Updated: Apr 22, 2021
As part of our journey into sports journalism, we have been delving into the basics of photography. This is to get an understanding of what we would want as journalists for our work and if we were unable to have someone take pictures, we could just jump in and get it done. Becky Matthews is our module leader for the Fundamentals of Photographic Practice for Sports Journalism.
The lack of actual lecture time due to the COVID-19 outbreak has limited the amount of practice we've been able to get from covering live sport from a photography point of view, but that hasn't stopped us learning as much as possible from different high profile photographers like Morgan Maassen, Svetlana Romantsova & pro surfer Vahine Fierro.
Week 1 - Seeing
For our first few assignments we were asked to look for Shape, Line & Texture anywhere we thought it was appropriate or interesting. We've always been told to think about what could be interesting and make the most out of something that seems quite plain. Over the lecture we were shown a number of different pictures to illustrate what could be done just by using your surroundings creatively.
Using shape, line & texture show that you, as the photographer, are constantly looking to add to the visual interest of the shot or image that is produced and this is massively important when taking stock images for which we will cover later in the module
Looking back at the sort of photography used by the professionals I'm following on instagram and other blogs, it's clear to see the simple things are often the most effective.
Week 2 - Intro to the module and Phone Portraits
Our second week we delved into portraits and how to take them on phones. At this point we still hadn't looked into DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex) cameras as we had to have a video tutorial on how to use them along with how to book them out. In class we talked about the importance of where the light was coming from, the background and setting. With these in mind we ventured out to take some pictures of the people in our class and practiced taking portrait pictures to then be reviewed by everyone else under the tuition of our lecturer.
Week 3 - Induction into kit and Journals
Once we had explored more about the basic techniques used to get that stand out picture, we had our first proper introduction into using a DSLR camera. This introduction meant we'd then be able to book our own out from the media department to start building our portfolio of pictures. We were shown the all the different types of lens, and the one that we would most likely be using if we were out shooting sport, there would be extra training on this further down the line as the lens itself costs £7000.
Becky then started talking about our research journals, this is what you are reading right now. Throughout the year we will be adding to this with everything we cover in the Fundamentals of Photographic Practice for Sports Journalism, things like social media posts of photographers that we are following, all the sessions covered in University, any pictures we have taken and be able to reflect on what we have learnt during the entire year.
This journal will form an in depth analysis of my learning during my first behind the camera along with images showing my progression and skill development journey
After introduction into using a DSLR, we delved into the settings in more detail, looking at Aperture, Shutter Speed & ISO. The aperture is the hole in the lens which allows light into the camera. Aperture settings are called f/numbers or f/stops. The smaller the f/number the larger the aperture (hole that lets the light in). Also the smaller the f/number the less is in focus, using depth of field used especially in portraiture. Part of your picture will be pin sharp and the rest of the image will fall out of focus, this works when you want to draw someones eye towards one part of the image. Because we are studying sports photography we have been advised to use an aperture between 3.5 - 5.6, you want to focus on the player in football or rugby and not the stand which is behind them.
For this session we looked into how different settings can effect the way your photo comes out and ways to avoid bad images that wouldn't be able to be used. As this was a contact lesson we had chance to go out and take pictures around the University campus and see what we could come back with. Some of my images were looking out of focus and the colour was slightly off.
When we returned to the classroom, I was shown that the auto/manual focus switch on the lens was on manual instead of auto focus which caused the issues with the images. This was the first time I had even noticed the switch so it was a lesson to learn for the future. The strange thing about this was that I was able to take some pictures that were fine, apart from the colour, as I mentioned above. The colour issue was through not having the correct setting in the White Balance menu with it not being on AWB (Auto White Balance).This again was a simple oversight by myself which had been added to the checklist prior to taking any more pictures with the DSLR.
Three settings control how bright your image will be: Aperture, Shutter speed, and ISO. We call this trio the “exposure triangle”.
All three interacts with each other and work together.
The exposure triangle can be easily visualised. As all these three elements are connected to the other two, if you draw it, you get a perfect triangle.
They are connected because if you change one, it affects the other two. You have to adjust them to keep the perfect exposure Three settings control how bright your image will be: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. We call this trio the “exposure triangle”.
All three interacts with each other and work together.
The exposure triangle can be easily visualised. As all these three elements are connected to the other two, if you draw it, you get a perfect triangle.
They are connected because if you change one, it affects the other two. You have to adjust them to keep the perfect exposure value.
We have to make sure we learn by looking, this means that as our photographic journey continues that are images get better over time and you have to remember the five C's,
Content, Composition, Context, Connection, Comment.
Content - What's in the image? Where is the focal point?
Composition - Different techniques used to create your image and the arrangement of the different elements. Slow shutter speed, depth of field, reflection, negative space, analyse how the lighting, angles, scale, perspective, are all part of what will make a better composition
Context - Why was it taken? Where was it taken?
Connection - How have you connected with the subject? What is the meaning? How do you want to get that across?
Comment - What is the meaning behind the image? What are the strengths and weaknesses?
These are all aspects a good photographer will have in mind when finding that perfect shot, this was discussed at length when SSgt Steve Blake joined us as a guest speaker covering everything that an Army Photographer working with the Ministry of Defence would have to take in to consideration. These are perfectly explained with just a few pictures that Steve shared with us from the Instagram account @Army_Photographers.
I wanted to use the 5 C's to analyse the picture above with the anti-tank missile being launched just to show how the SSgt Steve Blake or one of his group of photographers would have approached getting this image
Content - The focal point is the soldier holding the launcher in position, has to be in the centre of the shot or you would lose either the missile at the front or explosion behind the soldier.
Composition - We have often been told to bend our knees and get below the focal point to create a better position and this has been done here. Not much but enough to gain a better perspective to the overall image. Not much negative space as the entire picture tells it's own story, the shutter speed would have been taken into consideration to make sure that the image 'Froze', this would have had to be set to a fast setting, this will be explained in more detail later in the module when we discuss sports photography.
Context - This image has been taken to show soldiers are training with new equipment. There is often interest to see how technology is improving national security and that the army are prepared. The description mentions being at Salisbury Plain, this is one of the most famous areas for army training and testing in the United Kingdom, so easily recognisable to those who do take an interest.
Connection - The subject is part of the Air Assault Brigade, you would need to make sure that the soldier undertaking training is the main part of the picture, the missile and launcher and to the story. Taking a simple picture has shown it's benefit here, you just need to make sure all the elements are there to complete the shot in one go.
Comment - The meaning behind the image is very clear, Army, Training and New Technology are just a couple of the examples you could link to this picture. As mentioned in Connection, this is a very simple be highly effective image. The basics are easy to see and the image draws your eye all around with there still be a clear focal point
Stock photography is a an industry that sells photographs like a library, photographers upload their images to stock agency where people can purchase them from. We need stock photographs as part of our final submission but we have also been advised that it's something good to have for any written pieces we have produced for the journalism part of the course due to not having to ask for the copyright licence if it's our own work.
Stock images for sports photographers can be anything, live action, portrait, set up of scenes, close ups of kit, pictures of grounds or stadiums. People running or cycling, it can be anything that can be used to illustrate a story, whether it's your own or someone else has chosen to use your picture for their story.
These screenshots from the BBC website show good examples of non action stock images and the frequency they can be used, the picture of John Henry, Liverpool Owner and Edward Woodward, Manchester United executive vice-chairman have been used on many occasions to draw attention to who the article relates to. The same applies to the Team GB Women picture when they were involved at the London 2012 Olympics.
Getting a good stock image can not only be good for any articles you produce but could also generate revenue from selling on some agency image sites.
Live action images only have a shelf life of 24 hours, as soon as that time has past they become stock photographs.
After talking about the basics of stock photography we discussed the agencies that would be good to sell our images on if we decided to take this part of our degree more seriously. Some of these agencies include Alamy, Shutterstock and Stocksy. We were guided through the enrolment process with Alamy as they have a deal with the University of South Wales.
Even whilst discussing the agency possibilities, we will mainly be using our own stock photographs for written work. With this in mind I decided to hire out a Canon 750D camera from the university media loans and test myself taking lots of different situations.
With learning from different types of photography, we were shown lots of stock images taken by professional media outlets on Instagram like @RedBullPhotography, @BBCSportWales, and following other sports photographers for stock image ideas like @nicnacnoopixs. These can be used as inspiration for how we look to take our own shots.
Whilst writing our own articles, we have to make sure that we don't just use an image from another website as we won't have the rights to do so due to copyright.
As part of a formative submission, we took the time to look at different editing aspects within Adobe Photoshop with a brief introduction in Adobe Bridge, creating montages in Photoshop, cleaning an image, and cropping. These basic skills would go a long way to helping with future submissions for this module and further down the line when producing articles for publications. We were given an image to improve, alter and make stand out. We were also given the image in it's corrected form as a reference to make sure what we were doing was close to what a finished picture would look like.
Since our first time out with a DSLR taking shots around Cardiff I have tried to take as many pictures of different instances as I can, using different angles and trying to develop my understanding of adding effects in photoshop.
As a group we managed to get outside, in the pouring rain, and get some great action pictures with the help of Mark Thomas and the riders at Foreshore MXC. I never knew that there was a motocross track in Cardiff Bay by the steel works, but it was a great day to get out and see real life action shots being taken, even if we did get a bit wet.
It was nice to see Mark and the work that he does with youth development, the fact we got to shoot a former world champion in action and looking at how the other riders get to learn about every aspect of the bikes and how to ride properly.
We saw first hand that, even in bad weather, you can get some great shots. these all incorporated the previous lessons of shutter speed, aperture along with shape, line and form. Mark was great with us as he explained the course and where he would do tricks for the camera, it was then down to us to get the perfect shot.
With the weather being so bad, it was essential that we tried to keep the lens dry or out of the rain, something that I didn't take into account until after I downloaded the pictures to my computer. Just having a cloth or lens cover would have made a massive difference in the amount of images I was able to use, as some of my better ones had rain drops distorting the picture as shown below.
I looked to get as many images as I could that showed the bikes splashing through puddles, like the one above, to give the water breaking/splashing effect and using a fast shutter speed, it meant the water was frozen in time a lot better. This effect would be a vital learning tool in live sport whether it was football or table tennis. Freezing the action or making the main focus of the picture about one player or rider would make a much better finished image.
When you look at football or rugby, the player stands out from the crowd or stadium and is the main focus, you don't need to see the other aspects of the picture, fans or stadium, pin sharp.
This would take you back to look at the 5 C's to make sure everything about the pictures you are producing have all the elements that work for for the story you are trying to tell
Shutter speed is the length of time when the film or digital sensor inside the camera is exposed to light. The speed is measured in fractions of a second and for sports images you would use the TV mode on the camera jog wheel (Canon 750D), this mode is used to catch high speed action, perfect for football or tennis.
Shutter speed is also used in a more creative way, not just to make something look pin sharp and allowing the amount of light to hit the camera sensor.
Here is a great example of using a shutter speed to make the background blur. But even when using a slow shutter speed to create motion blur, it’s best to ensure that some parts of your composition remain sharp. The colours clearly stand out & the face is perfectly presented. The motion blur is enough to draw you back to the face along with being inquisitive about what is going on in the background.
This image show the way that it doesn't have to be in colour to make it stand out from the crowd and catches 2 different sides of what is a moving object. Not only has David Prasser caught the people standing on the platform waiting for their train completely still but he has also managed to catch the lady on the inside of the train doors stood waiting for the train to start on it's journey again with everyone around those 2 different areas in a motion blur moving to and from the carriage.
Fast shutter speeds freeze motion and avoid a motion blur in your images. These values mean really short times; think fractions of a second. The image below explains what the shutter speed should be to get the best image for the sport or situation you are in.
This image explains the perfect link between getting a focal point to freeze in the image or to get 'Creative Blur' with everything else explained in between. Looking back at the images I took at Foreshore MXC, I should have increased the shutter speed to make the image even more pin sharp which would have also made the 'splash' look even more defined. Using 1/800 wasn't quite fast enough to capture every part of that image in the way I wanted but when we go back I will be able to make sure it is set faster to improve the outcome of my pictures
The selection of pictures below are all examples of how a fast shutter speed can be used to really freeze and capture the moment perfectly without affecting the focal point.
For this session, we were able to go over our journals so far after starting them in the 3rd week of the module. It was more of a refresher as to what we wanted to achieve with our written work in a mainly practical module. Becky went over the points that we should have already covered and how to structure the journal going forwards.
Copyright law ended up being taught in line with our Law and Ethics module so we covered all bases regarding every aspect of work we might undertake when we graduate.
For ourselves , we need to make sure that any work we produce is properly tagged so that it can be traced back and anyone using it will be responsible for asking our permission beforehand. As for picture we are using in journals or other work, we need to be aware of what the implications could be if we haven't asked for the correct permissions, this is only the first part of copyright law.
In the UK copyright in images lasts for the life of the creator plus 70 years from the end of the calendar year of their death although the length of the copyright period will depend on when the image was created.
On the whole, UK law doesn't prevent photography in public places. The UK has relatively liberal laws regarding photography compared with many countries. Although there are some exceptions, the key principle is that you can photograph people and buildings without needing permission, providing you are in a public place.
As long as you're not causing any harassment, you're allowed to photograph other people if they are in a public place.
Public vs. Private
Many of the incidents in which photographers come into difficulty is that many places which you instinctively think are public are in fact privately controlled. This includes some shopping centres, car parks, some parks and play areas (depending on the attitude of the landowner) and various private structures, for example, Millennium Wheel on the South Bank in London. There is a trend for public places to become private, particularly in town centres which are developed with new shopping centres.
In a public place
Taking photos in a public place is not illegal. The only time an offence is committed is if the photographs being taken are considered to be indecent. There is no law stating that you can't take photographs in public. This includes taking photos that include other people's children or taking photos of children directly. An offence will, however, have been committed if the photographs taken are indecent.
"Public Place" is not defined in legislation. A public place is usually a place to which the public are allowed to have access freely and without payment or permission. This includes any public highway or footpath. The inside of a car is also considered as a public place, unless it is parked on private property.
You may take photographs of people or objects (including buildings) whilst in a public place. With a few exceptions the owners of the property cannot prevent you from doing so and people cannot generally object to having their photographs taken.
In the UK you do not have to get the permission from people you photograph whilst they are in a public place. Using and selling images of people in a public place is usually acceptable if undertaken with a view to being used for any journalistic or artistic material.
However if you intend to sell the image commercially or use it for a commercial purpose (for example to promote a product) it is normally recommended to get people to sign a model release form.
On Private Property
If the person you're photographing is on private land, they could claim a right to privacy, and if you're on private land, then the owner of the land has the right to restrict photography on their property.
How you choose to use the photos later may well be restricted by whether you have a model release or property release, but this is a different matter.
If you are asked to stop taking photographs on private property then it is advisable to do so. The person asking might not have the legal right to do so but it is likely that the actual landowner will side with them rather than you. Additionally you could be accused of trespass. you could be accused of trespass.
Further details can be found here:
Week 12 - Group tutorials to edit & improve portraits which were due on Friday January 8th
For the second formative submission in our 1st year photography journey we were asked to get portraits, at the time of covering who to get portraits of, we found out about the next stage of the Welsh Government's plan to help the battle against COVID, time to think outside of the box! Luckily I had two very willing models in the house who enjoy taking pictures themselves, they wanted to get in on the action.
Using an iPhone 11 Pro, I managed to catch Isobelle, my daughter, and Gethin, my son, in a very natural environment. They were quite helpful even if it did take a few bribes to take a few more pictures than normal. Once I had all the pictures, I wanted to attempt editing them using Adobe Photoshop and for one of the images, I had the assistance of our university lecturer who explained what elements to look at and how to go about making those changes to enhance the pictures.
This is the edited version. I was guided to use Photoshop Levels, Highlights/contrast, Smart Sharpen and shadows/highlights, dodge tool (on highlights, burn tool (on shadows). This made the colours stand out a lot more and brought more of a distinction to the overall picture. With how Isobelle is positioned in the frame you would be able to use this in a publication as your eyes would flow naturally around the picture. I used these same techniques in the other portraits I've taken for this stage of our progression.
Just for contrast, this is how the original looked before we altered anything, the changes are massive and very subtle, but they do make a difference in the overall look of the picture. All the editing of the pictures below was done in Adobe Photoshop.
I was very aware of what I had done previously in Week 4 and didn't want to make the same mistake again regarding focus and white balance problems. As it was taken on an iPhone the white balance was already automatic but I still had to make sure all the other elements of the shot were correct, the focus being the main one. If this had come out even slightly blurry or shakey, it wouldn't have been able to be used for my final submission.
As this was the first week back after the Christmas break, we were eased into it by having a guest speaker, Rob Norman, who is the Head of Images at Media Wales. He spoke about how the pandemic had made photographers think outside the box and be more creative as they couldn't just carry on as they had always done before. The way that images were becoming very similar regarding being taken through windows or doors due to not being able to get into house or shops. He was also very quick to stress that this wasn't a bad thing as it had helped a lot of different ways the photographers approached getting those valuable shots that could be used in the Media Wales publications.
The picture desk that Rob was overseeing was full of just about everything, and with so many different images to choose from, it was equally important that Rob chose the correct image to fit the story being covered.
I was able to book a tutorial with Becky where I went over the shots I had taken for the formative portraiture submission in December. We went over my editing techniques and where I could improve the portrait just by getting the hands in a better position or bending my knees to become lower than focal point. This was important due to the fact I had been using my children as models for this submission.
Taking those comments on board I managed to improve my portraiture shots, which can be seen below.
Using Isobelle and Gethin as a models
hasn't be that hard at all as they both love to just be adventurous.
All of these were taken using an iPhone 11 Pro. You have to constantly be thinking about the background along with the position of the hands of your portrait subject and how you want them to pose.
Isobelle and Gethin have become used to me asking them to do silly things or pose in different places. My instructions when taking pictures must be more understandable as the quality of my shots has improved greatly. This is a massive learning curve for myself, to them it must be just as hard to understand.
The term metadata refers to ‘data about data’, it provides information about one or more essential aspects of your photograph, such as:
• Camera Data inc. technical settings, exposure, date & time
• Photographer’s contact information
• Copyright owner & contact information
• Description Information about photograph
• Keywords - Making the image searchable on the library/ internet
Some metadata is written by the camera and some is input by the photographer Some metadata is written by the camera and some is input by the photographer
If you have an image and it has a caption, keywords and a copyright, major search engines such as Google Images will pick it up. Photo libraries will also use search engines to find your work.
If you don’t have metadata associated with your image, anyone who is looking to buy or use your image may not only be unable to find it, but they won’t be able to find you to license it.
Once your work is published to the Web, metadata can help protect your rightful financial compensation.
Pictures without Metadata near impossible to find in a library - The Times in London handles in excess of 40,000 images each day! Pictures without Captioning can be used out of context - If an image in used in the wrong context it can become libellous Copyright and Payment If you have an Metadata. IPTC Caption associated with your image, anyone who is looking to buy or use your image will be able to contact you to license it.
Below is an example of adding metadata and captioning to one of the pictures I took when we visited Foreshore MXC.
This picture below shows how all the metadata is stored in the background of the image using metapicz.com once it's all been entered in photoshop.
The screenshot below shows one of the images I have uploaded to Alamy with the tags. I am still getting to grips with the keywords but using tools like Microstock Keyword tool helping me to understand more of what should be included to help get the images noticed.
Week 15 - The 5 Picture Story
As like most of this module, we have been restricted as to what we could cover in a classroom or taught environment but it's also made us use our own creativity for situations like this. We were tasked with creating a 5 picture story at home based on Making a hot drink, Cleaning our teeth or making toast/sandwich using the basis of a good narrative by using the 5 picture story rules which are:
Establishing Shot - A wide-angle shot to establish the scene
Close up - A detail shot to highlight a specific element of the story which draws us in
Portrait - Who is your main subject and what does he / she look like
Action Shot - show your subject doing something
Medium Shot - illustrates an essential element of the story
Each shot should tell part of the story in a way that guides the visual interest. These shots should incorporate the 5 C's discussed that have been previously discussed earlier in the module.
I decided to make a hot drink, this was something I could put an extra bit of effort into with the amount of different elements I could add.
The coffee machine with the pod, syrup and glass. Taken at a wide angle to show the beginning with everything that is going to be involved.
Coffee machine filtering the coffee into the glass.
Finished picture with the coffee and jammie dodger on the plate
Syrup being added to the drink
Glass being warmed up, one of my essential elements to make a coffee
All of these could have been better, and I have improved on getting closer to the subject for the image. The portrait shot should have been a lot closer along with syrup being added and the coffee going into the glass. This is all something that I can take into my next 5 picture story for the final submission.
Understanding how to make pictures interesting have been a theme throughout the year but this took a totally different outlook with watching how an american photojournalist, Paul Taggart, told the story of a typical day at American Pie.
It was easy to see that to get the perfect picture you have to have lots of options, getting into different positions and not scared to get close to the action, something that I was made aware of after the 5 picture story. It was also a good insight into how to make something that looks very simple to tell a story with some brilliant images that explain everything without words.
Week 17 - FTP Live Brief
This brief was to help us understand how we store picture and how to get them across to the correct desk for publications. There are 3 ways that you can send images, Email, Cloud Storage or File Transfer Protocol.
FTP, or File Transfer Protocol, is the standard way of transferring files between your computer and a server. One of the nice things about FTP is the fact that you can view and edit the entire file structure of your website or file server remotely, without ever touching your server. In order to do this, you’ll need an FTP client. FTP clients allow you to connect your computer to your remote server via the Internet.client.
The server we used was hostedftp.com. This service is 100% Cloud and it is the one recommended by the BPPA (British Press Photographers The server we use is hostedftp.com. This service is 100% Cloud and although not the most popular service, it is the one recommended by the BPPA (British Press Photographers Association)
This was great practice for us to get used to the easiest system to update pictures on the go, as mentioned from the guest speaker lecture with Rob Norman from Media Wales, he was able to pick and chose any images that showed up on his picture desk and it was constantly updating. If you were sending pictures over via email or dropbox, they'd then have to be downloaded and put into the server and it creates a lot more hassle.
There are distinct advantages to using the FTP site. We were encouraged to use the FTP site whenever possible. Advantages of using the FTP site include: transmission is very clear, multiple files can be added to a single folder rather than having to upload individual images, successful FTP transfer is confirmed upon completion, and software necessary for FTP transactions is available free. Cyberduck and Filezilla were the two pieces of software we were instructed on and they were both very simple to use once set up.