Ask Jam Slanders Photo by O'Durgy, Image by Veronica Scars, Skater Trix Ann Riots

Published on May 9th, 2014 | by Jam Slanders

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Photo by O'Durgy, Image by Veronica Scars, Skater Trix Ann Riots

Ask Jam Slanders: Getting Started with Photography

Hello, I hope you don’t mind me emailing you. I am gaining experience as a sports photographer and last Saturday attended my first roller derby bout and loved it. I am now looking forward to my next opportunity to go again. One of the skaters sent me a link to ‘Derbylife Photo of the Year 2013, and I think I need a few more matches to get up to other derby photographers’ levels. Here is a link to the photos set from Saturday, I would appreciate any comments on how I could improve.

All the best,
Andy Rowland

Hi Andy,

I’ve posted your link so that people who have more to say can comment below.

First, I consulted with Moneyshot, DerbyLife’s photo pro. She noted that you can tell you know what you’re doing from a technical perspective, so she’d encourage you branch out more artistically and take some risks to find your own style. Specifically, she suggested trying different perspectives, playing with an off-camera flash, and capturing some motion blur shots.

Additionally, here’s an amalgamation of advice from a couple of derby photographers and marketing types. As with any form of photography, you should probably decide what you want to do with your pictures (or what will be done with them). Derby photos have different uses for photographers, marketers, skaters, and even coaches and trainers, so if you are catering to a certain group or audience it’s always good to ask what helps them.

General tips:

1) Learn the sport so you know where to aim. Being a derby photographer is a lot like being a derby player in the sense that you need to know what’s going to happen before it actually happens. You need to anticipate when those soul-crushing hits are coming or when the jammer is going to try to jump the apex, and for that to happen, you need to watch a lot of derby and learn.

2) Don’t just take pictures of jammers outside of the pack. Of course you’ll have some, but seriously…borrrrring.

3) Learn and play with different angles. Shoot up, down, in, and out. Most derby shots are from the same angle: on equal footing from the outside of the track. If the team will allow you to the inside of the track, this is a great different angle to play with. Some of my favorite shots are when photographers can get above the track—the strategy often becomes a focal point and it makes some aspects of derby much more lucid.

4) Don’t forget the other people that make derby happen. Take pics of refs and NSOs in action as well. Find some expressive faces in the crowd and catch their reactions as well. If there’s a big crowd, capture that as well.

5) Don’t take pictures of skaters while they are stretching. It’s just creepy. Seriously, most of us don’t want our crotches splayed out all over the internet, and there are no warm and fuzzy feelings when someone comments on our flexibility in a lechy Facebook comment. If you want to take pictures of us getting ready, capture us jogging around off-skates or doing warmups on the track.

If you plan on the photos being used for marketing purposes, here are some additional tips:

1) Try a variety of tight and wide shots. This gives marketing more flexibility.

2) Don’t take too many pictures of skaters before or after actual action. This includes skaters standing at the start waiting for the whistle, pictures of jammers making laps (i.e., skating outside the pack…like I said, boring), or pictures of skaters on the ground after being hit. From a marketing perspective, these have limited utility. Catch the action that knocked that skater to the ground—that’s the shot you want for marketing.

3) Try to get skaters’ full bodies in wide shots. A great action shot is limited in its use when a head or a limb or a butt is truncated. Marketing wants all the butt.

4) Color correction—it’s magical.

Of course, like any art there are a variety of opinions, so I’ll leave it to other commenters to offer their thoughts or dissenting opinions as well.

Jam

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Jam Slanders

Jam Slanders is here to tell you what to do with your life. She's here to answer your questions about psychological, interpersonal, and social questions and issues related to playing derby, training questions, and other fun stuff (just not how you can get rid of that itchy rash you picked up at your last afterparty). She consults with a broad range of skaters, liquors, and knowledgeable media sources (“Always bet on black!”—Wesley Snipes, Passenger 57) to bring you the answers to all of your derby-related questions. All questions you pose will be completely anonymous, so feel free to come up with your own fun pseudonym or Jam will make one for you. Send your questions to advice@derbylife.com.


About the Author

Jam Slanders is here to tell you what to do with your life. She's here to answer your questions about psychological, interpersonal, and social questions and issues related to playing derby, training questions, and other fun stuff (just not how you can get rid of that itchy rash you picked up at your last afterparty). She consults with a broad range of skaters, liquors, and knowledgeable media sources (“Always bet on black!”—Wesley Snipes, Passenger 57) to bring you the answers to all of your derby-related questions. All questions you pose will be completely anonymous, so feel free to come up with your own fun pseudonym or Jam will make one for you. Send your questions to advice@derbylife.com.



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