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Being a sports photographer isn't all about luck. Yes, you may get "lucky" and have one great shot out of a series of ten or 15 images and that one shot may be fantastic, but the most important part is to always stay focused.
Many amateur sports photographers will get wrapped up in watching the sporting event rather than capturing the monumental moments or spectacular plays. From my experiences, I have seen photographers of all ages get too wrapped up in the score of the game, or who is going to make the play that changes the entire momentum of the game. Below is a shot from a paused TV screen during this year's final College Football Playoff game between the University of Alabama and Clemson. The photographers were so caught up in the moment that they didn't capture the game-winning touchdown in overtime. If you watched that game, then you know how intense those final moments were and yes, it was a very exciting and nerve-racking game to photograph but it's important to not lose site of what you are doing at the game.
I have dedicated my career (although I am still young and developing my brand) to sports photography. When I first started out, I made the same mistake as those photographers did. The first sport I really started photographing was volleyball, a sport I've played for over nine years and coached for over three years. I would get so wrapped up in where the set was going, whether a line shot or a cross tip would be the smartest way to attack. I would go home with very few images on my SD card and would be very disappointed in the amount of photos I had taken. I quickly learned that I needed to transfer my focus from the game to getting the shot and getting that shot wasn't about how "lucky" I could get, it was about how much I was willing to shoot and how hard I was willing to work to get to the shots I was dreaming of getting.
During a football game I can take upwards of 1,000 photos. Out of those 1,000 photos I usually end up with, on average 150 photos that I edit and submit for the job or use to post on social media and my website. I take so many shots because a referee might have run through the shot. Another player may be blocking half the shot, or a myriad of other scenarios could happen but as long as I get one shot out of a series a ten, it is all worth it.
Being a sports photographer to me, is like being an athlete in a game. I always have to be ready to go, ready to capture that once in a lifetime shot, ready to sprint down to the other end of the field and be in position to capture that goal or touchdown. There are no substitutions, you always have to be on top of your game in order to capture the best shots you possibly can for someone else's game.