Ten Tips For Making Better Roller Derby Photos
Roller derby is a sport that I watched as a kid. I think that most my age did. TNN had these great banked track bouts that were part sport and part pro wrestling drama. This is a very fast sport that is usually played in places where lighting is not the best. It really forces you to test the limits of your gear, editing software, and your skills. It is not the easiest sport to make good photos because of all of that. When you do though it is very rewarding, and you can pretty much make good photos anywhere. Here are ten tips for making better roller derby photos.
1. Talk To The Refs – Before a game (or bout) I will talk to the refs to get to know them a little bit more as well as find out what their concerns are about me. If you know the refs or they are certain that you are safe they can provide you with a box inside of the circle that you can make some very good photos from. These are great photos that are far different than what you get photographing back into the circle. It is well worth your time to get to know the refs.
2. Don’t Forget The Refs, NSO’s, And Other Volunteers – Roller derby is an interesting sport. The skaters on the track are also the people behind making sure everything goes smoothly during the games. Around them are a great support team that helps make sure that happens. During the day of the game make sure to show these people some love as well by making them a part of the gallery too. They are all working hard, and they deserve to be a part of the gallery too.
3. Learn The Game – This is a sports that seems to constantly be evolving in some way. The basic rules stay the same though. Learning those basic rules can help you make much better photos. Like any sport being able to anticipate the action can help bring those great action photos home.
4. Bring Your Fast Glass – I have been to exactly one bout where the lighting was amazing in the eight years that I have been making roller derby photos. For all of the other bouts I have had to make some decisions about my photography. Having your fast glass with you helps a lot with those decisions. Along with the fast glass many will strobe a bout. That may be a discussion for an entirely different post though.
5. Arrive Early, Stay Late – This one seems to come up in every one of these posts doesn’t it? It is good advice all of the time. Coming early a t bout allows you to talk to the refs as I stated earlier. You can also make some interesting photos of some of the skaters putting their bout makeup on. Some of the looks are very elaborate, and they make for great images. Being there early allows for you to make other photos of the details as well. Staying after the bout allows you to make some great photos of their skaters with their family and friends. There are also the great autograph photos as the future of the sport meets the current members. Don’t forget the group photo either!
6. Have A Plan – It is always good to have a plan of attack for a bout. This can be part of arriving early. You can see how the light falls and plan your photography according to it. Knowing where you want to be when is a great way to start your day. By working out with the officials when you plan on being inside of the circle you don’t surprise them when you show up in there. Saying that this is a sporting event where things get messy. Plans can change, but having an idea of how you will photograph the bout makes the day go by much smoother.
7. Make Different Photos – It can be easy to sit in one spot and just keep making photos for the entire bout. That can be great for making sure you have something from every skater, but it makes for a boring gallery. After looking through a few images you feel like you are just looking at the same thing over and over. Varying your angle or shooting style can change things up and keep people looking at the gallery longer. Late in bouts I may break out a light or two and start using it. I may start panning with the action as well. Combining both of those together can lead to some cool panning photos with the flash at the end to freeze the action. If you have the means and the safety knowledge you can also hang some remotes up over the action for a great view that is not done very much.
8. Don’t Forget The Emotion – One of my favorite things to photograph is emotion in sports. It seems like roller derby is a sport where I have made some of my favorite photos that involve emotion. They work so hard to make these events a success that after the event there is often some great emotion to capture.
9. Don’t Forget The Blockers – The jammer seems like the easiest part of the bout to photograph. They really are. Having a gallery of just the jammers though would be like turning in a gallery of just the pitchers from a baseball game. The blockers are of course crucial to the game, but they can be hard to make good photos of. Think of making a lineman photo at a football game. They can be blocked by others at times, but if you stay with it you can make good photos of them.
10. Shoot In RAW – With these dark places where the game is played you want the most data to work with when you get home. Shooting in RAW mode allows you to have the most to work with when you edit your photos.
Bonus Tip: Have Fun! – This is a fun sport to be a part of in any capacity. I have the most fun making photos of it. For the last eight years I have loved being at the bout and being able to give them memories from their time on the track.