Sports: Getting on to top level playing fields


No longer a newbie, moving up!
Nov 26, 2012
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North Carolina
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My name is Luke and I currently live in Charlotte, North Carolina. For the past 3 years I have been shooting High School Football for a few schools in my area and selling the pictures to a local sports site and the parents themselves. This year I was invited to shoot the 1AA, 1A, 4A games at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem. This was my first time shooting on a college field and don't even get me started about the lighting. Definitely the most amazing experience in photography so far.

I made a few connections and handed out a few cards with some news corespondents on the field as well as other photographers. I figured this was the best way to get invited to college level events as well as NFL games. I'd love to shoot a Carolina Panthers game.

Am I correct in the belief that pursuing making connections is the best way at getting into these higher level events or is there something else I should try?


Pursuing connections is a GOOD way to gain access and never miss a chance to shake a hand, or pass out a card; but the best way? Hard to say.
Try contacting the media relations person for the teams, should be able to locate the name on their web sites, although sometimes it will just be a general info box, just fill out a request and see what happens. The biggest problem is that pro teams are getting a lot more requests for photo passes and they generally have a "no tourist" policy, which is unless you have a recognized media client that you can use, the chances are slim. Try contacting the local papers, target the sports reporters, or editors and see what they say, again you may luck out. Steven Drummond is the communications guy for the Panthers, team photographer is Kent Smith. Try giving them a call and see what happens.
EVERYBODY wants to be right there on the sidelines, the "best seat" in the house. I remember being at a Rose Bowl game and there was this one guy who held his camera by the strap in a way I never saw any professional photog do and never once that I saw did he actually shoot a photo. Some big shot's nephew I suspect. Getting hooked up with a "legitimate" news source (whatever this is, these days) is the best way. When I worked for a newspaper of 80,000 circulation (not very large) I got photo passes to major league basketball, football, hockey, baseball and other games.
Networking with journalists is good but it's just one tool. The press office for the team is the person who can help you a whole bunch. What can you do to make his job easier?

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