Guest post by Erin Holmstead.
Shooting sports changed my whole photography business! At the end of 2015, I met a gentleman, Rick Parker, who shoots sports photography for a local online news center. We were in the same photo club and he was presenting some of his work and during this time he mentioned that anyone could tag along and learn at one of the games coming up. I, of course, jumped right on that thinking, why not? The first game I attended with him was a local high school game and I left feeling like I should probably put my camera down forever. I had never taken so many out of focus, missed shots–no pun intended–in my life. It was HORRIBLE. There wasn’t one image I liked and I had taken about a 1,000. I mentioned to Rick how frustrated I was and he offered to let me tag along again. It probably took about 6 games before I walked away with 1 good image.
Patience & Practice Pay Off
Each gyms lighting was so different, each team played so differently, and I couldn’t sit/stand in the same place during each game. Sometimes I was shooting from way up high looking down at the game while other times I could be right on the court but only in spot number 8 which was right behind the TV camera man. Nevertheless, walking into each game was a rush and I was hooked.
A couple months later, Rick suggested my name to his boss and I was the newest sports photographer for the Cache Valley Daily! Honestly, I had no intention of being a sports photographer but the rush and adrenaline was something else.
No Excuses: Maximizing Gear & Workflow
Sports photographers are mostly manly guys who all have the biggest of the big lenses and have been doing their jobs for years. Until I came along: this blonde, blue-eyed girl with a Nikon D90 and a kit lens of 55-300mm. The number of stares and laughs I got was something else, but I was bound and determined to prove I belonged there. I knew the only way to do that was to know my gear better. To push it harder and faster than they would ever push theirs.
When shooting a game, I always had to walk away with a gallery that consisted of 25-30 show-stopping images that were submitted to my editor within an hour of the game ending. Bonus points if you could get one image sent within 30 minutes. Since my little camera didn’t have wi-fi like the big dogs I had to bring my laptop with me and edit in the car before driving home. I started writing down image numbers on my phone during timeouts and half times and water breaks so when it came time to edit I didn’t have to look through them all again. I knew that since I couldn’t shoot at f/2.8 (which is a huge help when the lighting is so poor) I had to shoot slower and use f/5.6. Meaning I couldn’t take my camera down from my face; I had to shoot like a mad person to ensure I got the shot. I realized that making a preset for each school’s gym in Lightroom would cut my times in half. I then started timing myself with my editing to see how I could get faster. I also knew that having Perfectly Clear’s noise reduction was going to be my huge secret weapon.
I got published as a sports photographer within my first year and went on to work for other sports news sites across the state for two years. It changed everything about my photography. How I go about purchasing new gear, knowing that the best gear won’t always be the best solution, how to really create a show-stopping gallery with only 25-30 images, and how to push myself mentally to win even when everyone’s betting on me to lose. What’s it mean for you? Maybe there’s a way you can stretch yourself beyond your current skills and learn to maximize the tools you have, and maybe those lessons will help you in areas you never considered. How will you stretch in 2018?
Erin Holmstead is a commercial portrait photographer, engaged member and organizer of the Cache Valley Photographers, and is crazy about fashion and beauty photography. She makes pictures with people her primary study (especially her kids), but she is excited to learn and share all kinds of photographic techniques.