Upload & Sell: Off
Been wanting to do this post for a little while now since i joined you guys a few months ago. I wish to share my experience as a sports shooter mostly with all of you out there just starting out or thinking about getting started as a sports shooter maybe looking to buy more equipment to do so or trying to get your first paying gig. A text that will most probably not be of interest to the pros but any additional input of you guys will certainly be appreciated.
I'll spare you my photography background but suffice it to say i only went digital 3 1/2 years ago and got my equipment with the goal of following my 14 y.o. son in his sport, Football. So i got a D3s right from the get go knowing 70% of the games were to be played at night. Like many i suppose i learned from trial and error, reading tutorials, asking questions to the pros and so on. After the 1st season i had learned a lot namely that it was always better to shoot in raw format in order to make better pictures once in post processing. Then i learned one had to know his sport to be any good at it and be able to predict the plays. No problem i had followed my son at football for years.
So after the first year of this and after posting some of my work on a few local photo forums such as this one, i started to get noticed and one day i received a private message from this guy who needed to hire sports shooters for many sporting events, mostly soccer. I was so flattered i called him back right away, the guy explained in details that he was mostly a lab guy, he had owned several film and paper labs back in the day but went digital about 6 years earlier and being a big soccer fan he started doing sports shooting but his business was now expanding and he needed help He also told me a full day of sports shooting would bring me anywhere between 300 and 350$ sometimes more. Wow ! Me getting paid to do something i love, it was too good to be true i accepted on the spot. Sure enough he called me 2 weeks after that and told me where to meet him and that he would brief me on the field before starting. Man i was so happy finally after a year of shooting just for fun and investing a lot of time and money i was finally going to get rewarded for all my efforts. Would be easy money i thought to myself.
So as agreed i got on the field way ahead of time, i remember i had an hour drive just to get there. So the guy came to meet me, he handed me 5 envelopes with 5 cheap 4 gb CF cards. There was also a schedule for each game i had to cover and a list of instructions for each game. As i was trying to make sense of all that was written on the pieces of paper he started explaining what he wanted.
And then the fun began;
He said he had 5 other photographers scattered on different fields across town in order to cover the whole tournament. He explained he was going to pick up the cards every hour, run to the lab print the shots and get back to the field where he had people assigned to the sales of the pictures. Hmm that doesn't leave you much time to post process the shots i replied. he smiled and said: "Oh i don't do any post processing you have to crop and expose perfectly i just feed the cards in the machine and print them". Ok i said, as blood was slowly starting to get to my head.
So you have to shoot in JPG small, don't worry everything is printed in 6x9 in.
so you have to take 45 shots of each game, try to have every player twice with the ball and take a few team shots for every team. Each team has 11 players, each half time lasts 25 minutes so you have 50 minutes to make your 45 shots but you need to finish 5 minutes ahead of time, in order to find the next teams and take the group shots. (at this point my legs were starting to feel numb, i was trying to do the numbers in my head and i always came up with less than a minute per player to make 2 shots of him WITH THE BALL). Anything else i dared to ask ? Oh yeah don't use the motor drive just use single frames, you won't have time to sort and delete the rejects anyway, and no auto iso please everything has to be around the same iso, it's better for the machine. And oh yeah it would be nice if you could file your shots in different folders sorted by teams. At this point i couldn't feel my legs anymore below the knees...
So i started shooting still flabbergasted with all the parameters i had to remember. After 5 minutes i couldn't remember which player i had shot, since they had no numbers in front of their jerseys and couldn't see squat on my rear screen in full sunlight. I was getting more and more stressed. But i managed to get most players but not all and realized i had like 2 minutes to make the group shots of the next team. They were each at the opposite ends of the field, so i ran to meet the first team and i will always remember the coaches reply; " no time for that maybe after the game" Are you shitting me ? i spontaneously said. I don't have time for that i'll be running for the next teams at the end of the game, besides i do the shots for the parents not for you friend. He mumbled something and gathered his team and i took the shot as quickly as i could. But then the ref whistled and the game was about to start. Didn't have time for the 2nd team. And it was like that for the whole day, always a coach not wanting to let me do my job, for no good reasons might i add.
As a first assignment i had only 5 games to cover, and my salary was to be determined according to my performance. Since i was already short on the shots i was thinking i was going to work my butt off for almost nothing.
When the boss came for the first pick up i told him how my day was going so far, man he laughed so hard everybody on the sidelines were looking at us.
So i managed to finish all the games, with both a headache and a backache. The boss paid me the day after the end of the 3 day tournament and gave me 180$ out of the 200$ possible. Wasn't so bad i figured for a 1st assignment, minus gas and lunch money i had about 150$ left for 5 hours work.
He said he was overall happy with my shots but i had to be careful to take all the team shots (where the money is for him) and not to take the same player 4 or 5 times like i did,(really me i did that ?)
On the other hand i also work for another guy who hires photographers to do soccer portraits. It is a completely different workflow when working for him. He follows a dozen team from the same association and takes care of all the action shots during the season, and only hires help during 2 or 3 tournaments where the portraits are done. All the photographers line up on a line and install their working station and there is always a few assistants to help us with the positioning of the kids, directing the teams in the proper line behind the assigned photographers and such related tasks. The only thing the boss insists on is that every photographer work with a studio lights and bring enough battery power to last 5 hours or 300 to 400 hundred shots.
It is less stressful but it is still quite demanding because more things can go wrong technically and since everybody doesn't have the same equipment you can only rely on yourself if something goes wrong. I had a Pocket Wizard failure once (brand new unit) but i had taken the precaution of leaving my old Chinese triggers in my bag and it saved my life when it happened. You also have to bring some sort of clear plastic bags to cover your equipment if it starts raining. I always cover my flash head even if it's sunny just in case. It is not worth ruining a flash head over a few hundred bucks.
So all of this being said, i have to say yes it is possible to make a decent living being a sports shooter especially if you make it big someday and get a job with Sports illustrated. But most likely like the majority of us you'll have a few regular gigs and a lot of occasional/freelance ones. But mostly you have to be willing to work very, very hard.
The only useful advice i can give you are the basics for any sport shooters;
1-) Know your equipment
2-) Perfect both your RAW and JPG workflows
3-) Be mentally and physically ready when you get to your assignment
4-) Be prepared to deal with the human factor; parents,boss, co workers.
5-) Be prepared to deal with all sorts of weather conditions both for your health/comfort and your equipment (sun screen/bug repellent/camera and lens sleeves etc)
6-) Bring all you need to sustain yourself; food and water
7-) If you can, have a back up of everything
8-) Plan your route ahead of time to get to your assignment, check for planned road works, weather conditions liable to make you late on the job
9-) Deal your working conditions; salary, copyrights etc ahead of time
10-) Always have personal business cards with you on every assignments, never know who you're going to meet
11-) Make a check list of all you need and use it the day before the shoot.
12-) Expect the unexpected
Hope this might be helpful to some of you out there. Remember the most important part is to have fun while doing it even when the going gets tough sometimes.
Edited on Sep 16, 2013 at 01:37 PM · View previous versions