Preparing to Shoot Gymnastics

This week the Australian Gymnastics Championships start here in Melbourne, Australia. This is the national champs and is the highlight of the Australian gymnastics year. I’m shooting a big football job tomorrow, and at the same time am preparing to shoot gymnastics. Here’s a run down of the gear which will be in the bag from Monday.

Gymnast on Pommel horse
Gymnastics action is fast so we need gear that can keep up

Gear Considerations

I’ll be carrying all my equipment for this event, so gear selection is a balance between taking everything (!) and being able to carry it. One thing which is non negotiable is having backups in case of a gear failure. There will be a minimum of 2 DSLRs and 2 lenses in the bag. Unfortunately I won’t know the access my media accreditation gives me until I get to the event. This makes planning tricky. Last year I had full access to the gym floor, meaning close access to the athletes. I hope that is the case this year!


Lens Choices

My go to, and most used, lens is the 70-200mm f2.8. It will definitely be in the bag and will likely to be the lens which gets the most use.

Canon 70-200mm lens on dslr with red background
The 70-200mm lens will definitely be in the bag

I will likely only take one other lens to minimize the weight of my bag. That will be the 24-70mm f2.8.

Shoot Planning

Shoot planning is a key part of preparing to shoot gymnastics. At this stage I’m planning for access to the floor area like last year. I’ve studied my images from the previous national champs, planning for some I want to repeat, and some which I want to improve. This year I’m planning to shoot plenty of fast shutter speed “action freezing” images, more multiple exposures, and also to experiment with slower shutter speeds.

Minimal Weight

My key driver in preparing to shoot gymnastics is having enough equipment to get the job done, but also to minimize weight. The event runs every day for 2 weeks (though I’m not planning to attend it all) and so minimizing weight becomes even more important. The bag will have 2 lenses, 2 DSLRs, plenty of memory cards, back up batteries, battery chargers (to use between sessions), a cloth to clean lenses, food and a bottle of water. Thanks for reading – preparing to shoot gymnastics. Here’s to a great 2 weeks!

Gymnast in mid air above the beam
I’m looking forward to the spectacular action of the gymnasts

For more on photographing gymnastics please see Thoughts from Photographing a Major Gymnastics Competition.

Choose Your Photography Jobs Carefully

When you are starting out in a photography business it is exciting to pick up new clients and new jobs. In time, you learn that it is important to choose your photography jobs carefully. Some jobs are definitely better than others, and some clients are better than others. I’ve had a reminder of this in the last 4 weeks.

What’s Prompted the Reminder?

I’ve had a busy start to this year. I like being busy and shooting a lot, so this is the best ‘problem’ my photography business can have.

In the last 4 weeks I have shot a series of sports events (not related to the images in this post) and a wedding. The wedding was at short notice as the photographer was unwell. I took a risk by taking on a client I didn’t know very well. As it happens they are a lovely couple and had a beautiful outdoor wedding in a local park. The entire experience was enjoyable.

My sports photography work was shooting for another photographer to cover several events in different locations. The work is varied, challenging and enjoyable. The problem is that payment has been slow. I have done a series of jobs over February, March and April. Payment has been made on one invoice, but remains outstanding on the others.

What is the Lesson?

This experience has been a good reminder to choose your photography jobs carefully. A job which does not pay is not really a job at all. And a job which pays slowly can mean I spend more time following up payment than I did creating images! That’s a scary thought.

How to Choose Your Photography Jobs Carefully

This depends on exactly the type of work you do but I suggest:

  • Be sure the client’s expectations are aligned with your photography skills and experience
  • Agree and confirm the time commitments to create and deliver the images
  • Make clear the price which will apply and the time frame expected for payment
  • Be prompt in your invoicing and reconfirm the expected payment date
  • Where possible, collect payment in advance
  • Follow up to ensure payment is made

What’s Going to Happen with My Payment?

The business and people I am dealing with are reasonably well known. I am confident that I will get payment, but am not sure exactly when. It’s certainly not going to be in the time frames I expected. This has been a healthy reminder to choose your photography jobs carefully. I’ll be continuing to follow up until payments are made.

5 Tips for Photographing Basketball

I photograph a lot of basketball. Over the last 5 years this has mainly been kids basketball, and in the last 12 months much more senior basketball. Basketball can be tricky to shoot – it’s fast moving, players movements are unpredictable, and often it is in dark stadiums. Here are 5 tips for photographing basketball.

Tip #1 – Use Fast Shutter Speeds to Freeze Action

Basketball is a fast moving sport. In the junior age groups there is lots of running and dribbling. As the players get older there is more passing and shooting. Whether you are shooting juniors or seniors you’ll need to shoot at 1/1000s as a minimum to freeze the action and have sharp images.

Use fast shutter speeds to freeze the action. This shot is 1/2500s.

Tip #2 – Shoot Close Ups AND more Distant Images

The first image in this post shows a close up of the player as she drives to the basket with a defender right in her face. These make interesting images as they show what spectators can’t see in a fast moving game. Shoot plenty of close up, and don’t forget to shoot images which show more of the game, the court, the spectators and the scoreboard. Look to shoot a variety of images which show all aspects of the game, not just player close ups.

Shoot a wide variety of images at different focal lengths

Tip #3 – Look for People Interacting

Action makes great images, and interaction between people makes great images. Look for interaction between team mates, between one team and the other, between coach and players, and particularly between referees and coaches. Tip number 3, look for people interacting.

It’s very common for the referee and coach to have a discussion. Look for that interaction to create strong images.

Tip #4 – The Bench is a Great Source of Images

You may not always think to look to the bench, but ironically this is where you’ll find a lot of players. And where you find players you find interaction, communication and emotion. Take time to shoot the emotions you find on the bench.

Take time to shoot images of the bench. Here you’ll find a lot of interaction, communication and emotion.

Tip #5 – Shoot Close Up Details

My final tip is to shoot what a spectator can’t see from the stands – the close up details. It might be a player lacing up their shoes, the facial expressions in a timeout, or the moment before a free throw is attempted. Zoom in to see what a spectator can’t see – shoot the close up details.

Thanks for reading 5 tips for photographing basketball. Happy shooting.

Thoughts from Photographing A Major Gymnastics Competition

Last week I was photographing a major gymnastics competition, the Gymnastics World Cup competition held in Melbourne, Australia. I’ve shot a fair amount of gymnastics in the last year – from recreational gymnasts through to some of the world’s best. Here are 5 thoughts from photographing a major gymnastics competition.

Thought #1 – Subject Matter Matters

Photographing a World Cup event is very different than shooting recreational gymnasts at the local club. The strength, flexibility, and balance of the top gymnasts is quite amazing and leads to unique images that can’t be produced with less capable athletes. So, thought number one from photographing a major gymnastics competition is that subject matter matters. If you want to shoot really unique images, it helps to start with subjects who can do unique things.

Gymnast doing back flip on beam
To produce unique images it helps to start with subjects who can do unique things

Thought #2 – Be Different

In the women’s beam competition there were 9 photographers located to the right and back of the image above. They were literally on top of each other shooting the same subject from the same angle (I took a photo of them to amuse myself). While there is an argument that there is a “best position” to photograph each apparatus, be brave enough to be different. I stood on the opposite side of the floor. It meant I didn’t have a great shot of the women’s beam competition, but I was the only photographer shooting the men’s vault. Vault is difficult to shoot so many photographers decided not to. I like the opportunity to shoot unique images. Be brave. Be different.

Men's vault competition. Gymnastics.
I know the images I shot of the men’s vault competition are unique as I was shooting all alone. All the other photographers were together shooting women’s beam

Thought #3 – Look for Bold Colors

Gymnasts wear unique clothing for their competitions. They range from simple all black or all white, through to multi colored and patterned designs. Looks for bold colors to help create strong images. Particularly look for reds and blues. Bold colors will help your images stand out.

Male gymnast doing rings
Bold colors (especially reds and blues) will help your images stand out

Thought #4 Shoot a Range of Apparatus

At some gymnastics events there are multiple apparatus going at one time. In that case you have to choose which one to shoot, or get lucky and find a position where you can shoot multiple apparatus from one location. At this event, there were only 2 apparatus operating at one time. That made it easy to make sure you created variety in your images by shooting different activity. It reminded me to shoot a range of apparatus so your images don’t all look the same. That’s thought number 4 from photographing a major gymnastics competition.

If you stay on one location your images will look similar. Move to different locations and shoot different apparatus

Thought #5 Interesting Images Aren’t Only of Competitors

At a big sporting event there are lots of people and lots of activity. There are many compelling images waiting to be made from people other than competitors. Keep an eye out for judges, coaches, spectators, and other people involved in the event but not directly competing. Shooting these images well will guarantee you produce unique content.

Keep an eye on judges, coaches, spectators and other people to produce unique images

If you’d like more tips on shooting gymnastics please see:

Thanks for reading Thoughts From Photographing a Major Gymnastics Competition.

5 More Things to Like About Zenfolio

Earlier this month I wrote a post about the positive things I’ve experienced since moving my website to Zenfolio. This solution delivers full transaction capability through my website. If you wish to read that post it is here – 5 Best Things About My Zenfolio Website Solution. Since then several readers have contacted me with questions. While there are some things I don’t like about Zenfolio, the majority work well for me. So here are 5 more things to like about Zenfolio.

1. Excellent Sales Reporting

In rough numbers three quarters of my sales so far have been digital images, and one quarter has been print products. The reporting provided by Zenfolio is excellent and updates immediately a sale occurs. In addition, I am notified by email when (a) a new customer registers (b) a customer makes a purchase and (c) when the customer downloads their images. As a result of the excellent reporting it is very easy to calculate the profitability for each event. Good job Zenfolio! (For frustrated iStock contributors, Zenfolio is light years ahead of iStock in delivering timely reporting which helps photographers run their business).

Zenfolio’s transaction capability is helping me sell a high volume of sports images

2. Timely Funds Transfer via Paypal

My customers pay for their purchases with credit card or paypal and Zenfolio tracks the balance in my account. When I wish to withdraw funds this is done by paypal. To date, the transfer has been very timely – as quickly as the next day and as slow as 3 days. I am impressed with how quickly the transfer occurs and appreciate that I can request a transfer at any time.

3. Support from Zenfolio

There have been several instances when I have had questions about Zenfolio. I have found there is a very comprehensive only database which has nearly always answered my question. Outside of that, there is both web chat and email support. In all cases the responses times have been good, and generally the quality of support has been good. I appreciate that which is why it makes the list of 5 more things to like about Zenfolio.

While not everything has been perfect, there are plenty of reasons to smile using the Zenfolio solution

4. Adding Custom Watermarks is Easy

I display images with a large watermark across the centre (the watermark is removed when a customer purchases). Setting up and adding the watermark is straightforward, and can be done with one action to apply to the entire gallery. This is great as I don’t need to remember to do it for each image, I just do it once for the gallery. Nice.

5. Zenfolio Look After the Financial Transaction

By this I mean that the Zenfolio solution comes with the transaction functionality to accept credit card or paypal. In one of my other businesses I found setting up the transaction capability with the bank to be a slow and drawn out process. I like that Zenfolio look after this.

So there are 5 more things to like about Zenfolio. There are other solutions available, but I suggest checking out whether Zenfolio will meet your needs.

5 Best Things About My Zenfolio Website Solution

When I began my photography business in 2008 I set up a simple website to display my images and advertise my services. Apart from changing the images from time to time, I had not got around to updating my website until recently. 6 months ago I made the switch and am now using Zenfolio as my website solution. (To check it out head over to Craig Dingle Photography). I like many of the features which Zenfolio provides. Here are the 5 best things about my Zenfolio website solution.

1. Simple Templates

I’m not an expert on the technical side of websites, so I need a solution which keeps things easy. Zenfolio is in the business of providing websites for photographers and they have really kept things simple. There are a series of templates to choose from. From there it is just a matter of adding your images and you have a professional looking website. This is the first of the 5 best things about my Zenfolio website solution.

If you are not sure, Zenfolio offers a 14 day free trial. Check it out and experiment with the templates to see if they meet your needs.

junior basketball
The Zenfolio solution has made it easy to sell high volume digital images directly from my website

2. Password Protected Galleries

I shoot a lot of junior sports so it is important to me to have password protected galleries. Zenfolio makes this straight forward with simple settings for each gallery. I set up the gallery, add my watermark, make the settings private, add a password, and upload the files. It is a very easy and effective system for password protected galleries and takes just a few minutes.

3. Selling Images Online is Simple

While I have listed this as point 3 in the 5 best things about my Zenfolio website solution – it is the one which makes all the difference. Regular readers of Beyond Here will know that my background is in stock photography. Based on that experience I know the power of selling and distributing images digitally. Zenfolio has given me the ability to sell directly from my own website in much the same way that stock photography sites do.

(For more information about stock photography please see Starting in Stock Photography).

female gymnast
I’m glad I made the leap to Zenfolio. It’s made a huge difference in digital sales of my sports images.

4. Partner Providers Make Print Products Easy

Within the Zenfolio solution is the ability to sell prints (and other products). This can be done through partner providers which Zenfolio puts in place, or with your own providers. When I use this feature I’m doing high volumes in a short time frame. So far, I’ve used the partner providers and found this an easy way to fulfill print sales.

It is a great, low touch solution. My customer places their order and makes payment. I receive notification during this process but don’t need to take any action. The print order is automatically sent to the partner provider, who print and ship direct to the customer. I have full visibility of the process, without having to intervene in the customer order. Nice.

5. I Set My Own Prices

Now that I’m using a Zenfolio solution for my website, setting up price lists and establish my own prices is a simple process. Making changes to prices is also straight forward and takes just a few minutes.

Conclusions

I find Zenfolio very easy to use. I’ve quickly made the leap from having a very old fashioned website only displaying images, to one with fully integrated purchase capability. If you are considering selling images from your website, check out Zenfolio as a possible solution.

Thank you

Thanks for reading 5 best things about my Zenfolio website solution. Best wishes.

What to Do in Quiet Times for Your Photography Business

Every photography business has periods when things are quiet, and most have times when they are crazy busy. This month is a quiet time for my business. Most sports are having a break over the Christmas / New Year period, and it will be another few weeks until I am really busy again. Here are 9 suggestions for what to do in quiet times for your photography business.

Suggestion 1 – Get Away for a Break

Everyone needs a break from their business from time to time. Physically getting away is a great way to refresh mentally and physically. I’ve just spent a week away near Geelong in Victoria, Australia and have come back refreshed and ready to tackle the new year.

You don’t have to fly, but getting away for a break is a great way to refresh physically and mentally

Suggestion 2 – Learn a New Skill

When your business is quiet is the ideal time to invest in yourself. Photography is a big field, and no-one knows it all. I’ve been working on simple editing skills while my business is quiet. Last month one of my client’s wanted a collage print. I’ve been working on adding borders to images in Lightroom so that they look great as part of collages. It’s very simple stuff, but often it is hard to spend the time when you are busy. Take advantage of quiet times to learn a new skill.

Suggestion 3 – Shoot Personal Projects

I don’t know about you, but when I am busy I have very little time (or inclination!) to shoot personal projects. What to do in quiet times for your photography business? Obviously, tackle some personal projects. I enjoy wildlife photography, and have set aside time to shoot wildlife images in the next 3 weeks.

Quiet times for your business are ideal for personal projects. I’ll be creating wildlife images in the next few weeks.

Suggestion 4 – Make Your Quiet Time a Health Break

When I’m really busy I struggle to make time to exercise and eat well. It makes complete sense to use that extra time while business is quiet to get some exercise. This month I’ve been playing tennis with my son and walking the dog a lot more!

Suggestion 5 – Review Your Business

Quiet times are the ideal time to review how your business is going and to set goals for the year ahead. Last year was a very good one for my business. I’ve shot fewer weddings, and a lot more sports which was the plan. While I’m pleased with the year that’s gone, I’m focusing on making sure I’m producing more printed products for my clients next year. They are really the thing that keeps the memories alive – and I’ll be aiming to produce a lot more albums, canvas prints, and standard prints.

I’m planning to produce a lot more albums, canvas prints, and standard prints next year

Suggestion 6 – Get Your Gear Serviced

When times are really busy I’m reluctant to get my camera bodies and lenses serviced as I don’t want to be without them. Quiet times are the ideal opportunity to have this done when you are not likely to need them for a short notice job.

This year I’ve bought no new gear – so it is very important that my existing equipment is serviced and ready to produce high quality images. Get that equipment serviced while things are quiet.

Suggestion 7 – Organise then Clear Out Digital Files

I pride myself on being well organised and having digital files well organised and easy to access. Quiet times are ideal for making sure those files are well organised. It is also the time that I check my back ups are all in place, and then I move the images to external drives.

While I do this activity all year round, quiet times are ideal to make sure my digital files are organised and backed up, and my main working computer has capacity for the year ahead.

Suggestion 8 – Explore Your City or Town

How often do you get to explore your home town when things are busy? For me, it’s almost never as I seem to be finding my way through traffic and looking for a parking space! Quiet times are ideal for exploring your home town. Find an interesting subject to photograph. Find a new area. Shoot like only a local can shoot. Explore your home town when things are quiet.

Get out and about and explore your home town when things are quiet

Suggestion 9 – Write Your Blog!

Blog post ideas don’t always flow easily for me! Do they for you? Either way quiet times are great times to write or to put together a content plan for the year ahead. When things are quiet, dedicate some time to your blog.

Thanks for taking the time to read What to Do in Quiet Times for Your Photography Business. Wishing you a successful year ahead.

Getting Your Head Around Model Releases for Stock Photography

Recently I had the pleasure of speaking at the Victorian Association of Photographic Societies (VAPS) meeting here in Melbourne, Australia. What is VAPS? Taken from the VAPS website “VAPS is a not-for-profit “umbrella” organisation, representing the interests of affiliated camera clubs in the State of Victoria.” It was fun attending their meeting and speaking on the topic of stock photography. There were more questions than I had anticipated, several of which were about model releases and property releases. It makes me think there will be benefit in a post about getting your head around model releases.

What was the context?

I was speaking to a group of around 50 photographers who are members of camera clubs around Victoria. Early in the presentation I began by asking who was a stock photography contributor? There was just one hand raised. So while many in the audience are experienced photographers, nearly all were new to stock photography.

Melbourne
Organise releases first, then start creating images

Getting Your Head Around Model Releases

The discussion was interesting and varied and it was exciting to see some faces light up at the possibilities stock photography has for them. I was planting a seed that they can generate local content in their home town.

Things got interesting when we got onto the topic of model releases.

Most people understand that you can’t reasonably expect to be taking pictures of people without their permission and then selling them as stock images. The interesting part is in how to get the releases.

The conversation went something like this:

Audience member – do you need to get model releases for all identifiable people?

My answer – yes

Audience member – but how do you get around and get all the releases afterwards?

My answer – i don’t

Don’t expect strangers to sign releases. Organise your releases first.

A different point of view

I find this is a major difference between experienced stock photographers and people who are starting out. I would never shoot first and seek releases afterwards. That’s too risky. People may say no, and then I have images which I can’t use.

So how do I do it?

Organise the releases first. When I’m shooting lifestyle images I brief the actor or model first. We complete all the paperwork before we shoot. Then we begin creating images. If you’d like to get serious about stock photography, start planning in advance and not leaving things to chance. Organise your models first. Spend time organising your releases at the beginning of the session. Then start creating images.

Thanks for reading Getting Your Head Around Model Releases for Stock Photography.

Photographing 1000 Junior Basketball Players

Last month we photographed the Southern Peninsula Junior Basketball Tournament. It is an annual tournament held in November just before the start of the rep basketball season. This year the tournament featured 440 teams and was held at 14 stadiums and 34 courts around the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria. Those numbers speak for themselves – it is a very popular tournament with over 4000 players participating.

What were we photographing?

This year we photographed the under 12 division. We were shooting action portraits as the players competed. (Ironically the photo below is from the one under 14 game we photographed!)

basketball

Low light and fast action was a challenge

My understanding is that this is the first time the tournament has partnered with a professional photography business. The under 12’s featured 107 teams and over 1000 players. It was quite a challenge photographing 1000 junior basketball players.

How did we manage that?

We had 6 photographers across multiple venues on the Saturday and Sunday of the tournament. We aimed to shoot each team at least once, and photographed 70 games over the 2 days. That resulted in close to 10,000 action portraits featuring everything from young players new to representative basketball, through to some of the best under 12 players in the state.

Behind that was a lot of planning and scheduling about which photographers needs to be at what location shooting which game. I won’t sugar coat this – the planning was a very significant logistical challenge.

How was the lighting in the stadiums?

Tournament play was on 34 courts in 14 different stadiums. Some stadiums are new and well lit while, on the other hand, others are 30+ years old with no natural light.

We were aiming to shoot at 1/1000s to freeze the action. To achieve that we were shooting at high ISO – up to ISO8000 in one very dark stadium. It is amazing that today’s modern cameras can shoot fast moving action in this environment.

The wrap up

It was fun to see the kids in action, and a thrill to see them excited about the photos. Prints and digital downloads are available to order through password protected online galleries. The galleries are open for another 2 weeks and already it is a nice surprise to see how how popular prints are. I’ll save more of that for another Beyond Here post. Hooray for prints!

It was great to work with a strong team of photographers and reassures me that we can tackle bigger sporting events in the new year.

Thanks for reading ‘Photographing 1000 Junior Basketball Players’.

Suggestions When Applying for Photography Work

Later this month I will be shooting a large junior basketball tournament. It’s run over a weekend and is very popular tournament. The dates are the  week before the representative basketball season starts making it an ideal preparation for the season ahead. I’ve been looking for several photographers to help across one or both days. This hasn’t been a smooth process! So, for all the photographers out there, here are some suggestions when applying for photography work.

Be Clear on Dates and Availability

I posted a job ad on Starnow outlining that I am looking for sports photographers. It clearly outlines the dates of the job, yet I have had some photographers apply without being available for the specific dates. It isn’t much good applying for a job when you are not available. Check dates and availability before you apply to avoid wasting time.

job

Respond to the Specific Requirements of the Job

For this shoot, photographers will need to provide their own equipment. I want to know that the photographers are using camera bodies and lenses which can produce good quality images in indoor stadiums. To all the applicants credit, they have all outlined the equipment they will use. That has reassured me they are using equipment which has the capacity to produce the quality needed.

Be Ready for Photography Job Opportunities

This job is photographing players under the age of 18. For that reason I’ve advised that photographers will need to have a current Victorian Working with Children Card. I’m really surprised that some photographers don’t have one, and yet still apply for the role. I’ve responded to them immediately advising that they can’t be considered for the role without one.

I also ask that photographers have their own public liability insurance. If something goes wrong they won’t be covered by my insurance. Again, there are people applying for the role without insurance. You will struggle to convince me that you are a professional photographer operating a business without insurance.

If you want to get regular photography work, have the basics in place – insurance and working with children permits are important. Having them will open up many more opportunities for you. Go ahead and get them in place.

Provide Links to Previous Work

Several of the applicants would like to get into sports photography or have done a small amount of similar work. That’s not what I’m after for this job. I need people who I know can do the job, because they have done it plenty of times before. If you want to immediately establish your credibility, and reassure the job poster that you can do the job, provide a link to an online portfolio of related work.

basketball

If you have relevant experience be sure to mention it in your application

Respond Promptly

With a job which is two weeks away, it’s in everyone’s interest to communicate quickly and clearly. If an applicant doesn’t respond for several days, I will assume they are not very interested in the job. On the other hand, if they respond very promptly and make themselves available for a face to face meeting in the near term, that demonstrates a level of commitment and a willingness to take on the work. Respond promptly. It will impress the job poster and make organizing the job easier.

Respond Professionally

At this event, the photographers will be representing themselves and also my business. I want to know they will treat the players, officials, and spectators appropriately. That will include displaying a high level of professionalism. It won’t help your credibility if your communication is unprofessional from the outset, so take the time to make sure all of your communication is professional.

Outline Relevant Background

There are not a lot of photographers out there who have shot lots of junior basketball. That said, it is worthwhile outlining other relevant background. For this type of job, if you have photographed other fast moving indoor sports that is worth mentioning. If you have played and watched a lot of basketball, that is worth mentioning too. Both elements would increase my level of confidence that the photographer can do the job with minimal supervision.

Thanks for reading Suggestions When Applying for Photography Work. I hope it is helpful to you. If you happen to be in Melbourne, Australia and would like to shoot some basketball later this month, please make contact!