Pro-tip…Roller Derby Photography

Wait…what? Photo tips, on a photographer’s blog? Yep!

With D1 coming up, I just wanted to share a few things about shooting roller derby. First and foremost, I shoot derby because I love it. I want you to see what I see and I want you to feel what I feel. Photography is the only way that I can do that – words just aren’t enough.

Speaking of D1, I’m pretty excited to be shooting for Derby Central in Dallas in a few weeks. My goal is to shoot all 16 games…I will sleep when I’m dead. I’m nervous as hell because, what if I fuck it up? I had the same feeling about Sweat Fest and that seemed to go okay. Fingers crossed. I am never nervous about playing derby – give me that star hat all day and I’ll jam my little heart out. Put me in turn two with a camera with Texas and Rose City on the track, I’ll freak the fuck out.

So, tips, right? By the way, these are tips based on how I shoot…we all have our own preferences and opinions. This is what works for me.

First off, please always remember that shooting derby is a privilege on both sides. Skaters put a lot into every game…hours of practice and putting our bodies on the line for sport. Photographers put a lot into it as well…it’s not just time spent over in turn two (or wherever I’m posted), I spend hours sorting through photos and editing each one to perfection.

Know the game. Learn the rules. I have experimented with giving cameras to skaters this season…with great results. When you get to know the game, you can see what’s going to happen. Yes, I can sometimes predict the apex jump, but I just watch it and rarely get the shot. Because it’s a bloody apex jump!

Know your teams. If you’re shooting your home team, you know who to watch. I typically switch between jammers on the flat track and pivots on the banked track. Shooting new teams? YouTube has tons of video footage! Before I shot Sweat Fest, I watched footage of all of the teams that were competing. I wanted to be familiar with the skaters and how they play…but, most importantly, I wanted to make sure that I got the angle that I wanted. Turn two is my default to get started and I typically adjust from there, depending on how the game goes.

Pick your spot. A lot of photographers like to move around. I’m lazy. I like turn two, but sometimes I like to shoot from in the middle. If you’re gonna shoot in the middle, be careful. Most refs know that you’re there and they stay out of your box….some crowd the box. I have had some near misses with referees in the middle. Try it standing or sitting, play with your angles. I use two different lenses with derby – on the outside of the track, I use the 70-200mm, inside is my trusty 24-70mm.

Settings? Play with it. I adjust my shutter speed and ISO depending on the light. I do not use a strobe. If it’s too dark where I’m shooting, I put a flash on my camera. I like my f-stop at 2.8. Oh, but I fought that for the longest time. Then I learned how to use it and now it’s magical and I can’t do without it. So, the short answer is…no, you don’t have to run out and buy strobes to shoot roller derby. You can, but do you really want to lug all of that equipment? I don’t.

Last point here is editing…find what works for you. I am an anti-PhotoShop photographer. Okay, I use it to place my watermark and re-size my photos for the web…but that’s it, honest. I do all of my real editing in LightRoom. I do a quick run through of photos and find the best ones to edit first. I will go through each set several times before I’ve decided that I got everything that I wanted out of it. It might take some extra time, but I treat every photo as an individual and edit it to stand on its own. I may only post 20 or so photos from each game, but I have scrutinized every inch of those photos. No, I won’t post all of the photos that I took at a game. I only pick the best ones….because I put my name on them.

Okay, that’s all I got. Cross your fingers that I don’t fuck it up at D1.

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