Working with media – crew and platforms

In an effort to try make more information available to aspiring athletes to assist them in their sporting journey, we have been producing mini articles touching on some important topics with helpful advice from athletes, Brand Managers and professionals from various sporting industries. We have already covered “how to approach a brand for sponsorship,” “the importance of relationships in sponsorship”. In this article we are going to be looking at working with photographers as well as posting on social media.

To explore these topics more we chatted to professional photographer Craig Kolesky. Craig has been in the industry for 20 years shooting a wide range of sports for brands such as Red Bull, Nikon, Oakley, Salomon, Ryd and Duotone to name a few and worked with numerous personalities and athletes both locally and internationally including the likes of Siphiwe Tshabalala, Robby Naish, Nino Schurter and David Coulthard.

When asked about common misconceptions of photography, without hesitation came “it’s so much more than just clicking a button.” It takes years to really learn the equipment and understand what settings and lenses are required for various lighting or to get a desired result.

· There is no such thing as a “quick shoot” as time is required to plan what the athlete and/or brand require, scout the right location, work out the best angles, taking into effect the lighting both natural or altered and how to utilise it for the desired outcome.

· Equipment is expensive and requires maintenance and servicing to give the high performance results. It’s not the same as your mom using her iPhone to get an InstaStory quality picture, you cant use that image for print if your sponsor wants to make a billboard advert or in-store branding.

· You need to ensure all work is adequately backed up and you have an accurate and easy to access filing system in place should an athlete or brand ask for a particular image from a shoot they did with you from a few years ago.

· Traveling with equipment especially internationally isn’t easy, the stress of assuring it arrives on the other side safely is agonizing. If you ever meet Craig, ask him about the Morocco incident, the short version: on arrival, customs confiscated all his equipment, with some make shift options and borrowed equipment the job got done! On arriving back in South Africa his lenses had all been broken! Some locations are hard to get to and require carrying all your equipment or hanging over ledges or getting in freezing waters to get the shot or risking your equipment getting roosted by sand and stones.

· “It’s not just fun, it’s a job.” Like athletes are perceived to be traveling around the world and doing what they love and having fun, people miss the hard work, blood, sweat and tears to maintain that level of performance and the mental pressures to give your sponsors the desired return on investment. So too is the case for photographers, they have invested in the best equipment and time learning techniques in order to execute a brief and provide a service to the athlete and/or brand.

Here are a few points for athletes to take note of when going on a photo-shoot:

· Outfit options, all black might “look cool” but if the lighting is dull you need to stand out from the background. Having options to change gives longevity to the shoot especially if you trying to build content for your social media profile – numerous outfits gives you an opportunity to build an archive for 3 to 4 months of images and not have your whole profile looking like you only have one set of kit.

· Athletes should take an interest to learn about photography, to better understand lighting and lenses and angles – this will help build the relationship between athlete and photographer and make the shoots run smoother as well as give the athlete an idea of what the photographer is looking at.

· Plan ahead of time what shots you need from the photo-shoot: everyone always wants action but forgets about portraits, lifestyle or some product focused imagery.

As with our previous article on building a good relationship with a brand, so to is the case with photographers – it really helps the job get done much smoother with greater results:

· First impression of an athlete counts, remember the photographer is doing a job and may not be solely invested in your sport. There is no place for attitudes and egos.

· Communication is key, find out about how each other works and what you hoping to gain from working together – discuss and plan the shots and desired outcomes.

· It is a team effort and planning is crucial especially if travel is involved, always have a plan B, C and D to ensure the shoot produces results.

· Trust needs to be built especially if the photographer is having to risk themselves and their equipment for the shot.

· Photographers become psychologist for a athlete who is having an “off” day in order to encourage them and look at alternative solutions to get the shots.

We briefly chatted about the use of Social Media, this however is a topic that a whole book can be written on as it really is a personal expression of ones self and although there are some guidelines and rules there is no real wrong or right way or an exact “how to” guide. It is important though to:

· Understand the power of strong content. “Number of followers” is a thing of the past – high engagement is what really matters and especially if it is driving through to you sponsors and converting to sales!

· Keep your posts authentic whilst balancing meeting your sponsors expectations of exposure. Don’t lay your product out on your bed and caption “thanks to my sponsors”.

· Don’t try mimic somebody else’s account. Take inspiration from others but alter it to make it uniquely yours.

· Be strategic about posting, don’t just post on one platform and share it across to the others that you use. Tie them all together, guide a viewer from one to the other. Some platforms are better for adding more context whilst some are used for quick browsing and users don’t read long descriptions.

· Plan at least a week ahead, it takes off the pressure of trying to think on the spot about imagery and wording, you can also then focus on training. If you do get a picture in between and some inspiration to write then that is an added bonus post.

· Always credit the photographers for the images!

· Don’t use watermarked images – buy the image and tell the photographer it is for Instagram, if a sponsor wants the image for commercial use the photographer can negotiate the rate directly with them.

We hope you gained some good insight for moving forward, we are going to continue chatting to professionals to share their knowledge to assist you in your career. Topics we will still be covering include: Building a team around you, life after competitive sport, roles of an Athlete and Brand Manager and psychology in sport – overcoming injury and how to win and lose like a champion.

Should you have any queries, please don’t hesitate to drop us a message and we will always try our best to assist or you may have a topic that we can explain that will assist/inform other athletes as well.