Lessons from the Scene: Anatomy of a Sports Photography Assignment By Stanley Leary


 by Stanley Leary

Figure 1Figure 2Figure 3
When shooting football games, I like to stand behind the end zone so the team I'm covering is facing me. That way, I am already where they are trying to go.
There are two types of photos you can get of a team from this vantage point -- defense and offense. The great thing is you can see the players' faces, which for me is very important.
In sports with a ball, I am typically looking for three things: (1) peak action, (2) the ball, and (3) competition. Sometimes you can't get all three in a picture, but if one element stands out, the photo will still work.
The image of Georgia Tech quarterback, Josh Nesbitt (9) keeps on a designated run and heads up the middle of the field for 11-yard gain against Army.
The viewer can feel the competition where the quarterback is dragging the defensive player in this photo.
After one team is ahead in a game, I often begin to focus on the other team to see if there is a play that changes the whole game. When the game is close, this can happen at any moment. With a blowout, the latter part of the game is harder to cover since not much will happen to change the outcome of the game.
After you shoot a game, it's important not to editorialize in your captions -- but to provide concise (but chockfull of information) descriptions of what's taken place. 
Archival databases require the captions to be written for keywords to be found by editors searching the caption. It’ll make it easier if both teams are listed in the caption. It is common for editors to search for a few photos and then put them in a folder, and well-written captions help them with the necessary information.
Here's a caption for the photo above, for example: Oct 20, 2007; Atlanta, GA, USA; Georgia Tech FB Mike Cox (40) finds some running room for 12 yards against Army in the 3rd quarter before being tackled by Army defensive back Jordan Murray (19) at Bobby Dodd Stadium. 
Getting a great moment in the camera is only part of the story; it’s the caption that fills in the rest.
A final note, like many sports photos, a long lens (240-600mm with the above photos) will helps get the photographer close to the action as well as isolate the subject against the background. Remember to watch for all three elements: the subject with the ball, it contains peak action, and a sense of competitive pressure.  


Editors Note:
Stanley Leary wants to invite you to go with him to Tibet next summer. So many people continue to ask Stanley to help them with visual storytelling he decided to put together hands on workshop. Partnering with Brian Hirschy and Plateau Photo Tours, their goal is to help participants engage new cultures photographically, respectfully, and effectively as photographers.

Stanley is excited to be able to offer this hands-on workshop in historic Tibet. Participants will walk away with a better understanding of how to engage a culture and effectively tell compelling and complete stories through their photography. All this while having the chance of a lifetime to engage, understand, and photograph the unique culture of eastern Tibet. Go here for more information http://www.plateauphototours.com/blog/visual-storytelling-workshop/.


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