The Dangers of Sports Photography

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It’s no mystery that sports can be dangerous if they get out of control, especially sports like football, rock climbing, snowboarding, skateboarding, or car racing. Athletes train for years to be able to control their bodies and equipment to the best of their ability. However, sometimes they push the limit too far and things get risky.

Not only are sports dangerous for the athletes themselves, but they’re also dangerous for the people on the sidelines, mainly the photographers. For example, after a serious injury to Paul George during a basketball scrimmage, the NBA made adjustments to their baseline rules. Not only did the NBA limit the amount of photographers allowed on the baseline, but also how far away from the line they can be. The NBA justified their decision by saying it was for the safety of the athletes and photographers.

It’s always of the utmost importance to be aware of the dangers of sports photography so you don’t end up like this guy…

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I am impressed that he kept trying to get the shot after he was almost killed, though.

A Football Example

I have a couple stories about always being aware of the dangers of sports photography from my experiences shooting sporting events. The first story is from the time I was shooting a University of Tennessee college football game. It was my first time on the sideline and I was completely unaware of how fast the athletes are in person. They look slower on TV.

As I was shooting the list of shots I was expected to provide my client, I got excited about one play in particular. The editor needed action shots of one specific quarterback who didn’t play very much. Right when he entered the game, I knew it was my one and only chance to get a few useful shots of his playing time.

The quarterback ran the perfect play for where I was standing on the sideline; a naked bootleg. Now, if you’re unfamiliar with football, a naked bootleg is when a quarterback fakes a hand off and turns to run toward the sideline to throw the ball down the field. Man, was I excited, and I got some amazing shots!

However, I suddenly heard loud, heavy footsteps to my right. It was the defense running right at me. Realizing the danger I was in, I had to dive out of the away to avoid imminent destruction.

A Soccer Example

I never thought that soccer was a dangerous sport until I started watching it more often. It’s amazing to me how much soccer players run and give up their bodies to compete and win a game.

So, I was completely unaware during one game how much danger I was in. The game was going slow and it was close to halftime, so I decided to go into the press room to get a head start on editing my first half shots. Soccer fields are pretty big, so it took me a while to walk to the tunnel.

I guess I lost concentration on my walk (that’s not surprising by the way) because I had no idea that there was a developing play coming my direction. As I passed behind the goal, I heard a loud BANG against the wall next to me. It was the soccer ball.

A player had attempted a shot that went wide of the goal and within a few feet of my head. If the ball had connected with my skull I probably would have been knocked out by the speed of the ball (or decapitated).

How to Avoid Dangers

No matter where you are or what you are doing, you are usually a few split seconds away from injury if you’re shooting a sporting event. You always need to be aware of the dangers of sports photography. Always predict what could happen and where any danger could come from. If you do that, you’ll be less likely to be injured.

It is not my intention to frighten anyone away from sports photography. In fact, I love sports photography! I’ve had some of the best thrills of my photography career shooting sports. I just know the importance of staying alert and safe while shooting athletic events.

Have you ever been involved in a dangerous situation while shooting sports? Leave your story in the comments section!


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