Tag Archives: sports photography

Thoughts on Successful Photography Businesses

I often get asked about secrets or insights to running successful photography businesses. I’m not sure there really are any secrets, so I’ve called this post thoughts on successful photography businesses.

cheer leading competition background

For the State Champs we’ll be back at the same venue as Winterfest

This week I had a reminder of 3 things that are important in running successful photography businesses. The reminders came about after I was asked to shoot the cheer leading and dance Victorian State Championships in 2 weeks time. I have written two posts earlier about my experience shooting a large cheer leading and dance competition. You can read about those here:


So what are those three thoughts on successful photography businesses?

Thought #1 – Happy Customers are Key

I apologize for the simplicity of thought #1! That said, it is worth repeating and digesting – happy customers are key. I do all I can to make sure my customers are happy as that will lead to referrals and other business opportunities. Most times it is easy to make customers happy. The real test is when things go wrong. In that case I’ll do everything possible to put it right, even if it means I lose money on that job.

Gymnast

The opportunity to shoot cheer leading came from doing a good job shooting gymnastics

In this case my ‘customer’ was the national sports photography business I was shooting for. I knew that they needed good, reliable photographers in Melbourne. Doing a good job at the first event I shot for them has lead to a follow up job.

Thought #2 – Repeat Business is Important

Happy customers leads to referrals and also to repeat business. Again, in this scenario, the national sports photography business have multiple events in multiple locations all year round. As it happens, the State Champs are being held at the very same venue as the event I shot with them a few months ago. This will make this job relatively straight forward and definitely low stress.

I know the people I’ll be working with, the venue we are shooting at, and the sport we are covering. That’s the beauty of repeat business. From the national sports photography business point of view, they know I’ll do a good job and will be reliable. Win win.

cheer leading

At the State Champs I’ll aim to take some phone shots which aren’t quite so blurry!

Do you have repeat business opportunities? Can you create some by following up with some of your happy customers?

Thought #3 – Relationships and Communication Drive Everything

Behind the national sports photography business are people. (Amazing insight isn’t it!) In this case I was able to connect with the owner of the business at the first event and strike up a good relationship. She lives in a different state, and since then all our communication has been via email. She is easy to deal with and a good communicator. I try to be the same in return. It is good for both of our businesses to work on relationships and communication. So, it’s more than just being a good photographer, it’s important to be a good partner. Relationships and communication facilitate that.

No genius insights this week – just reminders of good business practices. Thanks for reading thoughts on successful photography businesses.

 

More Win Win Win Photography Ideas

Earlier this year I wrote a post for Beyond Here called Win Win Win Photography Business Thinking. It came from a meeting with another photographer who had found ongoing photography work that benefited all parties. I continue to look for photography business ideas which have multiple winners. Today I share more win win win photography ideas.

medals and awards

Indoor sports with large participation numbers are ideal for win win win photography ideas

The Opportunity

I’ve shared in a number of posts that I am shooting more and more sports and in this field we are finding more win win win photography ideas. I have a small team of sports photographers and we are shooting a lot of junior sports. We see an opportunity to bring professional quality photography to grass roots sports and to provide players and families with action shots they haven’t had access to before.

In short, we’re aiming to shoot images which make the kid the star of the image, in the same way they have seen their adult sports stars in photographs. At the same time, we are making the images affordable for the athletes and their families.

What Sports Work Best

Some sports are more suitable for than others. Indoor, fast moving sports are particularly good. Why is that?

There are three reasons

  1. Lighting. Most indoor stadiums are not well lit so it is not easy to create strong images without the right equipment. For that reasons, these sports are not well covered at junior level and we are getting feedback that “we’ve never seen images like these”.
  2. Fast Action. Again, sports are not easy to photograph without the right equipment and experience shooting fast moving subjects (see a separate post on that here).
  3. Access. Often it is not practical to have spectators walking around the stadium taking photographs and so there are specific areas set aside for spectators. They are not allowed close to the action and have to sit in the grandstand. By organizing access to the competition area it’s possible to create action images which are not possible from the spectators area.

Medals and ribbons

What’s the Win Win Win?

Win #1. The Kids. By using appropriate equipment, shot by an experienced photographer we create high quality action images which kids haven’t seen of themselves before. It is literally bringing pro photography to junior sports. The kids get a thrill seeing themselves in action and are quick to share on social media.

Win #2. Parents and Families Value the Images. Parents and families love seeing images of their kids in action too. Keep in mind some are willing to pay for images and some are not. If you can find sports with large participation numbers you will have a greater chance of selling more images.

Win #3 . The Clubs or Sports Organizers. The new battlefield for sports clubs is social media. That’s the primary channel they are using to promote their club and to differentiate themselves from other clubs and other sports. Win number 3 is for the club, as we are able to provide images for them to use on social media.

trophy

Can you come up with more win win win photography ideas?

Let’s Talk About an Example

Last weekend we shot a gymnastics event which had 100 kids participating from 4 different clubs. In gymnastics, only the competitors and coaches have access to the event floor. By having 2 photographers on the floor as well we were able to shoot unique images which athletes and families have not had access to before.

We shot a large number of images and have posted the best ones in password protected galleries online for parents and families to purchase.

This is what I’m looking for – more win win win photography ideas.

Can you find similar opportunities? Can you generate more win win win photography ideas?

 

Tips for Shooting Indoor Action Sports

Over the last 2 weeks I’ve been shooting sports events in dark stadiums. First was a fast moving basketball game and second a gymnastics session. Both are fast moving and require you to freeze the action. Here are tips for shooting indoor action sports.

Gymnasium

Increase ISO to achieve fast shutter speeds

Tip 1. Increase ISO to Achieve Fast Shutter Speeds

The one thing you can’t get wrong when you are shooting indoor action sports is focus. To achieve this you are going to need fast shutter speeds. Given that most indoor facilities are not very well lit, tip number 1 is to be prepared to shoot at high ISO. The images in this post were shot at ISO2000 to ensure I had fast enough shutter speeds to freeze the action.

Tip 2. Look for Plain Backgrounds

The images in this post were shot at a local gymnastics club. It was difficult to shoot with a background which didn’t take the viewers attention away from the subject, as you’ll see in some of the images in this post.

Gymnastics

Look for plain backgrounds so all the attention is on your subject

Tip 2 is to look for opportunities to shoot with plain backgrounds. To make this image I went upstairs to a viewing area and shot down towards the gymnast. By doing this I was able to use the plain color of the gymnastics floor as my background, allowing the subject to really stand out in these images.

Gymnast vaulting

Capturing colors can add interest to your images

Tip 3. Make Use of the Color in Your Surroundings

While the background in a gym environment is potentially distracting, it is also very colorful. I made a point of making some images which accentuated the colorful and busy environment. Keep an eye on the colors around you to see if you can create different images.

Gymnasium

Look for moments without fast moving action

Tip 4. Look for Moments Without Fast Moving Action

Some of the strongest images from this shoot did not involve fast moving action. We were able to create some images showing the strength, flexibility and balance of gymnastics without action. Here is an example showing the gymnast stretching. Tip 4 is to look for moments without fast moving action.

I hope these tips for shooting indoor action sports are useful for you. To read about related issues please see these earlier posts

Thanks for reading tips for shooting indoor action sports. Happy shooting.

 

Photographing 4000 Athletes Over 3 Days

Last weekend I contributed to photographing the AASCF Winterfest event held at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Center. This is a cheer leading and dance event involving photographing 4000 athletes over 3 days. I posted about this job in Thoughts on Shooting for An Hourly Wage. Beforehand I hadn’t realized the scale of the event. There were 4000 athletes and 6000 spectators. This is how it worked.

AASCF staff access pass

Cheer and dance events are large scale. Winterfest involved photographing 4000 athletes over 3 days.

The Venue

MSAC was set up in 3 distinct arenas. One area acting as the cheer leading event hall. The second area (normally used for badminton) acting as the dance event hall. And the third area, which was normally used for basketball, was the warm up and presentation area. The stadium was looking very different to how I usually see it. Overall, it was well organised for photographing 4000 athletes over 3 days.

Photography and Videography

The Winterfest event is the first major competition in Victoria for the competitive season. There are a series of events to follow, including the State Championships in September, and the National Championships in November.

Teams are very keen to see video and photo coverage of their performance. They use them in training for upcoming events. Both photography and video are key to covering this event.

The Photography Set Up

Photography coverage was provided in the 2 event halls with photographers working in teams of two. One was shooting using a 24-70mm lens. This photographer was concentrating on shooting team images where all or most of the team were visible in the image. The other photographer was shooting using a 70-200mm lens. This photographer was concentrating on close up images of individual athletes.

Equipment

All photography equipment was provided by the national sports photography business I was shooting for. They are highly organised with each photographer having access to equipment and back ups.

As I started shooting each day I was provided with:

  • camera body and lens
  • back up camera body and lens
  • a bag of empty memory cards
  • a bag of fully charged batteries
  • separate bags to put full memory cards and used batteries
  • a pen and paper to record which teams and performances were on each memory card
  • a monopod
  • water
labelled bags

Photographers were provided with labelled bags for easy organisation

Managing High Image Volumes

A performance routine lasted 2 minutes and 30 seconds. For each performance both photographers will shoot 200-300 images. As a result, between the two photographers that means there were 400-600 images per performance.

At the end of each performance there was a break for 3 minutes and 30 seconds for the athletes to move off the stage, and the new athletes to enter. That means there were 10 performances per hour or 4000-6000 images shot per hour on each of the two event floors.

That’s a lot of images. To make this manageable, we were shooting small JPEG files. We began the day setting white balance in camera, and then shooting images at f3.2 and 1/800 second.

Essentially there is no post production. The sports photography company will select the best images from each performance and post those to the event folder online.

winterfest

Apologies for the blurry phone photo! This is the performance area for the Cheer Leading.

Comments

I found it fascinating how the national sports photography business managed photographing 4000 athletes over 3 days. What now? The event finished on Sunday evening. They are expecting to have all the photos and videos sorted, organised and posted online by the end of this week. Very impressive! If you are interested in learning more about cheer leading and dance, or checking out the images, please visit the AASCF website.

Thoughts on Shooting for an Hourly Wage

Next weekend I will be shooting a Cheer Leading and Dance Competition for a national sports photography business. This has come about after I photographed the Australian National Gymnastics Championships and, via a series of circumstances, was put in touch with the sports photography business. They saw my gymnastics images and asked me to shoot for them at the cheer leading and dance competition. For this ‘job’ I’ll be paid an hourly rate, while the sports photography business will do all client liaison and post production. That’s very different for me, and has lead me to consider my thoughts on shooting for an hourly wage.

Gymnastics

This opportunity has come after I photographed the Australian National Gymnastics Championships.

How’s the Event Photography Going to Work?

Cheer leading is a fast paced, action, team sport. The event will be held at a major indoor venue in Melbourne, Australia (Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre). I’m familiar with the venue as I’ve shot basketball there.

Each performance will be covered by two photographers positioned at different points inside the stadium. One will use a 24-70mm lens to ensure coverage of the team formations, while the other photographer will shoot close ups using a 70-200mm lens.

Who Provides the Gear?

The sports photography business provide all the equipment – including cameras, lenses and memory cards. It’s going to be strange for me to shoot an event using someone else’s gear! I’m glad that they are using Canon equipment as I’m a Canon user and will be familiar with the cameras and lenses.

So  what are my thoughts on shooting for an hourly wage?

Camera and lens

The sports photography company will provide all equipment.

The Pros of Shooting for an Hourly Wage

I can think of lots of pros for doing this job. In brief, the main pros I see are:

  • there’s no risk. I know exactly the financial return before I shoot the job.
  • my focus can be on creating strong images as there’s no client liaison to do. I enjoy getting to know my clients and to understand what they want. I also enjoy being able to focus on creating strong images. It is going to be refreshing to focus solely on creating strong images next weekend.
  • there’s no post production involved. I generally don’t mind post production work, but it is time consuming and often brain-numbing! I am really looking forward to being able to enjoy the event and hand over the images to the sports photography company to do the post production work.
  • payment will be prompt. The sports photography business pay photographers within 7 days. I have certainty about income, and payment will be prompt.
  • doing a good job will lead to more events. Like everyone, the sports photography company wants good people working for them. I know that a job well done will lead to more events in future.
Australian money

The sports photography business are taking all the risk. I have certainty about income, but won’t make a lot from this job.

The Cons of Shooting for an Hourly Wage

Everything has pros and cons, and I can see cons to this job too. They include:

  • I won’t make much money. While I’m expecting it to be straight forward, the hourly rate is not high. The sports photography company are taking the risk and will also reap the reward of a job well done.
  • I don’t make any extra for doing a great job. In my normal client work a great job will lead to more prints or albums. That will lead to extra income. In next weekend’s event income is fixed regardless of the standard of the images.
  • This work is irregular. This weekend is good timing for me. It’s mid winter and my wedding work is quiet. I know that if I do a good job there will be opportunity to photograph other events. I also know these events are irregular and generally on weekends. That’s not always going to suit.
Female gymnast doing floor routine

I will be focusing on creating strong images

Summary Thoughts on Shooting for an Hourly Wage

I’m looking forward to being able to just concentrate on creating strong images and let the sports photography business worry about everything else. I don’t think I could do this type of work all the time as I would miss the clients liaison and the financial upside of doing a great job.

That said, I can see the benefit of doing this work to supplement my usual income sources. I’m expecting it to be a lot of fun and a relatively low stress job. I’d like to shoot this type of event during the quieter times of the year.

So for now, I see it as a useful additional income to my business. I’ll be doing my best to shoot strong images so that the sports photography business ask me to shoot for them again.

Do you do shoots like this? What are your thoughts on shooting for an hourly wage?

5 More Lessons From Photographing Gymnastics

Coming hot on the heels of 5 Lessons from Photographing Gymnastics – here are 5 more lessons from photographing gymnastics. I learned these while shooting the Australian Gymnastics Championships in Melbourne, and hope you can use these in your own sports photography. So, what’s first in 5 more lessons from photographing gymnastics?

hand stand

Look to photograph specific skills on each apparatus

Lesson 6 – Look to Photograph ‘Skill Execution’

Gymnasts learn different skills at different levels of gymnastics. As an athlete progresses up the levels they can execute more difficult activities. Among the high speed action of gymnastics championships are specific skills. Look to shoot these skills as they are meaningful to gymnasts, coaches, and gymnastics fans.

Lesson 7 – Photograph the Details Outside of the Competitive Performance

In a gymnastics competition there are lot of opportunities to shoot elements of the event outside of the actual competitive performance.

This is where a photographer can shoot very unique content. All photographers will shoot the spectacular tumbling runs in the floor routine, but it is the unique details around the competition which will make your coverage of the event stand out.

Gymnastics bar routine

Gymnast preparing for her bar routine with chalk on her hands

There are opportunities to shoot content where:

  • the athlete is preparing to compete
  • you capture the emotion after a gymnast has completed the routine
  • there is interaction between gymnast and coach
  • there is interaction between gymnasts

Look out for these opportunities to shoot unique content. It is this detail that spectators can’t see from their seat in the grandstand.

Lesson 8 – Shoot Bursts at Fast Shutter Speeds to Freeze the Moment

Below is a unique image where I’ve managed to create the illusion of a headless gymnast! This was taken during the floor routine during one of the gymnasts tumbling runs. If you look carefully you’ll see that the gymnasts head is not visible except for a tiny part of her chin. This kind of image is unique as you can’t see this with the naked eye.

lay out flip

This image captures an illusion of a headless gymnast

Your best chance to achieve this type of shot is with high ISO, fast shutter speeds, and shooting in burst mode. When I looked at this image on the back of my camera during the event and was amazed to see the illusion of the headless gymnast. I thought that was very unique – but then managed to produce the same type of image with different gymnasts. And the more I studied their floor routines, the higher my chance of recreating this shot.

Pay attention to what the athletes are doing, and then shoot in burst mode at fast shutter speeds.

Lesson 9 – Use Different Backgrounds to Create Different Effects

The spectators sat on the sides of the main gymnastics floor which meant it was straightforward to shoot images with the crowd in the background. I like that style of image as the presence of the crowd helps define this event as the national championships not a local club event.

Gymnastics bars routine

The black curtains at the end of the gymnastics floor enabled me to shoot a different style of image

At the ends of the gymnastics floor were large black curtains to separate the warm up area from the main arena. I hadn’t expected to be able to isolate the gymnast against plain backgrounds like this. It was fun creating different styles of images against different backgrounds.

Lesson 9 of my 5 more lessons from photographing gymnastics is to use different backgrounds to create different images. Is this something you can use in your sports photography?

Lesson 10 – Use Different Angles to Isolate Action

This image was shot during the warm up phase with athletes and coaches behind the apparatus waiting for their turn. I shot a range of images where the other people were visible in the image – it documented the event as it happened.

beam routine

Getting a low angle enables me to isolate the gymnast against the background during warm up

I then experimented with different angles and lenses to create different styles of images. I like this low angle perspective. We have no distracting people in the background. What are we left with? An athlete doing her warm up, isolated against a plain black background. What the spectators saw from the stands was a lot of activity on the floor. What I saw in this image was like the athletes perspective – oblivious to all the activity around them and focused on their own performance.

Experiment with angles to create different images.

Thanks for reading 5 more lessons from photographing gymnastics. I hope you can apply them to your own sports photography. If you’d like to learn more about gymnastics check out the Gymnastics Australia website.

5 Lessons From Photographing Gymnastics

I recently had the opportunity to photograph the Australian Gymnastics Championships at Hisense Arena in Melbourne. I have shot a lot of basketball and netball over the last 5 years, but the chance to photograph gymnastics was something new. It is refreshing to shoot something new, like I posted about in Fresh Perspectives on My Hometown. Before the championships I studied gymnastics photos, and then had a great time at the event. I learned a lot about gymnastics photography too. I have 10 lessons which I will share over two posts. So first, here are 5 lessons from photographing gymnastics.

Gymnast doing split leap

Gymnasts combination of athleticism, flexibility and strength produces images not seen in other sports

Lesson 1 – Gymnasts Athleticism, Flexibility and Strength leads to Unique Images

As this was the Australian national championships the standard was very high. The athletes have typically spent 10 years or more training to achieve this level. That means they are great athletes able to execute difficult gymnastics skills. I’m not sure why that surprised me (!) but the gymnasts had a tremendous combination of strength, flexibility and balance. That lead to a range of unique images which aren’t present in other sports. You’ll see examples in the images on this post.

Lesson 2 – Lighting can be Challenging

Like in any indoor sport relying on artificial light, the level of lighting can be problematic for a photographer. I was fortunate that this venue is a world class venue with good lighting. That said, because the action was fast moving, I was still shooting with ISO between 1000 and 2000 to keep shutter speeds at 1/1600s or faster.

Lesson 3 – Warm Up Provides Additional Photo Opportunities

I was fortunate to be guided by one of the athlete’s families about gymnastics images. These athletes have typically competed in a range of state and national championships most of which have photographers covering the event. Those photographers typically focus on the actual competition.

Gymnastics beam routine

This warm up session on the beam provided a unique opportunity to shoot against a black background

Lesson 3 from my 5 lessons from photographing gymnastics was not to overlook the warm up. It is a key part of the event for gymnasts and is rarely covered by photographers. Look for opportunities to shoot the warm up as well as the competition.

Lesson 4 – Prepare your Equipment for Fast Moving Action

Lesson 4 is obvious to gymnastics experts! The action is very fast moving. I have shot a lot of basketball in poorly lit stadiums, but I hadn’t appreciated that the action in gymnastics would be much faster than a typical basketball game. While a basketball game might have fast and slow elements to the game, there really aren’t any slower tempo parts to gymnastics. There is plenty of time preparing, but once the athlete is going it is very quick.

To freeze that action you need equipment which will let you focus quickly and shoot at fast shutter speeds. I mainly shot at f2.8 to keep shutter speeds above 1/1600s. Prepare your equipment with the fast speed in mind.

Lesson 5 – Floor Routine is Where Gymnasts Really Express Their Individuality

I was covering the women’s artistic gymnastics competition. That involves 4 different apparatus – the vault, uneven bars, beam, and floor routine. Within all of those, a gymnast has the opportunity to both execute the skills and express their personality. That said, it is the floor routine where they have the greatest opportunity to express themselves.

Gymnast floor routine

The gymnasts can really express their personality in the floor routine

How does this impact images you’ll shoot? Extensive planning has gone into all elements of the floor routine, so gymnasts are just as interested in the expressive poses as they are in the spectacular leaps. Don’t overlook these moments to capture images which are unique to that gymnast.

Thanks for reading 5 lessons from photographing gymnastics. I’ll follow up with 5 more tips in a separate post. Just before I wrap up this post, if you are a photographer in Australia look out for the national championships dates and venue on the Gymnastics Australia website. It was an excellent event which I would recommend to other photographers. Thanks again for reading 5 lessons from photographing gymnastics. Happy shooting!