On my way back from somewhere really remote in France and all I have to say is that I’m happy that I will be going back to civilisation. Give me concrete jungle anytime over rolling hills and cow dungs. On a completely unrelated note, I just received an email from FIBA that my application for Euro Basket (the Euro of basketball) has been rejected. I have no idea why, but I’m sure FIBA has its excellent logical reasons. On the other hand, I received an email from the Evian Open telling me that they love me and can’t wait to see me next week. I also have never shot professional golf in my sport photographing life and it’s making me nervous.
You may have started your sports photography career with a specific sport, but more likely than not, you will eventually venture out to new ones. You’re not cheating, you’re just experimenting. I remember my first 2nd sport (or my 2nd sport) and it was rugby. Until this day, I have no idea how I managed to get my work done as I don’t know anything about rugby. I thought extra point after a try was 3 points. Had I prepared myself better before I shot the matches, I am sure I would have done a better job.
So, here’s to all the brave souls going for their 2nd sport (or 3rd or 4th or you get my drift, right?).
1. Know the rules
Obviously, something I should have done before I ventured off to Bordeaux 4 years ago. It takes absolutely no time to get on your computer and goto google, then do a search for “wiki (the name of your new sport)”, click on the wikipedia result and voila, you now have access to the rules on your new sport. You don’t need to know the Roman origin or records set by some old dude back in the 70’s, but you should take notes on the basic rules and regulations. In most cases it’s quite obvious (team with more points win), but not so crystal clear with others (offsides rule in football or balk in baseball). Just make sure you understand the basics as the knowledge will be the difference between being ready to shoot a hail mary shot in the end zone and missing it completely because you still thought it was the 3rd down with plenty of time left in the clock.
2. Other people’s photos (OPP)
Remember, without google you are nothing. Type the name of your new sport and get some image results. Voila, you’ve now got some images that might give you some ideas what you should be aiming for in your new sport. In most cases, you’ll need to narrow your search to get better results and even adding the word “photo” after the name of the sport will help narrow it down considerably. Another place to look for samples is your local bookstore. Not Amazon.com, but your brick and mortar store that looks like they haven’t seen a customer in 10 years. They usually will have photo books on sports and these might give you more ideas. Mind you that most of these books use photos taken before the 1980’s and it will be wise for you to use these only as part of your idea collection and not the whole. Finally, go back to google and type in the reason why freelance photographers are hanging themselves from the doorknobs en masse, ahem, I mean the names of major photo agencies such as and not limited to Getty Images, Reuters, AP, AFP, and other evil doers. They will have plenty of pictures at your disposal and they are usually free look at on the screen. Make sure you curse at them and maybe spit on them before moving on with your life.
3. Ask others
Please remind yourself that not everyone who will give you advice in your well-frequented sports photography blog, groups, and forums are experts. Please remind yourself not to take their words as the 11th commandment. Please do not think that their advices are all you need in order to become an instant expert at your new sport. If you really want to become a lazy believer, please ask them where you can see the samples of their work. Then tell me that I’m an idiot or I should consider a career in fortune telling.
4. Test it all
By now, you can recite the rules by heart and you can simulate your next shot like Kobe does with his game winners. But will it all come together on game day? Can you risk it? The answer should be a resounding “No”, but depending on a lot of things, you might have to forego practising. But if you have the time to test it, by all means go for it. By actually shooting the sport, you will find out problems you have not anticipated in your simulations. This is especially true with super tele shots. Because you might not be well equipped (that’s what she said) as agency supported professional sports photographers, the image you want to shoot cannot be done with the gear you have. Therefore, you either get closer with your feet or you abandon it all together and move onto your next shot. A decent amount of flexibility will come in handy, so don’t get hung up on a particular image that you had in mind before going on the shoot. Remember, this is only your first time shooting this new sport and you are highly unlikely to win a Pulitzer based on this shoot alone.
To put it into perspective, I know the rules of golf, I have seen golf photos shot by others, I have not asked golf photo experts for advice, and I have shot several amateur golf tournaments in the past. Oh, I haven’t fantasised about golf if that is what you wanted to know. But I’m still worried as this is my very first professional golf tournament. The good thing is that a decent amount of stress tend to keep me focused throughout the day, but conversely I am leaving a possibility of “Wow, that was dumb”. Being a perfectionist with a propensity to forget important things, I am absolutely certain that I will make a few mistakes next week. But I am absolutely certain that I won’t make them twice.
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