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Archive 2011 · What makes a great sports image?
  
 
Dan Rode
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · What makes a great sports image?


I know this is both broad and subjective but let me set some basic criteria. I'm speaking of images that stand on their own regardless of who the subject is or for what use the image was intended.

I realize also that there is no single right answer. The standard in my mind are the images that have graced the covers and pages of SI over the years. Some were studio shots, some were dramatic headshots, some were action, some where static game time shots. The thing they had in common was they were (almost) always excellent.

So, what makes a sports image great? What are the raw ingredients and how are they blended together to make something powerful and beautiful?

I have some thoughts of my own, but I'd really like to just listen and maybe learn something.



Oct 25, 2011 at 07:35 PM
Russ Isabella
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · What makes a great sports image?


I'll start this off with what for me is at or near the top of the criteria list: The image does not require an explanation! A great image speaks for itself. Period.


Oct 25, 2011 at 07:49 PM
tmalone893
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · What makes a great sports image?


I'll add to that it makes me feel as if I was there and expenienced/viewed it myself.


Oct 25, 2011 at 07:56 PM
Dan Rode
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · What makes a great sports image?


I agree in that the viewer doesn't need any explanation but I'm thinking about this from the perspective of the photographer and maybe even the art director or editor. With the very rare exception, great images are crafted by talented people and are not accidents.

Russ Isabella wrote:
I'll start this off with what for me is at or near the top of the criteria list: The image does not require an explanation! A great image speaks for itself. Period.




Oct 25, 2011 at 08:00 PM
Frank Lauri
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · What makes a great sports image?


For me....viewing the image will have the "WOW" factor and make me wish I pushed the shutter button.


Oct 25, 2011 at 08:42 PM
Russ Isabella
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · What makes a great sports image?


Dan Rode wrote:
I agree in that the viewer doesn't need any explanation but I'm thinking about this from the perspective of the photographer and maybe even the art director or editor. With the very rare exception, great images are crafted by talented people and are not accidents.


Dan: I'm not sure how this is intended to qualify your question. In order for you (or anyone) to see a photo that you characterize as 'great,' that photo has to be put before you. This means the photographer has to choose it to share, and when necessary, an editor or some other person in a position to make a decision also has to select this image to publish. So I'm thinking about this in terms of the qualities that make an image great (and thus lead multiple viewers to see the 'greatness.') Are you asking what's involved in making a great image? or what are the qualities of an image that many of us would think is great? I assumed the latter, and again will say that a great image requires no words.



Oct 25, 2011 at 09:24 PM
Dan Rode
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · What makes a great sports image?


My intention is to try to deconstruct what goes into making great sports images. In other words, I'm trying to better understand what the photographer was looking for, how he or she arranged the element in the frame, lighting, etc to make something that required no explanation.

For example, think of an image that gave you that WOW moment. Now, think about how the photographer created that image. If I (we) can understand what went into making an image amazing, and study enough images that are in that same class, maybe I can develop a better sense of how to make my images better. Train the mind to see and the hands might follow?



Oct 25, 2011 at 11:05 PM
cocodrillo
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · What makes a great sports image?


I'd say there are two things that are critical depending on the sort of image you are looking for -- i.e., news or sports info. In the first case, the image needs to capture the essence of the key moment, be it a score, victory/loss, crash, jubilation, etc. The second thing is what can make your image stand out from all the other pictures of that same moment -- the athlete's eyes. The eyes are the window to the soul, and if you stop and think about what is consistently there in most of the images that make you go 'wow', I'd bet that in the vast majority of cases there is either a direct gaze from the athlete into the lens, or something very expressive going on with the eyes. After all, the eyes are the windows to the soul. Sometimes the wow picture really comes down to just the eyes peering through a crush of bodies at the camera.

All of this assumes the necessary technical proficiencies, i.e., clean backgrounds, appropriate lens choice/crop, exposure, etc.



Oct 25, 2011 at 11:24 PM
Brad Barr
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · What makes a great sports image?


Its not that hard a question actually. For sports action, which is what you asked about...

The key elements that consistently are part of all great sports images are:
1. Face
2. Ball/puck etc etc
3. Peak Action
4. Emotion/Determination/Expression (which all comes from the face of course)
5. Tells the story. Truly great shots, find a way to communicate the "story" of the game all in one shot....thats the hard one tbh.



Oct 26, 2011 at 12:16 AM
rglens
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · What makes a great sports image?


Brad Barr wrote:
Its not that hard a question actually. For sports action, which is what you asked about...

The key elements that consistently are part of all great sports images are:
1. Face
2. Ball/puck etc etc
3. Peak Action
4. Emotion/Determination/Expression (which all comes from the face of course)
5. Tells the story. Truly great shots, find a way to communicate the "story" of the game all in one shot....thats the hard one tbh.


All fine for those sports that have faces, ball/puck, emotion/determination visible. There are sports where this is not present. There are a lot of different motor-sports type of sports.



Oct 26, 2011 at 12:22 AM
 

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Brad Barr
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · What makes a great sports image?


yep...but the same things typically apply, although somewhat condensed

peak action is peak action no matter the sport. Sometimes you get lucky and can see faces in the helmets...in the windshields...sometimes its not possible..That really wasnt the question however.....

I stand by what I wrote...in as much as it applies to whatever sport you might be photographing. If you cant get the faces you dont have the impact. Period. Motorsports photos often center around crashes of course. And peak action may mean peak impact/explosions/fire etc etc. imo, sports photography coverage as a whole; is much more personal in non motor sports....than what is typically shot in motorsports. And, as such much more powerful to the viewer. Certain crash shots being the exception.

Edited on Oct 26, 2011 at 12:33 AM · View previous versions



Oct 26, 2011 at 12:29 AM
BSimonseth
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · What makes a great sports image?


rglens wrote:
All fine for those sports that have faces, ball/puck, emotion/determination visible. There are sports where this is not present. There are a lot of different motor-sports type of sports.


Also alot of dust; clay and dirt flying around



Oct 26, 2011 at 12:30 AM
indyjones
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · What makes a great sports image?


Luck


Oct 26, 2011 at 12:44 AM
rglens
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · What makes a great sports image?


Brad Barr wrote:
yep...but the same things typically apply, although somewhat condensed

peak action is peak action no matter the sport. Sometimes you get lucky and can see faces in the helmets...in the windshields...sometimes its not possible..That really wasnt the question however.....

I stand by what I wrote...in as much as it applies to whatever sport you might be photographing. If you cant get the faces you dont have the impact. Period. Motorsports photos often center around crashes of course. And peak action may mean peak impact/explosions/fire etc etc. imo, sports photography coverage as a whole; is much more personal in non motor sports....than
...Show more

I would say that all depends on the target audience. I know folks that would look at the most awesome soccer/baseball/football photo and nod, say it's a nice shot and move on. Yet they see that photo of a car, motorcycle, drag car, drag boat, hydroplane, offshore powerboat...etc..not in a crash and the shot is a great one for the sport and they love it, buy it, put it on their wall.... Perspective. You love stick and ball sports, fantastic. But not everyone would agree that the non-crash motorsport image is not as compelling as any other sport shot.

Thus to say that your 5 elements are the key to a great sports image really depends on the sport. I think the definition of what a great sports shot is as varied as there are sports, eyes of the beholder, and the target audience (leaving out the technical aspects of the image such as focus and what not).



Oct 26, 2011 at 01:11 AM
dmwierz
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · What makes a great sports image?


indyjones wrote:
Luck


Weirdo.



Oct 26, 2011 at 01:19 AM
indyjones
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · What makes a great sports image?


dmwierz wrote:
Weirdo.


Dare I continue this diatribe fearing that your internet posse will bring forth doom upon me. So what's new, el Weirdo?



Oct 26, 2011 at 01:52 AM
cocodrillo
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · What makes a great sports image?


rglens wrote:
I would say that all depends on the target audience. I know folks that would look at the most awesome soccer/baseball/football photo and nod, say it's a nice shot and move on. Yet they see that photo of a car, motorcycle, drag car, drag boat, hydroplane, offshore powerboat...etc..not in a crash and the shot is a great one for the sport and they love it, buy it, put it on their wall.... Perspective. You love stick and ball sports, fantastic. But not everyone would agree that the non-crash motorsport image is not as compelling as any other sport shot.

Thus to
...Show more

I think I'm going to side with Brad on this one. Something about the face, and particularly the eyes, engages human a deeply set emotive response. I'd guess that you've got something similar going on with the motosport photos that people croon over. Not that I'm trying to anthropomorphize things like the grill and headlights, but the shot that grips someone touches something deep inside. In the motorsport case I'd guess that has something to with a vaguely aspirational sense of what the view thinks the sport is all about, be it speed, power, grace, control, chaos. Everyone has their own quirks about what makes a great photo, but if you were going to play the numbers game then you would really want to try and have a face and preferably eyes in the shot -- think of the visor in some of stunning motorbike photos posted here, or in an open-wheeled car. Bottom line, you're looking for an emotional reaction from the viewer, which means known thine audience.



Oct 26, 2011 at 01:53 AM
Dan Rode
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · What makes a great sports image?


Good point. I can recall not long ago pouring over a fantastic image of a motorcycle exiting a turn , still leaning as the front wheel lifted a couple inches above the pavement. I could almost feel the power and the feel myself shifting my weight on the bike

However, I'm not really a soccer fan. Mostly due to ignorance as I haven't seen many soccer matches. A couple days ago, I was discussing an image from a youth soccer game in India. Nothing could be further from my sports norm. Regardless, the image was fantastic. The photographer nailed it. 4 eyes, fair action and really good emotion on the players faces. It pulled me right in and I felt like I was there; like I had some connection with these kids thousands of miles away.

rglens wrote:
I would say that all depends on the target audience. I know folks that would look at the most awesome soccer/baseball/football photo and nod, say it's a nice shot and move on. Yet they see that photo of a car, motorcycle, drag car, drag boat, hydroplane, offshore powerboat...etc..not in a crash and the shot is a great one for the sport and they love it, buy it, put it on their wall.... Perspective. You love stick and ball sports, fantastic. But not everyone would agree that the non-crash motorsport image is not as compelling as any other sport shot.

Thus to
...Show more



Oct 26, 2011 at 02:58 AM
Brad Barr
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · What makes a great sports image?


I have shot some motorsports....and I do love it. But when you see one of those rare motorcycle racing images in which you can actually see the riders face and expression it simply raises it to another level....

trust me...i like em all. But the ones with more power have eyes in them.

Consider the shots that run in the major sports publications......faces rule.



Oct 26, 2011 at 03:37 AM
Fish On
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · What makes a great sports image?


What makes a great sports image? 2 words come to mind - Paul Alesse.

Take a look at the threads that Paul has posted sports pictures, whether it be football, soccer, baseball...etc.. and you'll get the idea.



Oct 26, 2011 at 11:31 PM
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