Football

As you might have noticed on my Facebook page, I added shooting football to my activities. In this blog entry, I’d like to explain how “it is like” to shoot Bundesliga matches.

The process starts one week before the match when you send the accreditation request to the club. One day before the match, I edit a preset (for my software “Photo Mechanics”) that defines the meta data (event, date, copyrights, etc.). Importantly, you also prepare a txt file with the shirt numbers, names, and clubs of the players.

I usually arrive 90-120 minutes before the match. First, I pick up the accreditation which will be handed out against valid press credentials (in my case, Swiss, the international AIPS press card will be required) and gather a vest that allows me to enter the infield. Importantly, this is the last time to eat and drink, because you are not allowed to carry food or drinks into the arena. Same safety rules for the press as for anybody else.

The first thing in the arena is to secure a spot where to take pictures. I usually choose a position in the guests’ half, because there is less competition with other photographers. Shooting is only allowed from behind the advertising barriers. Next I connect my computer to the internet using the provided LAN hubs. All cables are secured by gaffer tape so nobody will stumble and fall. After connecting card readers and external drives I make sure that everything is working as it should.

When the match starts, I try to get good shots as quickly as possible. I constantly exchange my cards, let the computer read the files and continue shooting with a second card. As soon as the match moves away from my camera, I select good pics on my computer for further processing.

Latest(!) 30 minutes after the beginning, I start editing and uploading. I select the best pictures, crop them and edit the metadata. Each photo needs a full caption, in particular, the names of the players, event, date, location. This is where Photo Mechanics plays out its strength. Most of the headline (event, date, etc) has been written into the Metadata already when ingesting. So the only thing left is a comment on who is doing what. Here my txt file (the one with the shirt numbers) is useful. Photo Mechanics provides “code replacements”. This works as follows:

/7F/ scores the 1-0 for /F/ and gets hugged by /CF/ and /32F/; …

Photo Mechanics uses my previously edited text file and replaces this by:

Florian Niederlechner (SC Freiburg #7)  scores the 1-0 for SC Freiburg and gets hugged by Christian Streich (Cheftrainer SC Freiburg) and Vincenzo Grifo (SC Freiburg #32); …

The dots indicate that information about the event etc follow. Immediately afterwards, I upload the picture on the server of the agency. It becomes directly visible for the customers.

The key principle is: be fast, very fast! If the exposure isn’t entirely correct, I don’t waste time, except if the picture is really important. What has been uploaded early, has the highest chances of being published. For instance, I almost never get pictures into the media that have been taken during the second half of the match, because most writers select the pictures at the halftime break (because they want to be out with their own report immediately after the match). What is not available at halftime, has virtually no chance of getting sold.

FAQs:

Do I shoot JPG or RAW? Both. But I read in the JPGs first and work with those pictures that don’t need editing other than cropping. The only reason to work with RAW is that the exposure is not correct (which may happen of course, because we have sunny areas and shady areas and – lets tell the truth – neither the auto exposure nor I are perfect).

Do I exchange lenses? Of course not. I have 2 cameras. One with the 400mm lens and one with the 70-200. I switch cameras, not lenses. And I wish I had three arms.

Do I check my pictures on the control screen? Yes I do, but very quickly. The only reason is to check whether the exposure is still correct or whether I moved one of the adjustment wheels without noticing. Some photographers rate pictures in the camera, but I don’t. If the picture wasn’t good, there is nothing I can do. So why bother? I postpone the evaluation until I see the pictures on the computer screen.

Can you get into the arena as a hobby photographer? Not in the Bundesliga. You must provide evidence that you have a professional task. However, why don’t you talk to volleyball, basketball, gymnastics, swimming, and other event organizers whether you may shoot for them? Usually, the organizers will be happy and grant you access. Make sure, that you know the sport, though. Also make sure that you know the safety rules that are extremely different from sport to sport. Maybe I write another blog about to do-s and don’t-s for photographers.

What do I do in the media center? Hmm. Pick up a drink and some food, and …? I can’t say. Thanks to the LAN access in the arena, I do my work there, not in the media center.