Sports photography is one of the greater challenges in the photographic world. It takes a great amount of both skill and luck. Athletes move quickly and often unpredictably, and the whole game can shift in an instant. As a sports photographer, you have to have quick reflexes. And between all your running around and shooting, you just never know when you’re going to capture the photo that will forever be remembered as “The moment when…”
Sports Illustrated has created a compilation of the 100 greatest sports photos ever taken. These photos capture many of the greatest moments in football, baseball, the Olympics, golf, boxing and more. All taken by photographers who were prepared at any given moment. But how much preparation does it really take? Is it simply being in the right spot at the right time? Below are three videos of sports photographers explaining how they got their once-in-a-lifetime shots:
“So many photographs you take take days or weeks and hours to set up and then you have ten minutes to shoot a person.”
Take the case of Walter Iooss, Jr. This guy has been shooting for Sports Illustrated for 51 years! So does Iooss simply walk onto the edge of the court and start shooting to get an amazing photo of Michael Jordan slam-dunking? No. He goes and he talks to the Chicago Bulls player himself. A little communication can make all the difference.
“Sports photography to me is about capturing a moment that can never be replayed. It makes people stop and have an opinion.”
Photographer Simon Bruty’s famous photo of Matthias Steiner dropping a set of weights on himself at the Olympics might make you cringe. You might even wonder how someone can photograph something that painful or tragic. But Bruty says that you have to be emotionally detached in the moment. You are a photographer, and your job is to take photographs. If we all just photographed the happy moments, then we’d be losing part of the real story.
“What I love about photography is the ability it gives me to reach out to people that I’ll never meet, I’ll never know, but I can convery to them something that I’ve experienced, that I’ve seen, and hopefully they will be impacted by it.”
Photographer Peter Miller captured an amazing photo in 2005 when Reggie Bush leaped into the end zone to score a touchdown against UCLA. Perhaps if Miller was standing up and photographing at eye-level, the photo would not hold such an impact. But because he was experimenting with low-angle shots, Miller was able to capture an amazing image. Some might think that professional photographers know exactly what they’re doing all the time, and that somehow they “just know” how to get the perfect shot. But nobody really knows how to get the perfect shot. Only because Miller was trying something new and uncommon was he able to get his shot.
So how do you manage to capture one of the greatest sports photos of all time? Skill, experimentation, luck, placement, communication, the right gear, the right angle, the right light? It could be one or all of these things. But I think that’s what makes it perfect, never knowing how or when that moment will arise.
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