Ryu: Shooting amateurs professionally

Hello there. At the airport wondering why people havoing such difficult time with our current You Win: Emotions in sports. It is beyond me that why some of you are so locked in on the action and cannot figure out that the most important thing in sports is the reaction to winning and losing. But that’s for another time, because thinking about it gets me too riled up and I’d rather stay calm. Doctor’s orders.

What I want to discuss today is the difference in shooting amateur and pro sports. I belong to a football team in Berlin and I had the opportunity to shoot my team. At first, I wasn’t too excited to shoot my teammates. Not because I have an aversion towards my own team, but I have an aversion for shooting amateurs. Unlike my Jewish partner, I grew up shooting pro sports. My first sports shoot was pro football in Japan. Big games and big tournaments followed and not an amateur in sight. Poor me.

Could I have gone out of my way to shoot amateurs? Sure. But, shooting amateur athletes in Europe makes me 0 Euros. I had a taste of it in DR shooting Dominican baseball players, but most of it was shot in a professional environment, academies run by MLB teams.

So why amateur now? Since so many of you don’t have access (ie press pass) to shoot pro sports, I’d be doing you disservice if I am not experienced at what you are experiencing. I also was in a bit of a funk after the England v Poland match I shot where I felt my shots were awful. Like terrible. I needed to avenge my poor performance and what better to try something new?

1. Access
I mean, WTF? You can go EVERYWHERE. Changing room, on the pitch, and I can even drink their water bottles.  I’m stunned for those who are shooting sports at this level that you aren’t getting more intimate shots. Some of these athletes are your friends or family members. Get them to react to your presence. Let yourself be the stimulus. And also, get in their grill. Make them uncomfortable. Hell, you are the photographer, you do what you want.

2. Unpredictable
At a higher level, things go according to how things should go. Player A passed the ball to Player B unchallenged. 10 out of 10 times the ball gets to the intended position. But at this level unpredictability rules. Expect the unexpected. In a way, it’s more difficult to shoot amateurs because you have to be ready for everything. Make sure you are on your toes and try to be conservative when predicting the next play.

3. The Ace
Since this is not the Bundesliga or the Prem, inaccuracy is rife. Trapping, passing, dribbling, and shooting. Everything is off. Therefore the player will not hold the ball long enough for you to get a good action shot. Lots of lost balls peppered with lots of headers in the air. Therefore if you want good action shots, follow the ace. In my case, our ace can hold the ball longer than the others (“others” include myself of course), allowing me to get the shots I wanted. But obviously you can’t shoot him all day long and you’ll need to shift your focus to the other players because the last thing you want is tons of picture of your ace and meagre harvest of the others.

4. Experiment
This is your chance to do whatever you want. You want to be right next to the goal, at the feet of the players? You want to be so close that you can hear them breathe? You want to go on the pitch when they celebrate the goal and maybe join them? Okay, the last one is a tad too much, but the others are totally plausible. As long as you are not in their way, get as close to the action. Use a flash. Place cameras in weird places. Shoot the players whilst running. The imagination and refs patience is the only limit. Go crazy.

5. Portfolio
If you are starting out in sports photography, shooting amateurs is the best way to showcase your skill. Besides the blatantly obvious segue into Critical Breakdown, shooting amateur sports will be the key for you to get shots unimaginable in pro sports. Only thing impressive about having images of Lebron, Peyton, Cristiano, or Tiger’s waitress girlfriends is IF the image is interesting. Contrary to popular belief, just having images of superstars isn’t enough to impress your potential employer. But an image of the locker room with kids cowering in fear as the coach gives them the hairdryer? Priceless.

The most difficult thing for me was to detach myself emotionally from the game. Not easy when your teammates are busting their balls out there. But if you want to shoot sports, you have to cut all ties with what’s happening on the pitch and concentrate on getting great shots. Because that’s what a sports photographer should do.

Along the same line, I am now thinking whether I can shoot a match with bare minimum non-pro equipment instead of my usual D4 and the funky bunch. But that will have to wait until my next slump.  :)


*Please Read Below*
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