What’s Trending in Rollerderby Photography

Being a photographer is an adventure. Being an a derby photographer has been an unexpected adventure. I don’t want to take it for granted. Yet there are moments it seems like everybody has a camera or cell phone out taking photos. Even with that on a photographer’s mind, there is so much more going on while doing the one important thing, photographing the players.

One adventure was shooting a wedding in Alaska, and I ended up at a brand new league’s practice. The farthest thing from their mind was who would be taking their photos and videos. And derby girls love their photos. My first bout I shot seems so long ago. There I sat in suicide seating with my DSLR wondering if I could stream this with my cell phone. Now I’ve got 4 teams to shoot and some random responsibilities that go along with that. And this year there is the new rule set being used. It’s almost like new with the action picking up in the game.

Since the game has that new smell, what is new or rather trending for derby photography? More mega pixels, better video? Well, photographers always love those especially better ISO and noise reduction capabilities. There are a few things derby photographers need to keep an eye on.

Cell phones are all the rage for photos, no surprise there. Just shoot, edit, upload, and share all with an eye movement, voice command, or waving your finger somewhere near the screen. It is little wonder that the camera makers are introducing apps to cameras so you can customize features to taste as trends evolve. Track side may never be the same. The under 18 crowd already are all over the photos apps that have sent photos disappear after being viewed. Not a bad idea for those after party escapades.

Also, the small screen mobile/tablet market for streaming is on the rise. Just grab a device and away you go. Thanks to the economy, I’ll be keeping the internet but drop TV providers. Keep in mind that streaming video is largely underused by advertising markets for now, but that is changing. Also tagging video with comments at different points with in the video still hasn’t caught on, but that’s been around for a while. While getting a TV network deal may have been a goal at one time, it is possible to build your own channel online.

It’s hard to compete with instant upload anything. Professional photographers with big budgets at major sports have been using wifi connections and remote cameras for a while. Wait a minute, it shouldn’t be that intimidating for the average derby photographers if you really think about it. The latest trends are just the old stuff wrapped up in a new package for users as they learn new ways to use them. Photos and video have been around a long time anyway, it’s just easier to upload and go find them online today thanks to algorithms and hash tags that the world searches for. But to get a bunch of fans with cell phones to get usable photos for a league is still like herding cats. Leagues are still going to need the services of photographers that the general public just can’t do. It’s as good a time as any to get creative.

Speaking of hash tags, leagues should make use of those handy little tags. They are used online everywhere, and has finally been introduced for the first time to one major social media site. A photo and a hash tag says it all, especially on a budget. Build some buzz by posting them around the arena or in the printed program. People know what to do with those, so why not take advantage and maybe get a trending status. Let’s just not mention the time I accidentally started one for a band name, who knew they didn’t have one. #sticktophotographynotwriting

Oh, there is one myth floating around about getting a fancy camera. Some think that the camera makes all those pretty pictures. By buying the fancy equipment, then you’ll be able to take better photos. The photographer makes a photograph. It takes time to learn what all a camera is able to do and how to use it. A camera is just a tool to make the images you want to create. Take your time to find the right tools you’ll need, especially glass. Remember, the best camera is the one with you.

Now forget about the camera for a moment, leagues still a need to encourage your photographers to keep up their art or even get started in derby. Photographers don’t usually wake up one day craving the smell of grinding polyurethane and knee pads, and think “hey, roller derby”. Who in their right mind takes a thousand photos of anything, spends a fortune on equipment, and does all that with little to no pay on purpose? Sometimes it’s after a bout or two that a few will realize they may have a problem that needs it’s own 12 step program. Some where along the line you keep telling yourself “I can quit any time”, then one of the players is feeding you mini cheese crackers just to keep you around. Now, I’ve got to teach the junior coach about my weakness for popsicles, especially those chocolate covered ice cream bars. It may not have to be much, even a little swag is a great friendly gesture.

Keep in mind, any given league will need a variety of photographers to cover a bout. No one person can capture it all. It takes some work to build and keep up a team of photographers as part of the production team. You’ll need anything from full on volunteers all the way to paid professionals. Besides, it’s a good reminder of the different functions of league photographers, derby photographers who move around to different leagues, and media outside of the derby family. So take the time to work with your photographers, they will be doing a lot of editing, uploading, watching for copyright infringements, networking with each other, and more.

By the way, I don’t think you can be a real derby photographer until you shoot a junior bout. Well, maybe an expo. Ok, it’s a shameless ploy to recruit junior derby photogs, but don’t under estimate the action. Full bouts are worth the shutter time. You have to get low for the adults, and a little lower for the juniors. Of course a junior will pull off some sick moves. Just keep an eye on the jammer, she can jump an apex or slip under the arms of blockers with the greatest of ease. And it never fails, Dad loves it when you get the apex shot of the one who just happened to miss the team’s first ever apex practice. Let’s not talk about the focus on that one or their random antics at the after party.

Random little moments never gets old. At a preseason bout I saw a junior with a point-n-shoot screen to her eye like it’s an DSLR view finder. I sort of like to think she was copying my technique. Anyway, thankfully the Mom was right there so there could be an impromptu photo lesson. The future will rock when the juniors start invading the adult leagues. As for now, I see a need for a lot of photo workshops.

Even with the future of skating on it’s way via junior leagues rec leagues springing up, and maybe the Olympics there are still some challenges for photographers of all levels. We’re not talking drastic changes in technology. It’s more along the lines of photographer ethics and photo usage etiquette. League photographers are learning and growing with their leagues facing these challenges as they come along. Most of the behind the scenes work for photographers already is about meeting the needs of the team, and that is a challenge all it’s own. A league demanding photos is a great way to turn off new and seasoned photographers from a team. So a good league photo policy will usually help in understanding what is needed from photographers as the sport grows in popularity.

Keep in mind, derby photographers are just as excited as the leagues to see where the sport is going. We’re right there in the action just wanting to show off derby to the world. While the players train, the photographers are navigating changes in technology, following the trends, and watching out for each other all while capturing the sport we all love.

Take a moment at the next bout to take it all in, when it’s bout time, it’s game on. The crowd’s roar. The announcer is just there in the background. The Zebra’s are circling. The NSO’s are waving and shuffling about recording stats. Camera in hand, it’s just you and the players…


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