How I Shoot a Match: Part 1 — Pre-shoot
When I was first starting out, I was not shy to ask other photographers on how they would do certain so I am penning this down the same way people record their reps and sets at the gym — in an effort to eventually track my growth or lack of thereof in this field. For specificity purposes, football will be the preferred sport in most of my examples but ideally the practices should be transferrable to other sports.
Pre-shoot preparations start with understanding the sport and game and most importantly who is favoured to create the most compelling and important images at the end. The most obvious one would be who is likely to win or score in this match? Winning would mean goals and that would also mean celebrations — a crucial moment of pure unadulterated joy in a game. But there are also other elements that can always bring about interesting and impactful messages.Breaking of records or interesting story lines where an athlete and venue converges can also be good bases for making great images.
This workflow is under the assumption that you are working solo with no editor backing you up and also with the expectations that you need to provide edited images or even finished graphics while the game is ongoing — because let’s face it in this day and age, of course you are expected to deliver almost instantaneously
I will set up three folders:
- Warm Up (assuming I’m required to provide warm up images)
- First Half
- Second Half
And then there is the camera folder as well. Generally, I will create a new folder after each time I ingest any images into my MacBook. This helps speed things up when I plug in my cards in terms of not having to load the earlier images and accessing straight to the latest folder of images shot. So the sequence goes like this: Shoot > Ingest + Edit > Create New Folder in Camera > Back to Shooting
Weapons of Choice
For the usual match coverage I will usually have a two or three camera set up:
- Nikon Z9 with a 120-300mm or a 400mm f2.8
- This would be the primary camera and with these lenses, I should be able to get a pretty good range of outside the penalty box and inside the centre circle.
- D850 with a 70-200mm
- Nikon Z6 kitted with a 17-35mm on a low tripod triggered with Pocketwizard
- This one would a bonus to get shots from behind the goal like this
This would be the rough preparation before I shoot the match, usually I will also bring a telescopic stool to sit on especially if I know that there will be advertising boards blocking my view. So this is pretty much it for preparations before the shoot, I'm writing up the next post which would be about the shoot day itself. Keep a look out and share this around if you found it useful!
So for the past couple of seasons, I have had the pleasure of getting assignments that entailed shooting stadiums to be used in the graphics of Singapore Premier League. This year, in the spirit of learning in public and forcing myself to #showyourwork, I am going to break down my process of approaching the shoot and the mistakes I made.
To prepare for these kinds of stadium shoots, I search the area around the stadium on Google Earth to find good vantage points. This helps me determine if there are any high vantage points available for stadium shoots.
So in the case of Bishan Stadium, there weren't any publicly available high vantage points. So I had to walk around just shooting from the ground up.
Next, I will do a quick search of the kind of shots that has already been done just to make sure that I can cover all the bases as well as if there are any interesting angles of shots that other people have taken.
I will do a quick search of the kind of shots that has already been done just to make sure that I can cover all the bases as well as if there are any interesting angles of shots that other people have taken.
By doing this, I can use it as reference or even follow the approaches that they took. And from there I can also put a twist on how to do things my way and to just create a more refreshing imagery. Once I've done my research, I'll do a shot list and pack the required lenses accordingly.
Once we reach the ground itself, I just make sure once again to take a look around and see that my research checks out because you can't trust everything you see on the internet.
If every thing checks out with no new information, we start the shoot. Usually I would have a shot list or not, depending on how complex the various angles are. So for this shoot, I didn’t have one.
Since my research checks out, once I reached the stadium, I worked my way around the pitch — from the corners to the goalpost – making sure that I was keeping off the grass as much as possible. The one thing that I changed up this time was bringing along a fisheye lens to force myself to get new kinds of images and stretch myself a little bit more.
Basically, I used my usual tried and tested angles with a 17-35mm f2.8 before throwing on the fisheye to see how it would change things up. Here are some of the images on my IG feed.
As always, on hindsight there were a couple of things that I overlooked and underprepared for. Firstly, I should have known it was going to be blazingly hot and I was not prepared for that in terms of attire.
Secondly, I almost feel dumb writing this, I should have brought a tripod. Having a tripod would have allowed me to step back and consider the images I was taking and deliberate more on the composition. Eventually I was not using the viewfinder as much during this shoot and I felt that looking through a screen changes your gaze on the subject and help to open more doors creatively in terms of how I could have stretched myself further. I might even go so far as to bring an external monitor to help view the image in a bigger format.
It also helps you to be more detached and be able to notice little details that you might want to include or exclude from the photo. I am probably going to shoot more stadiums in the coming months so watch this space for more updates.
Questions that help me review the past year
The beginning of the year is always a tough one for me. Ever since I started RNG, it’s always difficult to really mark the start of the year for me for various reasons. My shoots sometimes can clash with the festive period and span across many days and through the new year and by the time January comes around, a lot of the time I only found time to slow down and really take stock of the previous year.
So the first three months of the year is typically when I reflect and take stock of what the past year has given me. I have been doing a method that I picked up from Tim Ferriss which is to scan through my calendar and go through all notable events — be it work or personal — and put them into two columns, positive and negative. Life-affirming and Life-draining.
I have yet to do it this year because it has been a non-stop hectic pace but perhaps tomorrow might be a good time for this. Apart from this method, I’ve also picked up something new from a podcast interviewing Austin Kleon.
This one is a little different, it is more of a perspective element rather than a prescriptive one. He speaks about how he questions and no longer subscribes to the idea that our lives are linear. He speaks of the flawed metaphors that we unknowingly takes as gospel and uses in our day to day and one of them being how many people are brought up to think about life being linear.
Instead, he offers the idea of life being a cyclical one, where it’s frenetic at certain periods and almost hibernative in other times. Perhaps this can be something that I notice through my scanning of my events and energy levels throughout the past year.
There are also a few questions I picked up that I want to jot down here to ask myself during this reflective exercise:
- What am I optimising for?
- How am I complicit in creating the conditions I say I don’t want?
- What am I not saying or doing that needs to be said or done?
May this provide a reminder and guide for myself to be more conscious in my decisions this year.
Why I am returning to writing
Having finally made the migration to a new website that is simpler and cleaner, I have mulled over this decision to start writing again for quite some time. The thing about operating in such a lean manner is sometimes you tend to forget and brush away any leaps of improvement and progress you have made over the years as you are so thick in the day-to-day battle in the trenches.
The pandemic years have forced me to look inwards a lot. From thinking about what am I doing to the why I am doing it, I have had to grapple with my thoughts and assumptions. Sometimes I come away bruised and bleeding, clutching on to some form of victorious clarity. Other times I lay beaten on the floor trying to just get through the day.
Either outcomes usually leads to more navel gazing and even the most crystallised insight gets lost in the noise of the everyday not long after. So why not put it down into writing and keep myself accountable to the setbacks and progress.
When I took the altMBA in 2019, I had felt so energised working through problems through writing and penning down my thoughts and solutions. Scanning my past works showed that some of the solutions were wishful thinking and naive, but nevertheless it gave me a push towards where I wanted to go — a compass and more importantly, momentum.
So four years later, I am back here again, writing. Some might be long, some might be short, but the promise is that the trickle will continue. The momentum was really started by a couple of books I read recently, Atomic Habits by James Clear and Show Your Work by Austin Kleon, so I definitely have them to thank for pushing me down this path again. May this humble attempt lead us to interesting people or places and vice versa.
After all as Seth Godin says, people like us do things like this.
So if you think you’re like me, follow along on this journey.