Imagine having front row seats right behind the 50-yard line at every Super Bowl or even courtside seats at the NBA finals. This sounds like a dream come true for most sports fanatics. Still, to those working in the sports media industry, this experience can sometimes be taken for granted.
Over the past decades, the introduction of high-quality equipment and devices has amplified the accessibility within the sports industry. Whether it’s capturing an athlete’s greatest victory or live streaming the biggest rivalry game in town, technology has made it possible.
It is important, however, to not overlook the people that make it possible for fans to reminisce on some of these greatest sporting moments. Camera crew, photographers, videographers, and journalists are the ones that have contributed to the glorification of the sports industry.
Being part of the sports media industry is no easy job nonetheless. According to freelance photographer Katelyn Mulcahy, sports photographers have great battles with “accessibility and approach”. Because attending sporting events has become a highly coveted experience, more and more people hope to be the ones to capture these moments. However, it can be quite difficult to take that one up-close shot that encapsulates the unique experience of the game. As Mulcahy displays the double-truck image of Shohei Ohtani she took, which was later published on the 2018 MLB World Series Program, she explains, “… again access, we were pretty restricted, but I was able to take a picture of him [Shohei Ohtani]”.
Whenever anyone thinks of a career in the sports business world, the skills most often needed are drive, perseverance, and sports knowledge. However, within the sports media world, creativity tends to be a driving aspect of the job. Unfortunately, such a unique skill to have, as is creativity, becomes a setback when so many people are interested in taking that one perfect shot. Eventually, it is inevitable to hit a point where it seems like all unique ideas have been exhausted. Although it sounds like a draining experience, at the end of the day, this process is what prompts creativity to continue growing within the sports media industry.
Capturing the right shot, however, seems to always be an exciting experience filled with shock. Mulcahy never knew that her image would make it onto the MLB World Series Program, and much less did she think it would be a double truck. As Mulcahy puts it, “If you didn’t make what they wanted then they might put it somewhere else.” Photographers find out what images are being utilized at the same time that viewers have access to the content.
Referring back to Mulcahy’s experiences, once you’ve gained access into the nooks and crannies of the event the question is: now what? How do you determine what a worthwhile shot is? How do you make sure you don’t miss a spectacular dunk or touchdown? Like Mulcahy says, “Sometimes you leave without a single good shot and that’s part of the job.”
Still, the job does not end once the game is over and all the photographs have been taken. In fact, hours of work follow each sporting event for those working in sports media. Mulcahy shares that after each event she averages about 2000-3000 images which she must look through, star or tag, and make minor edits if necessary before making a final submiss of about 100-200 images. According to Mulcahy, at a much bigger sporting event as is the Super Bowl, which happened this past month at the SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, around 54,000 pictures were necessary to capture the event’s scope.
Out of the thousand pictures that come out of a single game or even of a single player, narrowing it down to a single picture can be quite the haunting and time consuming task. However, most people in the sports media industry would agree that having that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is all worth it in the end.
Regardless, the sports media industry is a very competitive field with great opportunities to grow and develop professionally while being a good way to mix creativity with a passion for sports. Still, the sports media industry is nowhere from perfect, and therefore, it continues to develop. For sports photographers, learning new techniques and equipment is crucial in the process of moving from good to great. As a parting tip, Mulcahy says that “going above and beyond and getting there early” is what truly makes the difference between an average photographer and a great one.