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Sports photographers: Artists or Mechanics?
  
 
graham_martin
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Sports photographers: Artists or Mechanics?


I have a friend who is an incredible sports photographer. He shoots NFL games, amongst other pro sports, for AP and has had his images on numerous sports websites including SI. Recently he described himself as being more of a mechanic as opposed to being creative. By that he meant that his goal is to capture images that include the player's face, the ball and that tell the story of what is happening at that moment. Personally I think he is being modest. To be at that level of sports photography, I believe you have to be both creative as well as have outstanding mechanic skills.

How do you other professional or semi-pro sports see yourselves?



Nov 14, 2017 at 03:37 AM
bu82
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Sports photographers: Artists or Mechanics?


I believe that to be considered a good sports *photographer* vs. a snap shooter who just captures action without too much regard to framing, composition, lighting, backgrounds, new ideas, etc., you absolutely have to be creative. That being said, you of course need to have the technical aspects down as well as the mechanics. Those should be second nature. The creativity comes on top of that. Some have it, some don't. Most of what I see coming off the wire is not that good lately. But this is not the fault of the photographers, but the editors and publications that need images ASAP, and tons of them, forcing good photographers to compromise their art. I see way too many bad compositions, OOF shots, chopped of limbs, etc. But this is what the agencies want. So it's tough. Nothing that innovative, creative, or exciting for the most part. Just "guy with ball" pictures, that editors want because they are important to the moment, but that doesn't mean they are good photographs. There are a few very creative photographers that I follow and try hard to emulate, but they are in the minority these days unfortunately. Freezing action is NOT what sports *photography* should be about. That's a given that you are able to freeze peak action. What comes next separates the greats from everyone else.


Nov 14, 2017 at 01:49 PM
rdalrt
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Sports photographers: Artists or Mechanics?


I think you can be one or the other or both. I consider myself a "mechanic" as your friend puts it. I certainly don't feel I am an "artist" at all. I am the least creative person I know. But some of my friends I shoot sports with are certainly artists. Then again, they make their living through photography, which I don't think you can do successfully without being artistic/creative. Photography is a hobby for me, so not being artistic isn't a deal breaker. I am just happy to be out shooting sports.


Nov 15, 2017 at 02:33 AM
graham_martin
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Sports photographers: Artists or Mechanics?


My friend makes his living as a sports photographer, and I think he does have creative talent in addition to being a mechanic. For example, he has to get creative in terms of where he shoots on the field, which shots are the most impactful etc. I think he doesn't realize just how creative he is.


Nov 15, 2017 at 04:17 AM
RandyR
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Sports photographers: Artists or Mechanics?


Both


Nov 15, 2017 at 09:15 AM
bu82
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Sports photographers: Artists or Mechanics?


graham_martin wrote:
My friend makes his living as a sports photographer, and I think he does have creative talent in addition to being a mechanic. For example, he has to get creative in terms of where he shoots on the field, which shots are the most impactful etc. I think he doesn't realize just how creative he is.


Like I was saying in my post above, many make a living with zero creativity and shoddy work. Some don't, and your friend could be one of them. Can we see his site or work?



Nov 15, 2017 at 12:45 PM
graham_martin
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Sports photographers: Artists or Mechanics?


Here is a link to his site.

http://www.garylloydmccullough.com/



Nov 15, 2017 at 12:56 PM
Chad Bassman
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Sports photographers: Artists or Mechanics?


graham_martin wrote:
Here is a link to his site.

http://www.garylloydmccullough.com/


I'd put him in the both category... nice stuff.

I'm an engineer by training and would definitely consider myself as a mechanic first trying to become an artist.



Nov 15, 2017 at 05:35 PM
 

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bu82
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Sports photographers: Artists or Mechanics?


graham_martin wrote:
Here is a link to his site.

http://www.garylloydmccullough.com/


See my initial post/reply. Most of the stuff on his site is not that creative/artistic, but most likely because of what I said (shooting for wire service, where they want the basics and fast, and force creativity out of photographers). He is obviously creative and artistic when allowed to be though, because he has some very nice shots on there as well. So it's a mix, and one that I believe is dictated by demands of clients.

For me these guys (among others I follow and try to emulate) are producing what I consider creative and artistic sports photography:


http://ryusha.com (says link is invalid, but copy and paste it as it works!)

http://www.michaelregan.co/portfolio



Nov 15, 2017 at 05:41 PM
CMYK Designs
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Sports photographers: Artists or Mechanics?


I would think that a "mechanic" simply catches the action/events, while an artist uses his talent and composition to capture the essence of the sport.


Nov 15, 2017 at 06:07 PM
Ralph Thompson
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Sports photographers: Artists or Mechanics?


I'd say both. Mechanic when dealing with the technical aspects of gear and light, knowing how each work and work together and troubleshooting when things don't go just right.

Artist when taking the stock shots required and making them their own.



Nov 15, 2017 at 06:11 PM
henry albert
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Sports photographers: Artists or Mechanics?


I've always considered myself a tell-the-story technician. A be prepared, work at it, get the pic when it presents itself, and go home for a beer kind of guy. Unfortunately, artistic ability ranks low on my skills list. So I strive for technical excellence (or at least competence) and let the subjects of my images supply the artistry.


Nov 15, 2017 at 06:36 PM
cocodrillo
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Sports photographers: Artists or Mechanics?


You can't do the artistry without the technical skill. Even someone who many would dismiss as a joke like Jackson Pollock for his paint pouring approach to painting first turned to traditional representational art before deciding it couldn't communicate what he wanted. (It is hard to stand in front of 'Blue Poles' and not appreciate what he Pollock was getting at; he also bombed on a number of canvases, too, in my opinion.)

There is an issue with being a basic mechanic, of which I'd say there are too many these days. It means simply point and shooting, not doing some of the elementary things that can dramatically improve a shot. Even if you're decidedly uncreative you can learn basic rules about visual aesthetics -- i.e., rule of thirds, eyes/motion pointing into the frame, clean backgrounds, framing, cropping -- that can make a massive difference in your images. They also let you stumble on 'artistic' serendipity from time to time. Thinking much more about what you want in the image / shoot before getting on with it makes a massive difference. I get a sense a lot of people don't do this and just take what falls in their lap rather than looking for a specific subset of options. Starting this process can be something as basic as choosing what tools you are going to work with. Somewhere I remember hearing an SI shooting rule that called for using, as a matter of routine, only focal lengths under 24mm or over 600mm. Do that next to the crowd with 400s and you've automatically got something that will jump out. Of course, it also means that you have to be far more solid technically.

The catch to being really artistic is that you need the freedom to take risks -- I've seen a stack of interviews with SI, Allsport, Getty shooters going on about this. Those shots from the pool at the football stadium linked to in the start of this thread are a good case. You're pretty much committed to one thing if you're getting in the pool at a football game to take those shots. Not really going to help you if your editor wants game action. Same thing if you start shooting a bit wider for 'sense of place' or really tight for drama. Makes for beautiful pictures, but not so good from a core journalistic point of view where basic 'the story is' content is needed.

This sort of reminds me of a two-day cross country meet I shot earlier this year. Day one my task was to take stock photos for promoting the sport and the event in coming years. I took a couple of hundred frames, some of which really worked well, I think (at least the client liked them). Day two was plaster the race and hit everything moving. The images are fine and again gave the client exactly what they wanted, but there's pretty much nothing in the thousand odd photos that I'd put on my wall.

Apologies for the mid-day ramble... procrastination.... perfect thread for it!



Nov 15, 2017 at 07:25 PM
CW100
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Sports photographers: Artists or Mechanics?


graham_martin wrote:
I have a friend who is an incredible sports photographer. He shoots NFL games, amongst other pro sports, for AP and has had his images on numerous sports websites including SI. Recently he described himself as being more of a mechanic as opposed to being creative. By that he meant that his goal is to capture images that include the player's face, the ball and that tell the story of what is happening at that moment. Personally I think he is being modest. To be at that level of sports photography, I believe you have to be both creative as
...Show more

I'll vote for a combination of artist and mechanic
most of the sports photographers I know shoot 000's and 000's of photos and pick the very few that are most "artistic"




Nov 17, 2017 at 12:20 AM
schlotz
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Sports photographers: Artists or Mechanics?


A true mechanic has it down pat, which comes from dedicated effort to hone their skills over many years. They technically know what their clients want and produce high quality results that are adjusted to each specific client. There are many technical aspects to master on the path to being a mechanic. Some special people and are also creative artists. They're technical & mechanical skills are second nature to the extent they are on autopilo when working an event. This in-turn allows them the opportunity to concentrate on finding new approaches to capturing the essence of the event they are shooting.

Technical and mechanical skills can be learned, but creativity seems to be a bit different. I won't say you can't learn some of it but believe you need to have some of it in you to begin with.



Nov 17, 2017 at 03:51 AM
Denny JetTone
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Sports photographers: Artists or Mechanics?




Mechanic + Artist / 2 = Craftsman



Nov 20, 2017 at 03:16 AM







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