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?
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