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|| News Item: Posted 2013-12-06

Book Review
Peter Read Miller on Sports Photography

By Brad Mangin

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When I started learning photography over 30 years ago as a high school junior I devoured everything I could get my hands on that might teach me something, anything, about becoming a better shooter. This was before the Internet. It was the dark ages! Reading material in print form ruled the world. Luckily for me there were many magazines that came out every month with tidbits that would broaden my knowledge.

Who didn’t love reading Herbert Keppler’s latest camera review in Modern Photography? The old American Photographer was a great magazine to look at, and the newsprint pages of Shutterbug kept me up-to-date on the prices for used gear so I could make smart buys at the weekly photo swap meet every Sunday in Alameda.

Then there were photo books. I became obsessed with books about photography at an early age and have never stopped. My collection of photography books has taken over the shelves in my bookcases and the floor in my bedroom. I can’t stop! Besides buying all of the Day In The Life books when I was in college I was always on the lookout for books that could teach me about photojournalism and sports photography. Back then I learned about Neil Leifer, Walter Iooss, John Zimmerman, Mark Kauffman, Andy Hayt, and Mickey Palmer through the pages of classic how-to books that still sit in my library. These books teach me something every time I look through them.

Luckily for myself and other photographers out there who are looking to learn from one the greatest sports shooters to ever lace’ em up there is a new book on the scene that takes learning sports photography to a new level. Longtime Sports Illustrated photographer Peter Read Miller has recently published Peter Read Miller on Sports Photography (New Riders). This 288-page paperback book is illustrated with 275 pictures from Miller’s incredible career that has spanned five decades.

During his years as a Southern California-based photographer Miller has covered 9 Olympic games, 36 Super Bowls, 14 NBA finals, as well as Stanley Cup finals, the World Series, the Kentucky Derby, the NCAA Basketball Final Four, and the World Cup soccer finals. He also has over 100 Sports Illustrated covers to his credit. It is safe to say that if Miller offers you advice on how to improve your photography you should listen.

I first remember seeing Miller shooting the great San Francisco 49er team in 1990 at Candlestick Park. I was shooting every home game for my employer at the time, The National Sports Daily. Miller was on assignment for Sports Illustrated shooting a top-secret story about the 49ers quarterback Joe Montana. Montana was going to be named SI’s Sportsman of the Year in December, and Miller’s job was to shoot this cover story and try to come up with great pictures. Miller was often seen that season shooting from his favorite front-lit endzone spot with the glorious Candlestick Park golden light at his back. Miller tracked every move Montana made with the Carl Zeiss 1000mm mirror lens in search of something special.

Miller never messed around when he shot games at The Stick. In later years he shot games from his favorite endzone position with the Canon 1200mm 5.6 lens on Fujichrome. We locals started calling the shady spot in the endzone the “Peter Read Miller Memorial Spot." Miller would often joke when he heard us say that. “Hey! I’m not dead yet!” Miller said.

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Miller has been lecturing and teaching at workshops all over the country for many years, and I have seen him talk several times. Hearing Miller’s stories about shooting sports over the past 40 years and seeing his pictures is an experience like watching a great documentary on the history of sports in our lifetime. One of my favorite aspects of this new book is how Miller has managed to take so many of the tips, tricks, and personal stories from his talks and put them into book form.

One of the first things I noticed when I picked up Peter Read Miller on Sports Photography was how well the book was designed. I also loved how great Miller’s photographs looked. This is not a typical how-to book with charts and diagrams. This is a beautiful picture book that does the ultimate job both entertaining and educating the reader at the same time.

As great as the pictures are in Peter Read Miller on Sports Photography, the words are even better. Writing for photographers can be a daunting task. I can’t imagine how difficult it was for Miller to write seven chapters in the book, but I am glad he persevered, because the finished product reads like an autobiography about a sports photographer who has lived an incredible life. We also learn that Miller is human. He has missed pictures. He has made mistakes. This is so helpful for us mortals to realize that even the all-time greats are not perfect.

My favorite parts of the book are when Miller tells funny stories that poke fun at himself. We learn that Miller missed getting a picture of Dwight Clark’s famous “Catch” in the 49ers 1982 NFC Championship game against the Cowboys: "One of the most frequently shown film clips in NFL history is the Joe Montana-to-Dwight Clark touchdown pass that has come to be known as “The Catch.” Look carefully in the background and you’ll see a guy in a green rain jacket struggling mightily with his 400mm lens trying to get his around-the-neck camera up to his face to shoot. I never did get a shot of the catch, but I got a nice shot of DC spiking the ball,” says Miller on page 60. I have heard Miller tell this story in person and I have seen the film. It is so much fun to read about it within the pages of his book.

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Miller did not set out to fill up this book with countless drab chapters about shooting different sports that he doesn’t really care about. If you want to read about how to shoot golf, hockey, basketball, or baseball you can read pages and pages of details on how to shoot these and other sports in countless books that have been published over the past several decades. Miller chose to dive into the three subjects he is passionate about: football, Olympics, and portraits. However, just because Miller does not specifically write much about shooting other sports doesn’t mean this book will not help you learn how to shoot everything under the sun.

Miller’s tips on peak action, cameras and lenses, shooting in the elements, shooting from a low angle, shooting RAW, using remotes, working with your subjects, and countless other pieces of advice will help you shoot anything that moves, or sits still in front of your lens anywhere in the world.

Some of the real treats in this book are the old pictures Miller has dug out of his files that most of us have never seen before. Many of us are familiar with the super tight, beautifully lit, colorful crunch pictures we have seen from Miller in the pages of SI over the past 30 years. What we haven’t seen are the wonderful black and white images Miller shot on the NFL sidelines in 1974 for the fantastic book the NFL published in 1975, A Game of Passion. “My assignment for this project was to turn my back on the action on the field and shoot only what was happening on the sidelines. Although frustrating at first, this project gave me a far greater appreciation of the total game of football, both on and off the field,” Miller said. I own this great book, and let me tell you, if you love football and photography you must find it and add it to your library.

This part of the book does a terrific job of not only showing off some great old and grainy black and white pictures, but it also gives us ideas on how to look differently at the sporting events we shoot. There are always wonderful moments happening away from the field. We need to stop, look, and document these slices of real life that happen to athletes when they are not competing.

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My only disappointment in reading all 288 pages of this book was that Miller did not offer up tips on how to master one of the most important skills a sports photographer must have. Making the fast getaway after the game so you can beat the traffic and make your flight at the airport on a busy Sunday night. I made many escapes out of the Candlestick parking lot with Miller after sold out 49er games. Of course the best escapes involve Miller on his home turf in Los Angeles, when he is behind the wheel. How he got us out of the 2001 Rose Bowl as the scoreboard clock hit :00, through the back streets of Pasadena, and to the P.F. Chang’s in Manhattan Beach in 20 minutes I will never know.

If you don’t need to know Miller’s secrets on making a fast getaway, but crave his knowledge about how to be a better sports photographer this is the book you want Santa to bring you for Christmas. If you aren’t a photographer but a big sports fan you will also enjoy this book, as the words and pictures will make you feel like are right there with Miller at the biggest sports events over the past 30 years.

Those of you wishing to emulate Miller by shooting from his famous spot in the front-lit endzone at Candlestick on a glorious sunny day, forget about it. The old ballpark will be imploded in a few months. There will never be another day game at The Stick. That shady patch of grass will really become a memorial spot in the hearts of photographers everywhere. One of the best places to shoot in the country, one of Miller’s favorite places to shoot in the world, will be no more. Replaced by a corporate monstrocity 45 miles south in Santa Clara for the 2014 season, the old girl will forever be etched into our memories, thanks to Miller’s photographs and that shady patch of grass in the endzone.

Miller photographed the Kingdome in Seattle when it was imploded in 2000. I bet he sheds a tear when Candlestick meets the same fate in 2014, but that’s another story for another book.

Right now I suggest you pick up THIS book. You will be glad you did.

Buy Peter Read Miller on Sports

See a promotional video about Peter Read Miller on Sports Photography by Max Morse:

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Peter Read Miller
The Peter Read Miller Sports Photography Workshop will continue for the twelfth year in Denver and the third year in Atlanta in 2014.

Last year's classes photographed youth, high school and college football, youth and high school baseball, high school and college volleyball and basketball, college swimming, tennis, track and field and polo. They expect a similar line-up of exciting events this year.

In addition to action photography, the workshop covers portrait lighting with strobes, both in the studio and on location, arena lighting and the set-up and use of remote cameras. Student work is reviewed and critiqued every morning and each student receives a one on one portfolio review with Peter.

Additional instructors and speakers include:

Steve Fine- New York, NY. former Director of Photography, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED

Syl Arena- Paso Robles, CA. Bestselling author of "The Speedliter’s Handbook." Syl has taught at The Main Photographic Workshop, The Santa Fe Workshops and his own Speedliter’s Intensive tour.

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED Lighting Technicians and other prominent photographers and editors.

Students will have access to the latest cameras and lenses from Canon as well as lighting gear from Dynalite. In addition they will have a pool of gear for setting up remotes and triggering options including Pocket Wizards.

Past students have gone on the shoot for major newspapers and agencies (Getty Images, USA Today Sports Images, the Associated Press) and become NFL team photographers. Many have had their work published in national publications including SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, ESPN The Magazine and The Sporting News. A student in the 2010 workshop had a photo he shot during the workshop run in the “Leading Off” section of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.

Tuition for the six day workshop is $1895.00. This includes all instruction, one on one portfolio reviews with Peter and all model and location fees. Students will be responsible for air and ground transportation as well as hotel accommodations and meals during the week.


(Brad Mangin is a freelance sports photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can visit his member page at or his website at

Related Links:
Buy the book
Peter's website
See the video

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