of their recognition, but since I’m an amateur I’m worried about what reception I’ll receive.

    Since I do shoot a lot of games, I’ve often wondered what the paid pro photographers working the games have thought about me. I know some sports photographers get very defensive about shooting games, but so far I haven’t really had any direct “encounters” with them. Your post definitely adds a little concern to me though.

    Thank you so much for sharing your insights. This baseball season I’ve really been trying to take photographing baseball games seriously, so your information really means a lot to me.

    1. Ben,

      As a theory, as long as you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you. There are nice ones out there who will be happy to give you advices, but there will be ones who will be, you know, total dicks. You are there to shoot what you want to shoot and they should not have any say in what you are doing there. If they do come up to you and ask you why you are doing it, tell them it’s none of their business. :)


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