Friday, June 10, 2011

Reflections of a Volunteer Sports Photographer

Reflections by Wayne-K
Reflections, a photo by Wayne-K on Flickr.

I read an interesting article by Peter West Carey, titled “Photograph For Yourself Then Ask For Specific Advice.” In this article, the author addresses two key points.

1.Shoot for yourself.
2.Seek constructive and actionable feedback.

In March 2010, I initiated a 365 photography project. I joined a Flickr group, created to support members pursuing a 365 project. Back then, it was a bit intimidating posting my photos online, putting myself “out there” for critique. I, however, felt the feedback was a critical part of my development as a photographer. I sought constructive and actionable feedback so I could improve my skills. However, upon receiving feedback, I felt obligated to implement the changes to my photos. Many times, one person’s feedback conflicted with another person’s feedback. For example, one person would love the saturated colors, while another thought it was over-saturated. One thought a horizontal frame would work better, while another felt the vertical frame was stronger. Over the course of time, I came to appreciate something my dad used to say, “Opinions are like buttholes…everyone has one.” As it applies to photography, art is subjective and everyone has their own likes and dislikes, and there isn’t necessarily a “right” answer.

I came to trust my own vision and became less concerned with making my photographs look the way others thought it should look. One could say I began to shoot for myself. Don’t get me wrong, I still welcomed constructive feedback and many times the changes strengthened the final image dramatically. However, I didn’t feel like I “had to” make the changes. At the end of the day, I made absolutely sure I was happy with “my” image.

Now that I am done with my 365 project, I feel like I have broadened my horizons a bit. I still go hiking and backpacking, and shoot the landscapes I so love. I still shoot the family candids at birthdays and holidays. But, I now shoot black and white “day in the life” images with an old film camera. I don’t shoot these images to impress anyone. I don’t shoot them to hang on the wall. I just shoot them for the fun of it…for pure, simple, photographic pleasure.

I’ve also ventured into sports photography, shooting my son’s high school basketball games and my daughter’s softball games. As the volunteer team photographer, my “job” is to capture the season in photos. But, the beautiful thing about being a volunteer is I feel no pressure to impress or please anyone (unlike a paid professional). I feel entirely free to shoot what I want and how I want it. I’ll shoot the typical action shots one moment….then an artsy, creative shot the next. This has been one of the most rewarding experiences for me. Personally, I find great pleasure capturing a slice of my children’s lives in photos. I also enjoy sharing my work with the other parents. They are extremely appreciative of the time I spent shooting all of the games and they cherish the photos of their children.

One of my goals for 2011 was to be more active in the community as a volunteer. Being a volunteer photographer this year has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my adult life. Having parents and players come to me after the games to tell me how much they loved the photos is priceless. I have come to realize I will never become a professional photographer, for the pressure and expectations would ruin the experience…..and the pay is much less rewarding.

1 comment:

  1. Wayne, you have some great thoughts here. I could not agree more that once you start putting a price on the work you do, the joy of it fades. The reward becomes about the money, not so much the sheer pleasure of taking the pictures and the anticipation of looking at them later to see what you captured.

    I struggled as well with how to handle the critique. It took me most of my 365 to finally come to the place where I was comfortable with what I did and did not feel compelled to change it to please the commenter, unless I agreed with them.

    You have such a great body of work and are truly and inspiration to many of us who enjoy seeing where your vision leads you. It inspires us to do likewise.