Shooting stock photos – Roller Derby game!

Last Friday I attended an event I’ve wanted to attend for a long time, Roller Derby! The Ann Arbor Derby Dimes are a terrific organization that fields three roller derby teams. Last Friday they had a meet with two matches.

Here’s what I did to prepare for the event:

– Read the organization website to learn more about them
– Read the rules of roller derby so I’d have a better sense of how the game works. You can get a quick sense of it in this YouTube video .
– Contacted the team to ask for permission to take photos. I didn’t hear back from them and as it is I had a conflict that first night I planned to attend, so I ended up just showing up at their next event, last Friday.
– Did a search on photographing roller derby events to get some tips. The ones that stood out included:
– Use very high ISO for the terrible light conditions
– Use very quick shutter speeds to freeze motion
– Try focusing on a place on the ground and shoot when
the pack gets to that spot so you don’t lose time focusing.
– Don’t take photos of anyone who get seriously hurt
– Take photos of everyone, rather than focus on just the jammer.

OK, then I was ready to go. I went to the site, paid for my ticket, and explained that I was a stock photographer and was interested in taking photos, and shared my policy: I send them the photos first, and only submit them to stock agencies if I get their permission in writing after they see the photos. I also assured them that I would not use any photos that would be disrespectful.

The team members couldn’t have been more welcoming! They seemed very pleased at the attention. They even said I could eat from the volunteer refreshments table if I wanted to, though I didn’t take them up on that offer, I didn’t want to make the players uncomfortable during their breaks, and I wasn’t sure if the photos would turn out OK…

Then the game started, and what a great display of athleticism and sportsmanship! Here’s what I did right:

– Brought my business cards, which gave me greater credibility as a professional.
– Checked my photos frequently and adjusted ISO, shutter speed, and exposure as needed. This is called “chimping” by the way…
– Wasn’t afraid to go to high ISOs
– Took photos of more than just the players, to include many of the volunteers
– Agreed to take photos of the entertainment, Devil Elvis when the lead singer asked for photos for their website.
– Used the “continuous slow” setting to get many photos of the action, but not so many that my card fills up too quickly.
– Respected all rules and stayed out of the way of everyone.
– During pauses in the action I erased photos that I could tell were terrible. Even with that I ended up with over 800 photos…
– Let the photos sit for a couple days because when I first looked at them all I could see were the mistakes. Going back after a few days more objectively I could see that there were some good shots in there…
– Edited down photos like a mad woman to get to the money shots.
– Use the noise filter in Photoshop to remove some of the noise that invariably was there with such high ISOs…

What I would do differently next time:

– Clear out my photo cards before the event. I had photos still in there from another event, should have cleared them to my laptop and erased them so I didn’t have to worry about limits on memory…
– Move to the other side of the track for the second game. The first game I aimed at the wall at one end because all three other sides were open and light was very bright, which would lead to blowouts. However, after the sun set the area near that wall was very dark, which made for some very dark backgrounds for those photos… Have to be more mindful of changing photo conditions throughout the event.
– Asked some of the other photographers what settings they were using. I was too shy to do it, and likely would have learned a lot by taking to them, lost opportunity…

Here are some of the first photos I have processed:

Ann Arbor Roller Derby, defensive preparation - Shutter speed priority, ISO 3200, 1/500 sec
Ann Arbor Roller Derby, defensive preparation – Shutter speed priority, ISO 3200, 1/500 sec
Ann Arbor Roller Derby -  Jammer super move - Shutter speed priority, ISO 3200, 1/500 sec
Ann Arbor Roller Derby – Jammer super move – Shutter speed priority, ISO 3200, 1/500 sec

 

Devil Elvis, half-time entertainment
Devil Elvis, half-time entertainment

 

I was so very impressed by these athletes, what a terrific evening! I’ve sent them some sample game photos, I’ll post an update after I hear from them and (I hope) get to post some on stock photo websites.

July 16 update – Heard back from the team, they loved the photos, are going to use them in their advertisements, and they have invited me back as a guest to their next match, I’m thrilled! Still waiting on official permission to take the shots, so not submitting anything to the stock agencies yet.

August 28 update – Permissions all ironed out and approved by Shutterstock, photos submitted and approved so far are here .

2 thoughts on “Shooting stock photos – Roller Derby game!

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