There’s the MVP on the court, but there’s an MVP on the baseline that brings fans closer to the game

By Klyde Manansala | Lead photo by Tristan Tamayo | Photos by Tristan Tamayo, Javi Lobregat, and Patrick Mateo

The job of a sports photographer is self-explanatory. Capturing brief periods of time in the heat of the moment is what they’re best at, but it’s the actual process—finding the exact second, timing, and anticipation—that is often overlooked in their profession. More than the advantage the equipment can give, it takes a combination of skills to seize the best in any given sport. To expand on this, professional photographers Tristan Tamayo, Javi Lobregat, and Patrick Mateo hand out expert tips for aspiring photographers

What are the most basic tips you can give to people who are just starting out?

Tristan Tamayo (TT): You should first learn the sport you’re covering. Secondly, anticipation is key. But most importantly, you should appreciate the game and its defining moments.

Javi Lobregat (JL): One, be ready for anything. You never know what could happen next in a live sports event, so bring what is essential to you and what works well with the sport you’re shooting. Two, make friends with your fellow photographers. Being friendly with other members of the community helps especially if you get to know the veterans who have been shooting for a long time, their knowledge of how the event or sport is run can help you position yourself for the best shot. Three, respect the game. Sports photography isn’t exactly a game you try to win nor is it a competition of who gets the better shot. It runs more along the lines of working together beside other photographers to capture the split seconds and moments that tell a story. Don’t be rude or disrespectful, doing that won’t get you far. 

Photo by Tristan Tamayo

Patrick Mateo (PM): The first one is actually making the subject comfortable in front of the camera, especially if your subject is a non-celebrity. To be honest, everybody’s conscious in front of the camera and if you won’t be able to get your subject comfortable in front of the camera then you won’t be able to get the photo that you like. 

Talking to your subject and getting to know your subject is half the game. You have to understand the sport that you’re shooting. It’s hard for someone who does not understand the sport shoot the athletes involved. If you can understand the things, you can easily predict. Sometimes even if you did your homework, nothing will really prepare you as to what will happen on the day itself. Half of it is being able to adjust to things that are happening. Don’t get fixated on what someone told you or what you learned from the past experience. Adjust. Look for interesting angles.

What are the biggest challenges that you face in every shoot?

TT: Distractions from the environment. Like referees running towards the frame and ending up ruining your shot. Happens every day.

JL: Generally with sports photography you’re at a distance from the action, so ideally, you’ll need long lenses, but any glass works (its really up to you). Lighting is also the usual issue, many photographers I talk to, and even myself have a hard time with the lighting situation in Araneta compared with Mall of Asia Arena because it’s darker in Araneta.

Photo by Javi Lobregat

PM: You have to have a concept. Your concept would actually dictate your equipment to be used in relation to the physical qualities or attributes of your subject. This, I think, is the most difficult part because now you have to merge both the artistic side and the technical side. Most people like to argue that photography is just all art, photography is purely technical, well no. It’s a mixture of both.

For live sports coverages, where’s the best spot to snap photos?

TT: It depends on the venue, but in basketball we mostly shoot on the right side behind the basket. Because most players are right-handed, so when they shoot or lay it up, it opens up a clear shot of their faces as well.


Photo by Javi Lobregat

JL: I’ve learned from the veterans that for each event there are “the best spots” but it also comes down to how you want to capture your image. For triathlons, there has to be planning ahead of the race, where to move and where to position because these athletes move fast.

What about dealing with inclement weather when shooting outdoor?

PM: I’ve encountered a couple of shoots that are like cloudy, there’s very little contrast, there’s very little that you can do to make the colors pop. Instead of concentrating on actually just doing action shots, I have to concentrate on their emotions. In conjunction with that, I converted the photo into black and white. It’s not about the colors anymore. I got away with bad lighting. You have to watch out for those things and think on your toes. If there’s bad lighting, then maybe you can use flash. There’s millions of ways to use flash. 

TT: Invest in proper camera rain covers or when all else fails, have a black trash bag and a windbreaker jacket with you. Always protect your gear.

What are the best softwares you would recommend? 

TT: Lightroom and Photoshop is my one-two punch combo.

Photo by Tristan Tamayo

JL: Personally, I don’t manipulate photos, that’s for Photoshop. As a sports photographer, it’s your first job to tell the truth, sure you can color and grade a photo as you like, but in my opinion, never manipulate a photo. That’s just telling lies. Best software? I’d say Lightroom, Keeps your files generally organized, easy to adjust your photos, and makes exporting a breeze.

PM: For editing software, I use Photoshop and Alien Skin plugin. For retouching I do it manually.

Lastly, what type of camera and lens would you recommend for beginners? 

TT: Actually, it depends on your budget. When I first started in photography, I only had an entry-level Canon 1000d and a kit lens. I suggest to make use of what you have and upgrade later. But for sports, ideally anything around 70-200mm lens would be good. But again, if you don’t have the money to spend, I suggest to just start shooting with what you have. Practice makes progress not the gear.

Photo by Tristan Tamayo

JL: Depends on the sport, but a long lens would help a lot. Assuming you have a kit lens of 18-55 then a 70-200 is the way to go. If you can afford faster glass or if you have primes, those are great too. Ffity, 85, or 105 should be good primes for sports. A lot of venues here in the Philippines are badly lit, so fast glass helps.

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