Interview – Professional Sports Photographer

OUR INTERVIEWEE IS A PROFESSIONAL FREELANCE PHOTOGRAPHER AND SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

HOW DO YOU BREAK INTO THE INDUSTRY AS A PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER?

It’s important to perfect your skills and the best way to do so is through practice. Getting an internship with a wire service or newspaper is a great way to expose yourself to different types of assignments and meet current professionals. You just have to keep building your skills and keep on shooting and learn from your mistakes. Just being around other photographers also helps. After awhile, you create your own niche. For me, I am a hybrid of five to six different styles but I am still unique in my own style. Over 11 years, I have accumulated about $30,000 to $40,000 of my own equipment that I also need to maintain. I am one of the few photographers around who owns his own equipment. Most photographers use the equipment that belongs to their employers such as a newspaper.

HOW HAS DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY CHANGED THE INDUSTRY COMPARED TO TRADITIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY ON FILM?

I spend a lot more time in front of the computer now archiving and backing up photos and burning CDs of all the photos I now take. With digital, I do like that I can immediately check my photos especially to see if I have the right lighting or not. Digital also gives me a very clean look to the photo but I still film personally. Film also meant sticking to certain budgets in the past. I didn’t want to overshoot because I wanted to stick to my film budget. Less film also means less chemistry when it comes to developing photos.

Digital photos also give me the opportunity to touch up the photos with Photoshop. I usually would only alter the colortone a bit but limit any changes to the photograph. I don’t want to add any smoke to the fire when it comes to the photographs. Some photographers in the past have added major changes to their photos and been fired as a result.

DESCRIBE WORKING AS A WIRE SERVICE PHOTOGRAPHER

I have bounced around between wire services during my career. I basically get a call to cover an assignment and go out with my wire service credential and cover the assignment. I take the photos and select the best photos to submit to the wire service. After awhile, covering assignments becomes second nature.

I am also a freelancer so other agencies also call me to photograph assignments. The pay usually runs about $250 per assignment and can go up to as high as $350 per assignment. Over the years, I’ve socialized and networked enough to get my name and reputation out there for these agencies when they need a photographer. They know that I’m reliable, shoot on digital, and can make my deadlines. I also have the flexibility to turn down assignments if the pay is too low or not worth the effort and time.
 
HOW DID YOU BECOME A STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER WITH THE SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS?

In 1996, (Giants Photographer) Martha Jane Stanton approached me about filling in for certain Giants assignments because she and her husband wanted to start a family and she would not be able to work as often. Martha Jane was one of the first photographers I had ever met back when I was a teenager and first taking an interest in photography. So, she knew my work and we had kept in touch. I started out doing not so sexy assignments but it gave me the chance to prove myself and it was a seamless transition when Martha Jane had to take time off.

Over the years, I have built a trust and working relationship with the players especially through the times I have traveled with the team such as the playoffs, spring training and road trips. I knew I had built a trust factor with the players once they started playing pranks on me but now I’m smart enough to look out for those pranks.

HOW DO YOU PROTECT THE OWNERSHIP OF YOUR WORK/PHOTOS?

The most basic way that I protect my photos is the copyright that is included in the caption of the photos. What I should really do more often is register my photos with the Library of Congress. This would allow me to recover damages if somebody tries to steal or use my work without my permission.

WHAT HAVE BEEN THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECTS OF BEING A PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER?

When I first started, I had to work my way up as an intern. I had to spend most of my time in the darkroom processing film instead of out on the field shooting photos.

Professional photographers and photojournalists often get a bad rap when labeled as paparazzi. We are just doing our job and trying to tell a story through the photos. For example, after Princess Diana died, some of my friends blamed us photographers for her death. We are not paparazzi and do not go around chasing after cars on motorcycles.

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