Research · Sport

Roller derby test shots

“Photographers strive to capture the intense emotion of the contest – in victory or defeat” – Peter Skinner

When researching sports photographers there are three main elements I noticed in almost all of their shots.

  • The focus is usually on the facial expression. This is the element which tells the story and helps us distinguish between winners and losers (what we are usually wanting to know from sport photography).
  • There is often more negative space than objects in the image. As explained of “Negative space defines and emphasises the main subject of a photo, drawing your eye to it. It provides “breathing room”, giving your eyes somewhere to rest and preventing your image from appearing too cluttered with “stuff”. All of this adds up to a more engaging composition.” In sport photography the main focus will usually only be one or two subjects so the use of negative space helps draw your focus directly to the main object of focus rather than to other points in the image.
  • A shallow depth of field is usually used to completely blur out the crowd or other competitors in sport photography. This has the same effect as negative space and ensures the viewers focus remains where the photographer wants it to.
Mark Pain fencing photography
An image taken from Mark Pain’s website of a fencing match

The above image shows sport photographer, Mark Pain’s use of negative space and focus on emotion. The contrasting black and white also helps the two subjects stand out. The eye is instantly drawn to the presumed winner because of his facial expression, the negative space then leads us to the presumed loser who we can tell isn’t victorious due to his the photographers choice in documenting only the winners expression.

Roller Derby photography
Roller Derby test shot with use of blank space

This image I took of two people in roller derby training includes lots of negative space. I think this works in ensuring the eye is drawn straight to the only components of the image but would need to be cropped to be effective in portraying a message. I like the use of negative space but would have to be careful not to over use it when documenting Roller Derby as it is a very hectic, close proximity sport and the use of negative space would take away from that franticness.

Mark Pain Paralympics Photography
Mark Pain’s use of a shallow depth of field

Mark Pain uses a shallow depth of field to completely blur out the crowd and slightly blur the other competitors. Firstly this shows clearly who the winner is and secondly doesn’t allow the viewer to be distracted by the stories of the other subjects the intended narrative is clearly that Great Britain has one this competition in the Paralympics, the stories of the other subjects is irrelevant at this time.

Roller derby photography
Use of shallow depth of field in roller derby test shots

I took this image with a shallow depth of field, this allows the viewer to focus on the subject in the foreground who is telling a story through her body language and facial expression. The main subject would have to be further into the last third to effectively direct the eye there instantly.

One of the main issues I have encountered when trialling sport photography is that in sport photography most viewers expect a text of pleasure. With Mark Pain’s photography the background story isn’t clear but the viewer can gather all the information it needs from the image. The images I have taken of roller derby are more text’s of bliss. Without in-depth research and detailing about the sport and what is happening in the photograph the viewer is unlikely to develop an interesting narrative in their mind. In this case the photo’s would just be assisting the story not excelling the narrative and are therefore less impactful.




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