Monday, June 13, 2011

Competitive Edge

10 tips to help you shoot sports like a pro
By William Sawalich, Photography By Mike Powell Published in Shooting
Competitive Edge

For an image of the Tour de France, Powell climbed all over a hill looking for the perfect vantage point. When he finally found it, he also found good fortune: the perfect combination of elements to make it great.

"I'd walked all over," he says, "looked at the inside of the turn, outside the turn, on the straight, looking down the valley, looking from distant hills a long way off. Finally, I made the call to shoot here. The clouds rolled in and the sun broke just on my turn. I'd like to think I was rewarded for all the sweat I first left on the side of the hill."


Don't simply photograph the action as it unfolds in front of you. Powell recommends grabbing hold of your perspective—not the physical viewpoint, but the personal perspective about the story you're trying to tell. Let that influence your camera's position to help present the athletes from the angle that serves you best—whether it's up high for a graphic background or down low for monumental appeal.

"Photography isn't about showing people images of how they see the world," he says. "It's about showing people how you want to see it. I like my athletes heroic. I might be tall, but I spend a lot of time groveling around in ditches to make athletes look larger than life."


Shooting sports can put you in some dangerous positions, so watching your back is certainly prudent advice. But what Powell really means is this: Just before you click the shutter, double-check outside the viewfinder to ensure you've actually found the best shot available. It might even be behind you.

"When you think you know what to shoot, take a moment and look around," says Powell. "You might be missing the best shot. You have to give yourself the chance to see things outside of your primary focus. I get hung up on the athletes and the sport, so I really like it when I free myself up and look around for pictures off the main focus. Shooting for books has really helped me do that."

To see more of Mike Powell's work, including images from his new book A Game To Love: In Celebration of Tennis, visit

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