“The instructors at the Sports Shooter Academy were without a doubt the highlight for me in a week full of highlights.”
By Andy Wilhelm
As I drove north on the freeway from my home in San Diego heading to Irvine for Sports Shooter Academy IX, I had a number of questions: How would I feel on the drive home in five days? What would I know at that point that I don’t know right now? How would my work compare to that of the other attendees and what would my overall SSA experience be? I eagerly looked forward to finding out.
At the Sports Shooter Academy there are a ton of opportunities to learn, grow as a photographer, network, meet new people, and make new friends. It is all about what you make of it and if you are motivated to get all that you can out of the workshop the possibilities are limitless.
So what were the highlights?
Getting to experiment with different gear. It was great to have such a variety of camera bodies, and lenses of all lengths that we could check out and shoot with for the day. Never used a 600mm before? Well now’s your chance. How about a 50mm 1.4? Go for it. Being able to try out so many things that I normally would not have access to was fantastic and I learned quite a bit by doing so.
It was interesting to hear Cal State Fullerton assistant Sports Informational Director Mike Greenlee’s presentation about the relationship between a photographer and a school’s athletic department. Learning about what they expect from us as photographers, the types of photos that are needed, proper and professional business practices, and how working together makes you an asset to a sports information director was very beneficial.
Being taught how to set up and use cameras with remotes was a valuable part of the workshop, as was learning how to go about selecting interesting and effective vantage points. Find a clean background for yourself or create one in camera (by shooting at a wide aperture), and make sure to crop tight! I have put this knowledge to use since the academy ended and can see a definite improvement in my images.
When it all comes down to it though, the number one highlight of the week for me were the instructors. I was so impressed with the Sports Shooter Academy staff, they were helpful, personable, entertaining, always willing to answer a question and give advice and were down to earth and approachable, which is saying something considering that they are some of the most accomplished professionals in the business.
The workshop instructors genuinely want you to learn and succeed, and SSA attendees have so many resources at their fingertips. Having a chance to bounce questions and ideas off of such established creative and getting a personal critique of your work from someone who has your “dream job” is amazing.
The instructors at the Sports Shooter Academy were without a doubt the highlight for me in a week full of highlights. From the nightly critiques I learned about what editors look for in a photo.
From the nightly critiques I learned about what editors look for in a photo. Having clean backgrounds once again are a must and I learned where to crop an image in order to draw attention to the most important part, while discarding the rest. Very important stuff to know.
We were lucky to have such a great group of people at SSA IX. Everyone was very open to helping one another, and, let’s face it, why shouldn’t they be? We were all in the same boat, trying to learn and better ourselves as photographers.
Check your ego at the door, try new things, learn as much as possible, and HAVE FUN! I certainly had a blast.
I walked away from the workshop a more thoughtful photographer with more photographic knowledge than I had before and with a great network of people to turn to if I ever needed them.
The Sports Shooter Academy is a great opportunity for those of us that are interested in pursuing a career in sports photography. SSA IX was an event that I will never forget!
Thank you to the instructors and sponsors that made all of it possible.
(Andy Wilhelm is a freelance photographer based in San Diego, Calif.)