Are you ready to face the risks of becoming a professional sports photographer?


When NBA player LeBron James cut his head falling into a photographer in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, it was simply an accident and was part of the game. However, no one seemed concerned about the photographer. Even my first thought was, “I hope the photographer has a rubber lens cover on his lens.”

You see it’s an NBA rule that all photographers must have rubber lens hoods on their lens to work on the sidelines. The rubber caps are a safety measure to prevent players from cutting themselves if they collide with a photographer’s lens.

In the case of James, I don’t think it would have made a difference because it seemed to me that he hit the camera body, not the lens.

After James ran into the NBA cameraman, many fans and a few pro athletes tweeted that the cameraman should have moved. It’s crazy. Where was he going to go? There were seats behind him that cost thousands of dollars holding fans, a fixed photographer on his left side and the goal on his right side.

During NBA games, photographers still have to sit on the floor with their legs crossed in a very small space. Network and arena photographers should sit on a small stool with small wheels. Sitting on the floor in this position for an entire game results in severe cramps and paresthesias in the legs, the nerves in the foot stop working properly, causing an abnormal sensation.

In the 1990s, the seats of basketball fans weren’t as close to photographers as they are today. Many times I was able to get out of the way to avoid being hit or stepped on. This is not the case today when photographing certain NBA, ACC or SEC basketball games.

During an SEC Tournament game in Nashville, TN, LSU’s Glenn “Big Baby” Davis ran into me and four other photographers. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured. However, that was not the case with my last ACC basketball game in 2013. During the game, a Georgia Tech player’s knee and foot hit me in the head as he was trying to jump over me. Her other foot grabbed the side of the camera which led my thin camera strap under the fingernail of my trigger finger on my right hand. This resulted in pain, a severe sprain, and infection.

As a photojournalist who has photographed hundreds of professional and academic events nationally and internationally, sports photographers have a known risk that at some point you could be hit by an athlete, fan, animal , baseball, baseball bat, football, softball, mascot, racing car, bowling ball, hockey puck, glass, bull droppings, bird droppings, boxer’s blood and spit, beer from a drunk fan, bitten by a snake or a huge insect and my all time favorite, throwing up from a drunk NASCAR fan.

This does not include being trampled by an NBA and NCAA official, avoiding being beaten up by Philadelphia Eagle fans, insulting them by a losing coach, insulting them by players, insult them by a groupie because you won’t give his number to an athlete insulted by a preacher’s wife because you didn’t photograph his cheerleader daughter, receive a two page letter explaining why your photo of a quarterback bag should have been credited to his son and pursuing a Yankee fan who grabbed one of your cameras after the World Series.

In case you were wondering, all of these things are happening to me except the Yankee fan chase. It happened to a Sports Illustrated photographer after the 1996 World Series at Yankee Stadium.

As for my stolen equipment, I never caught the photographer who stole my camera and Nikon lens during the 1994 Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway.

In 2006, I was knocked out by a baseball online while photographing the Atlanta Braves versus the Philadelphia Phillies. It would have killed me if he had been a few inches higher on my neck. Seconds after being hit, Atlanta Braves coach Jeff Porter was by my side with ice and asking the usual questions he asked of players hit in the head by a baseball.

So if your goal is to become a major sports photographer, make sure not only that you have an excellent grasp of the photographic arts, but also that you are in excellent health and have excellent confidence.

So when a 6’8 ” LeBron James falls on you, or a hockey puck whistles at your head, don’t wear your heart on your sleeve. It’s all part of the territory of a sports photographer.

Source by Johnny O Crawford


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