Hot on the heels of my last post, I wanted to report this story that happened to me over this past weekend. A friend of mine is the photographer for a boxing management company. This past weekend they were hosting a fight in Pennsylvania. I go along to help as a second camera. Boxing events are usually 3 day events. There is a press conference, the weigh-in and finally, fight night. I covered the press conference where I was told that I could be ringside for the fight. Usually I am located at a higher location for a different point of view and my associate is ringside. Undoubtedly the better photos come from ringside. So on fight night I went to ringside to look for my spot there. I was no where to be found. I had been bumped. This has happened before and usually I don’t mind it. If I’m getting bumped for Sports Illustrated or ESPN magazine, so be it. As the night progressed and the “photographers” showed up, the overwhelming theme was that none of these ringside photographers with the exception of my friend and one other guy, knew what they were doing. How can I tell? The equipment these folks were using was not appropriate for low light indoor photography. In fact, the cameras they were using were the amateur models. One guy even had a point and shoot. This is who bumped me from ringside.As I said on the ride home, the second best photographer in the building didn’t get an opportunity to display his talents. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated event. 25-30 years ago, the “working sideline” was a respected place. It was also a special place reserved for professionals that used appropriate equipment, had special insurance and acted in a professional manner. Now the sidelines have become an amateur free-for-all. In my days at Rutgers University, I was the photographer’s liaison and facilitator. There were many times I would alert my bosses that there were certain people with cameras that shouldn’t be there. The response I got was “they are a friend of such and such”. We even had people make up some phony publication to get sideline access. It is a frustrating time for professional photographers in all fields. We as professionals have a passion for our vocation. A passion that usually costs us a lot of money. In our quest to get the best photos possible we spend thousands of dollars a year in equipment and software purchases. We also spend money to protect our investments with insurance so if we do get run over by an out of control running back, we can get the equipment repaired or replaced. Most of these amateur outlets will buy the cheapest cameras/lenses. They don’t have the proper insurance which puts the venue at risk. For instance, say one of these boxers on Saturday night fell out of the ring on top of one of these amateur photographers. The boxer breaks his/her camera and maybe the photographers arm. Not to mention the emotional scars suffered from getting a boxer land on top of this person. Without the proper insurance this person could sue the management company, the hotel, the boxer etc. Despite the fact that when you accept the sideline pass, you accept the risk. A good lawyer can always get around that.
Anyway, there will be more discussion on this topic as time goes by. In the meantime if you want identify a pro from an amateur, just ask the person if they know what the Inverse Square Law of Light is all about.