Being a Sports Photographer

This week we hear from Matthew Attard who is a sports photographer.  I ‘met’ Matthew through the Australian Photography Forum. I hope you enjoy his interview.

What is your name?

My name’s Matthew Attard, middle name Raymond.

What is your business name?

My photography business is called MRA Photography, with the “MRA” being my initials of course.

How long have you been doing photography?

I’ve been a photographer for several years but I guess you could class my work as semi-professional to professional for the past 2 years now.

How did you get started?

My pop was a photographer for the Sydney Waterways many years ago. He was very good at what he did and had several photography books and old slides etc. I took somewhat of an interest in it, however when I finished my HSC I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life or what I wanted to be.

My younger sister decided to take a photography course in high school and purchased an old film SLR with a zoom lens. I didn’t know much about SLR cameras or how they worked. In fact, interchangeable lenses were something new to me.

When I first picked it up, I went out in my backyard and zoomed up to the trees to see birds flying around through the camera with such clarity and thinking, “imagine what I could capture in life”. I instantly fell in love.

I went out and purchased myself a second hand digital SLR camera, I still remember what it was – an old Nikon D70 with a kit lens and an old 300 f/4 zoom. I taught myself how to use it, I studied for hours and hours online on the basics of photography, from aperture to shutter speed to ISO and everything in between.

I started taking free courses and watching countless hours of video, undertook projects and went out and around my town every day that I could, capturing whatever I could, especially sporting events.

Why have you chosen the particular type of photography you do?

I like to class myself as an all-round photographer who specialises editorial, however anyone who knows me will know I love sports photography.

Capturing the fast action of sport has a one-of-a-kind feeling. There’s nothing better than taking a photo of someone scoring a try in the rugby league or smashing a forehand winner in tennis and then seeing that photo printed or shared around.

As a sports nut myself (and a rugby league tragic) I would often go out to all kinds of sports and footy matches on the weekend when I was starting out and trying to get my foot in the door. I submitted some tennis photos from a local competition to the newspaper and they were so impressed that they ran the photo back page and then offered me a job. I was stoked to say the least and 2 and a half years on I’m still employed by the Port News as a photographer.

Do you have any favourite shoots you’ve done? Or perhaps you want to share on one that was a disaster?

I really haven’t had a disaster on a shoot and that’s probably more luck than anything else. I like to be prepared and to think that no matter the situation I can still walk away with a great photo, whether I was using a bag full of gear or one lens.

My favourite shoot was probably one of my most recent – my first wedding.

Two good friends of mine asked me to dip my toe into the world of wedding photography for their special day and while I was nervous I was very excited to take it on with both hands.

As you do with any new task in life it’s good to study it. I spent a while going over some professional wedding images and drilling into my own mind what I wanted to achieve and capture on the day. The couple were extremely happy with the results as was I and it’s something I’d like to do more of from now on.

Do you have any hints or tips you’d like to offer to budding photographers for your field?

I would suggest first of all having a passion for the sport you’re photographing. Knowing the sport will help you in capturing good sports photos and then getting better at it with any sport you shoot.

I would also suggest you invest in a telephoto lens as you do need to get in there to capture the action. Last of all I would suggest having a very strong understanding of ISO, aperture and shutter speed to ensure you know what settings to use to isolate your subjects and come away with a ripping photo.

My website isn’t functional as of yet but people can LIKE my Facebook page and can also check out my Flickr account.

Do you recommend this vocation to our readers, as a great way to earn a living?  I know that some will be interested to know whether they can consider it as a full time vocation.

It will definitely take some hard work and you need to develop a talent for photography as well as enthusiasm, leadership and a keen creative eye. However, it is definitely something that I would love to do for the rest of my life. If you’re passionate enough you can make a living out of photography. But don’t forget, it’s an expensive job and you need to spend money to make money.

Below are some of Matthew’s images.  I encourage you to visit his Facebook Page and his Flickr account to view more of his work.