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|| News Item: Posted 2011-03-14

Do’s and Don’ts of Behavior in the Photo Well, Sideline or Baseline
By The Photodude

Photo by Brad Mangin

Photo by Brad Mangin

When you see legendary veterans like Lenny Ignelzi (left) and Michael Zagaris at the ballpark make friends with them. They will be happy to show you the ropes.
People. WTF. The Kahuna texts me (how’d he get my number, from Mongo Johnson?) while I’m in the middle of a 72-hour bender with Charlie Sheen and the Goddesses and asks me to straighten you all up about how to act at work. And all because some sportswriter wrote something similar about press boxes (I thought they only had three rules – no cheering, try to limit yourself to six free hot dogs, and you must shop at the Big and Fat Mans shop to get a credential).

I’ve got 15 minutes before we head Chaz and I head out for Tiger Blood shakes so here you go. Listen up, bitches.

Do be professional. At least try. The photo well is your workplace, and you are sharing it with other pros. If you’re new, be polite, observe and then observe and observe some more. Go about your business and you’ll find that 90% of the shooters will help you if you have a question.

Don’t act like you know everything. Coffee bars and “We Will Fix The Rock Ding In Your Windshield In The Parking Lot Of Home Depot” jobs are filled with once-promising photographers who pissed everyone off and couldn’t get a job, much less an internship. Word-of-mouth is huge in the business and everyone knows everyone. If you were acting like an a—hole in a photo well in Port St. Lucie, people in San Diego will know by day’s end.

Don’t be a FanBoy (or FanGirl). You’re not there to hang out, chill out, break down the game or talk about your damned fantasy team. They have places for that – they’re called sports bars.

Do leave your jersey at home. Doesn’t matter what team or league – you look like a fanboy. Same goes for baseball caps, unless you are the team photographer. Not as visibly obnoxious, but still labels you as a fanboy and no one will take you seriously. Unless, of course, you want to look like the team photographer (and really, why would you?)

Don’t talk to the players. Let me repeat: DO NOT TALK TO THE PLAYERS. They are not your friends. Unless you do happen to be a friend of a player (“but we lived in the same dorm!”). If you are friends with a player, you and your player-friend both know that before, during and after a game is not the time to chat. If you’re seriously friends, you’ll have a beer later.

Don’t ask for a photo with a player. If you’re one of the SportsShooter members who hates when a newbie comes along and asks a question you think a) has been answered before, b) you think is ignorant, or c) is plain dumb, just think what a millionaire athlete thinks when you approach him in your geek-ass photo vest and ask for picture after a tough game. Think about it.

Don’t talk to the cheerleaders. Sorry to burst your bubble, but she is not interested in you. She smiles at EVERYONE. She has to. It’s part of her job.

Do be on time. Meaning, be early. Don’t be the a**hole who shows up during the National Anthem and tries to squeeze yourself and all your crap in-between people who have been ready well before game time.

Don’t make the photo well your office. It’s a photo well. Well-placed PR folks in baseball argue every year when they will end transmitting from the wells because of this issue. You bringing in your portable desk and setting up everything but an espresso machine is not only annoying, but rude and inconsiderate of everyone else. The world is bigger than you and your wire service.

Do keep your head on a swivel. Know what’s going on around you. Part 2 of why baseball PR people want to get rid of transmitting from the well is that one of these days a baseball photographer looking at a laptop is going to get killed by a foul ball. Just be aware. And if a foul ball is coming in, at least say something so everyone knows what’s up. And if the ball lands in the well, and somehow you get your grubby mitts on it, for god's sake GIVE IT TO A KID. A kid sitting near the photo well. You don't need it. Your kid doesn't need it. That kid who came to the park and brought his glove? He or she should have that ball. You're a grownup. Try to act like one. And, you'll look like a hero to that hottie you've been staring instead of doing your job for the past six innings.

Do be respectful of people’s space. You are entitled to your space, and the other photographers are entitled to theirs. Most of the time, space is at a premium and everyone has to work together. As the famous philosopher Rodney King once said, “Can’t we all just get along?”.

Do watch your elbow when shooting vertically, especially courtside at basketball. Pretty much every camera has a vertical shutter release. Don’t be like that one wire photographer in my town who forgets and swings his or her elbow up in to the face/camera/lens of the shooter to the right.

Don’t be that shooter who has their lens hood on in a crowded baseball well. If it’s crowded, you’ll see the vets remove their lens hoods so everyone can see the field of play. If you are that worried about your lens, go shoot from above. The real grunts will be in the well, crammed ass-to-ass, without lens hoods, making killer images.

Don’t walk with your monopod swinging out behind you. Not only is it inconsiderate and dangerous, it looks like you are trying to make up for some sort of anatomical deficiency. Try counseling if that is the case.

Don’t drink from the dugout drinking fountain or assume the Gatorade cups are for you. Same goes for chewing gum and seeds at baseball, and the sideline towels at football. They are not for you. You will see a very few photographers help themselves. They have permission. Likely they have shot over 500 games of that team and they know the clubhouse guys. If you are wondering if you too have permission, you do not. Btw – chewing a piece of Quench gum will not noticeably improve your photography.

Do be aware of why you are there. If you’re shooting on “spec” with the “freelance” credential you somehow wrangled, please let the shooters who are on assignment or on deadline have the front row. Someday that will be you and you in turn will be grateful that the person “on-spec” will let you do your work.

Don’t argue with me that people don’t get “spec” credentials. They do. Somehow. Usually for a throwback jersey game, though, so their stock photos are worthless.

Don’t get bullied by that one old guy who thinks the stadium is named after him because he photographed Babe Ruth. These guys are everywhere and you can feel them looking down at you. They are often unlikable and curmudgeonly, but they have seen a lot and made the transition from drawing on cave walls to shooting tintypes to digital. If you are LUCKY in this career you will still be doing it 30 years from now. If you are really lucky, one of them will take a shine to you and help you out along the way.

Do make room for the new kid. You were once the new kid with the shiny 70-310 f/8.7 on a heavy-duty monopod with a Canon monopod wrap. If that person seems to want to learn and is following these rules, be cool to him or her. It never hurts to be nice.

Do remember why you’re there – to make pictures, dammit. Hopefully, good ones.

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