Matt: OPP, Other Photographers’ Pictures

You down with OPP? Yeah, you know me.

There was a time not too long ago when I knew nothing about sports photography. I had a bit of camera gear, the eye that I subconsciously developed watching my father shoot when I was a kid, and access to the odd sporting event that came through the SF Bay area. I would go and fill up my memory cards with standard action pictures, file to the news site I was shooting for at the time, upload a bunch to Flickr and move on. There wasn’t a lot of thought involved, and the idea that there were other photographers out there shooting the same events but getting prize-winning pictures was beyond my comprehension. Along the way, an acquaintance of mine got engaged to a former SI/daily newspaper shooter and then-current magazine photo editor who couldn’t help but mentor me a bit. He is an old film and paper guy, and one of his first pieces of advice to me was “subscribe to SI so you can see what the pros are doing.”

I of course took his advice and very closely followed the pictures every week. Later as I found more places to see gret sports photography, I added to my weekly viewing. Part of it is just being in awe. I find it incredibly motivating to look at pictures made by masters, and just be totally stumped by how they got the pictures. But there is practical wisdom to be gained while you are developing your own eye and putting together the experience and confidence to take the risks needed to achieve greatness. Things like shooting position, lens choice, timing, how the photographer dealt with tricky lighting, and many other factors can be reverse engineered if you spend the time. And the more you do it, the more these things will become ingrained in your technique.

I don’t want to put too heavy a discount on encouragement, but when someone on Flickr who knows even less about sports photography than you do tells you “great shot”, you should give yourself an ego check by studying some actual great shots. I guarantee you that you will get better if you do this and that you won’t if you don’t.

So where do you go to see great photography? I recommend a mix of whole game takes like those than can be found on AP and Getty and edited galleries like the ones on SI and ESPN, particularly the pictures of the week. The whole game takes will show you what one or a team of photographers did during an event, and the edited galleries will give you an idea as to what’s hot right now. I also recommend downloading the free Chrome browser from Google and installing the free Sports Illustrated Snapshot app which is updated each night with the best/most interesting pictures of the day. There are also sites like Boston.com’s The Big Picture which features sports sometimes, but is always a great place to see the very best photography.

I’m open to hearing more suggestions, and I’m going to build a link section in the sidebar with recommended sites. Where do you go for OPP?

Matt

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3 thoughts on “Matt: OPP, Other Photographers’ Pictures

  1. Rodeo is my first love so I am always drawn to these photographs. As a new photographer I am always looking for advice to improve my skills. The picture is great as always Matt. Please keep posting these types of articles about becoming a better photographer.

  2. I’m down with OPP! I think that Marc Aspland is totally awesome & well worth checking out. You might not be aware of him if you are in the States but he is the chief sports photographer for The Times in London The pictures on his site don’t change but you can see his work in the paper/on the web most days
    http://www.marcaspland.com/gallery.html
    If you don’t check anything else have a look at the 4th photo in the Fans gallery, hows that for spotting a picture? Genius.

  3. I spend several hours a week looking at photos from other photographers and media outlets. I believe that this, along with the feedback I get from participating in Training Ground, have been the biggest influences on any improvements to my own photos. I’m learning that if I want to take great photos, I first need to recognize great photos when I see them.

    Matt, I like the idea of adding a sidebar with links to places to view good photos. Please consider building in links to all of the great photographers who have been featured on the BLFS podcasts too. I have especially enjoyed and been inspired by the motorsports photos of Mark Rebilas since he was interviewed a few months ago. I am amazed by the dynamic and exciting shots Mark posts on his blog and Facebook and how he seems to come up with something new at each event. I also like that Mark posts lens and exposure info with his photos to give guys like me perspective into how it was shot. It would be nice to find his and all the other featured photographers links in one place so we can easily click into their latest work and learn from the masters.

    Thanks for another very informative post, Matt!

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