Professional sports photographer Javier Garcia shares his favorite career moments, the challenges he’s faced, and his tips for getting the perfect action shot.
Cover image via Andrew Fosker/BPI/REX/Shutterstock
This year’s edition of the FA Cup, the world’s oldest football tournament, is rapidly reaching its most exciting stages. What started as 737 teams across eight divisions of English football is now down to its last eight survivors. As we wait to see which two clubs will face each other in the final at Wembley Stadium on May 19, we’re taking a look back at some of the finest moments from the 137th edition of this prestigious competition.
We spoke to Javier Garcia, Shutterstock’s Director of Sports Photography, about the challenges he faces as a sports photographer, and he offered us some tips and tricks for capturing the perfect action shot. Below, you’ll see some of the most stunning images from this year’s FA Cup, all taken by Shutterstock and our sports photography partners.
In addition, SilverHub Media and Shutterstock are proud to announce an agreement with The Football Association (FA), the governing body of English football, to cover photography, distribution, and syndication services around key events and activities. We will be capturing real-time photography of the FA Cup, FA Women’s Super League, and England men’s and women’s national team games, as well as various events hosted at Wembley Stadium. For more outstanding sports images, visit https://www.shutterstock.com/editorial/sports.
On Capturing the Perfect Action Shot:
“[An image] can have important editorial resonance, despite not being a technically perfect image, for example a big, match-defining moment which sums up the result of a game…Having a photo-journalistic nose for the story as it develops is key. Have a plan in advance, but being flexible enough to adapt and not stick too rigidly to it means that luck will come your way.”
“Backgrounds are hugely important. A clean, uncluttered background brings the subject into much sharper focus and makes a potentially ordinary image come to life.”
“Never panic. The beauty of sport is that the best images can happen at any time. The mark of a good sports photographer is your reaction when things work against you. Stay calm, keep shooting and thinking and with experience, speed-of-thought allows you to be one step ahead of your competitors.”
“Use both of your eyes and your ears! Sports photography is a sensory experience. Be aware of what’s going on around you. There is plenty going on outside [of your field of vision] and you can easily miss great pictures if you’re not on alert visually and audibly.”
“Expect the unexpected – then react accordingly. As soon as you think a particular match will end one way, along comes something to turn it around in the blink of an eye. Stay on your toes and be prepared to make a split second decision.”
On Becoming a Sports Photographer:
“In 1990, after college, I ended up working in Mexico City and met an English sports photographer there who had recently left Allsport to work for himself. I was in awe of his material, but I never thought I’d end up shooting myself. It felt like a pipe-dream and getting on with “real life” was my destiny. I returned to England and started working for a local newspaper for nothing, predominantly covering one of my local football teams (Fulham FC), honing my technique and making plenty of mistakes. I would work there part-time evenings and weekends whilst working at the BBC.
Whilst flying high(ish) in television, I left a well-paid job and took the plunge in 1999 to try my luck as a freelancer and soon realised that being “poorer but richer” was the way to go – I loved it and thought I was quite good at it. After the turn of the millennium I scaled up and recruited more photographers and formed BPI in 2003 where we matured as a business and made quite an impact on the domestic market in the UK. Whilst others were contracting, I was happy to take financial risks to expand the coverage and the library. In time, we were winning contracts and getting work from bigger, more established players until I brought my operation into Shutterstock (via Rex Features) in 2016.”
On His Most Exciting Career Moment:
“One match that sticks in my mind is covering Liverpool winning the UEFA Champions League Final in Istanbul, Turkey in 2005. Liverpool were dead and buried at 3-0 down in the most important fixture in European club football. They somehow clawed their way back against a team renowned for its defensive brilliance and lifted “The big cup” for the first time in over 20 years.”
On the Challenges of the Job:
“Like actual sport, I’d say it’s about the mental side. Self-doubt can creep in on occasion. If you’re not careful, mistakes and failure can eat you up inside so staying calm under pressure and remaining level-headed is key.”
“I am routinely surrounded by some fantastic sports photographers. We are very lucky in the UK so have such talent, so on occasion it can still add pressure to be rubbing shoulders with the best in the world. But that is the company I like to keep. It sharpens the mind and keeps me on my toes.”
“Consistency is king. I often tell people that most of us can pick up a digital camera with a nice lens on it and take a competent sports image. You might even get lucky and get a one-in-a-million shot, but for me and my photographers, it is all about delivering consistent work to the highest standard over a period of years.”
On Camera Gear and Other Must-Have Equipment:
“My personal choice for the last 20 years, save for a brief flirtation with Canon for a couple of years, is Nikon cameras and lenses. Both systems are fantastic but I know the Nikons inside out and I happen to live a couple of miles from the Nikon UK HQ – so whenever there is a problem that needs sorting out, the team there can help with repairs, ideas and equipment loans.”
“Duct tape; a tiny mini screwdriver which is perfect for the fiddly screws which occasionally loosen on cameras and lenses; a radio to hear the commentary of a game I am covering for any information on faces in the crowd or unexpected events; and a mini tabletop tripod to allow me to set up a camera behind a goal so as to fire off a camera remotely for another angle”
“In the winter: Thermal underwear, ear-muffs and shooting gloves for cold days (where the thumb and forefinger can be exposed for the shutter and lens) whilst keeping the rest of the hand warm. For Summer – factor 30!”
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