Sports photography has to be one of the most exciting niches to get involved with. Not only are you immersing yourself in the game and its electric atmosphere, but there’s a growing excitement that mounts as you ready yourself for the ultimate, unmissable shot.
There’s so much to see and experience as a sports photographer, from popular competitions including the Premier League and the NFL, to the more unique sporting events like the indoor skydiving championships and kushti wrestling. A career in sports photography can take you to many places, and you’ll certainly learn a few new things along the way.
We’re sure that’s something UK sports photographer, James Cannon, would agree with us on. James has been involved with sports photography for a number of years, searching for shots that will help to create an engaging story out of a moment.
We spoke to James about his career, what made him choose sports photography, and what words of wisdom he would offer to budding photographers.
First things first, tell us a little bit about yourself and your work
I’m a fairly laid back, relaxed character that has many interests in cinema, culture and art, along with sport being a central interest and passion of mine.
Why did you become a photographer?
That’s a hard question to answer directly. I was curious to learn the skills of photography at an early age, around 14 or 15, and was very keen to learn how things worked and why. That curiosity led to quite an organic and instinctive way of working today. You could almost say photography chose me, but over time, I found myself being passionate about nothing else.
What drew you to sports photography as your niche?
I played a lot of sport with friends during the weekends as a kid. The big occasions that brought big crowds of people together for a common interest really drew me in. We were so used to seeing and reading about the final results which, coupled with my curious nature, frustrated me. So I took it upon myself to find out other things about sport and the characters involved.
What equipment do you take with you on a shoot?
It really does vary from brief to brief. It can be a very basic DSLR set up to use natural or complementary light, or a 2-3 body approach like the one needed for the project on the Palio di Siena.
Did you know that we have a number of protective memory card cases in our range, perfect for photographers who want to keep their hard work safe and secure.
To you, what key components make the perfect sports photography shot?
I think the context in which the picture is used is important in defining what is a ‘perfect’ shot, but light, composition and emotion all are key ingredients to a strong photograph.
However, significant stories with the time the picture was taken and the history of the sport, may help to elevate an image to being a ‘perfect’ shot.
What words of wisdom would you give to budding sports photographers?
Be curious and find things and people to photograph that you are passionate about. Have a voice and don’t be afraid to experiment!
Why should photographers choose a career in sports photography?
It enables you to experience a whole variety of travel, people and experiences both in sport directly and with fantastic experiences along the way. It’s fun and exciting, but it can be hard work! Be passionate and you will be definitely be rewarded.
Has your photographic style changed over time?
I’m not too sure it has, but I’m sure other people who have followed my work would say otherwise. I’m looking to moving into video and exploring various other ideas around sport in many ways going forward.
What finishing touches do you tend to make to your shots?
Ensuring you capture everything on camera and knowing that an image does not need a lot of Photoshop or manipulation to work successfully, is really important for me as a creator and helps to keep things fresh.
What are the key components for telling a story through sports photography?
Your voice, your creative vision and a thoroughly researched brief, to ensure you create photographs you are proud of from your chosen sport.
From weather and busy crowds, shooting a sports scene certainly comes with its distractions - how do you cope with them?
By embracing the challenge and the environment you’re shooting in. Seeking opportunities and being curious to explore various methods if thing’s aren’t possible. Being realistic is good, but try to think of new ways to try things, no matter how simple they may be.
A huge thanks to James for spending some time discussing his sports photography career with us. Feel free to visit James’ website for a taste of his past sports photography projects.
If you’re interested in getting started in photography and would like to know more about the various niches out there, take a look at the Peli UK Photography Hub, where we’ve highlighted some of the biggest and best photography areas available.