Photographer Tom Szczerbowski talks about his famous Jose Bautista bat flip photo from game 5 of the ALDS
We caught up with photographer Tom Szczerbowski to talk about the biggest photo in sports and his tips for young photographers.
How did you feel when you got the shot?
The home run was obviously a big moment, but nobody could know that it would be the turning point of the game. In big games and key situations, reaction photos can be far bigger than photos of the swing itself and, in this case, Bautista made the moment more memorable by his cathartic reaction.
He is a very emotional player and I’ve seen enough of his home runs over the years to know that I better be prepared for anything in terms of how he reacts in the immediate wake of hitting the ball.
How do you stay focused when the stadium is rocking?
That’s not so hard to do because a deciding, do-or-die game demands your full, undivided attention. You have to be plugged into what’s going on or and not be distracted.
You have taken some amazing photographs - what makes a good sports photo? How does this one stack up for you?
Thanks! I’ve also missed my share. That said, try to always anticipate a play, how it’s likely to unfold and always know if there’s a potential for your view being blocked.
A clean background or the right expression on a player can make for superb images. There is no secret sauce, but always be prepared and try to be in the right position when the play happens.
Test your exposure, make sure your focus point is responsive, keep your composition straight, shoot tight, shoot through the play, etc. It also helps to draw on past experiences, especially when you might have shot a similar play before.
I wrote about this once on my blog.
The Bautista photo tells a nice story all right, and there is no doubt some sentimental value is attached to it given the magnitude of the occasion, but I have to say that one of my all-time favs is a recent football photo
What's the key to your success? How would a young photographer get good at what you do?
Commit yourself fully to something because half-measures will not get you there. Be relentless. Be tenacious. Hustle. When you’re starting, don’t take 'no' for an answer from some of the entrenched interests, some of whom aren’t necessarily happy to see you competing with them. Go at it whole hog.
Invest in quality gear from the start. Buying top-tier gear can pose budgetary challenges but the last thing you want is to miss the big moment because the camera let you down. Human error can and will happen periodically.
The biggest thing is getting out there and shooting. In other words, I place a higher value on honing my craft than reading about esoteric theory or concepts of photography. The bottom line is you can’t be a good photographer if you don’t shoot a lot. At first, you should find any games or events — no matter how remote or meaningless — to cover for someone with the goal of putting together a quality portfolio. From kids’ hockey leagues to weddings or local awards shows, find something that a prospective client will want covered and pay you to cover.