How to Cover Pro Sports

When you cover Pro Sports, you not only represent yourself but also the publication or broadcast outlet for which you are shooting. Any misconduct on your part may prevent other photographers or journalists from obtaining credentials from the same outlet in the future. Always make sure that your press credentials are up-to-date.

Most sports organizations require an online application prior to game day. The window for making such applications is usually short, beginning about  3-4 weeks before game day.  As soon as all available media spaces are assigned, the application site is closed. Most of these applications must be made by an editor or news director on your behalf. It is almost impossible to walk up to a press gate for a pro sports event on game day and be allowed access.

Remember the following rules of conduct:

1. Ask for and follow their media guidelines at all times. Using a tripod is usually not acceptable. Utilizing a monopod (if you must) not only provides a faster set-up, but also allows you greater mobility as well. The last thing you want to happen is for a player to crash into your equipment and end his career.

2. Keep up with the action without getting in the way of it. As the action races past you, move only within the limits assigned to you.

3. Stay out of restricted areas.

4. Most teams huddle photographers along the sidelines or under the baskets. If you make a special written request to the media director (well in advance), you may obtain permission to shoot from the sideline near the scorers table or from an aisle. You may also gain permission to mount a camera somewhere on the field or court. Without that permission, do not do that.

5. If you have to strobe the arena, special assignments must be made. If you want to shoot the team from behind the bench, do it quickly and move on. Try not to create any distractions.

6. For indoor sports on a court you are required to sit on the floor while shooting from the sideline or under the basket. It will be a tight squeeze sitting shoulder to shoulder with other photographers. Mark your spot on the floor early on a piece of tape or on a card. If mono pods are allowed, keep it close to you.

7. Offer the team some of your best shots. They may not use them, but you will develop a positive relationship with the media relations director and possibly some of the players.

8. If you cover a team on a regular basis, you will probably get to know some of the players. Refrain from asking for autographs or special favors. Most teams strictly forbid this, and it can result in a loss of your credentials and tarnish your credibility.

9. While concentrating on a shot, retain your awareness of all the action. It’s highly likely that you will have at least one player or one ball crash into you during your career.

10. To obtain the best shot of a particular player, contact the media director. The media director holds the key to the team and grants or denies your requests. Work with him or her to get the shots you need.

11. Refrain from talking unnecessarily to other photographers during a game. You won’t score any points by causing your fellow photographer to miss an important shot!

12. Do not step in front of a photographer who is taking a shot. If someone moves in front of you, inform them that you are there and they will most likely move away.

13. Avoid becoming a distraction yourself. You are there to record the game and not to become an integral part of it. Retain your professional air at all times. No matter how long you have been covering a particular team, refresh yourself frequently on their media guidelines. This not only keeps you aware of any changes but will impress the PR department with your professionalism.