Tips for photographing competitive events

Making Pictures with John Enman

Creating a photograph that is strong enough to stand on it’s own goes beyond just being a picture filled with nice colors

Creating a photograph that is strong enough to stand on it’s own goes beyond just being a picture filled with nice colors

On August 20th I was one of the photographers hired to produce images from this year’s BC 2011 Strongest Man Competition held at McDonald Park in Kamloops.

The day was hot and sunny with a clear blue sky, conditions that made it uncomfortable for the weight lifters and difficult for the photographers.  For the athletes I think the heat made the competition more challenging, and for me the sharp contrast between subject and background on such a bright day meant camera metering changed constantly.

Selecting Auto program modes would have drastically reduced the number of keepers under those quickly changing conditions, and as it was I constantly altered my settings depending on whether the contestants were facing the sun or not.

Sun and shadows on moving subjects can be a problem and photographers have to pay attention, otherwise they will end up with both over-exposed and under-exposed images of their subjects depending on the action.

My technical advice in this case would be to select the Manual mode, staying away from Auto Program modes, and keep checking the camera’s histogram, and to be prepared to use a flash when needed.

The Manual mode allows one to meter for what is important, for example, a participants face in shadow (or in the bright light just seconds later).  Then the histogram can be quickly checked to make sure that the exposure is what the photographer wants.

I know organizers for these types of sporting events always give photographers wide latitude and leave what is to be photographed almost entirely up to the photographers.

For newcomers this might bring an immediate response of relief with thoughts that all they need to do is wander around happily snapping candids as they please, however, that is far from the truth.

Organizers usually don’t put into words what they want, and trust that their photographers know what to photograph and will deliver usable images.  But, some random candid photographs that do not tell a story are not what they want, otherwise a photographer wouldn’t be included in their budget.

I am sure that the images of most value to clients will be the ones that aren’t just a document of a guy lifting some heavy weight, and I try to find camera angles that tell a bit of a story, and, hopefully, can stand alone if needed in some future advertisement. My opinion is that photographers need to work hard on this project, to think about their subjects, and be creative as they search for the decisive moment when everything comes together.

This kind of work it is more than wandering the park with a camera.  Creating a photograph that is strong enough to stand on it’s own goes beyond just being a picture filled with nice colors, as it needs to provide the viewers with information that they can make into a story. I think a good photograph is one that makes us have a connection with, or to think about, the subject.

An event photographer’s first goal is to successfully document everything important that happens. The second is to compile enough images to be a narrative of the occasion, then third and lastly, and maybe most importantly, to create photographs that by themselves tell individual stories of those that attended or are the main focus of the function.

I was there the entire day and enjoyed photographing that competition, and liked the opportunities to make many excellent photographs of the many participants that I am sure everyone involved will appreciate and be able to use.

I came home tired and a little rosy from too much sun, but overall it was a most enjoyable way to spend a Saturday, and by the time the day was over my memory card was just about full.

These are my thoughts this week. Contact me at or Stop by Enman’s Camera at 423 Tranquille Road in Kamloops. And if you want an experienced professional wedding or event photographer please call me. I also sell an interesting selection of used photographic equipment.







Just Posted

A for sale sign is shown in by new homes in Beckwith, Ont., just outside Ottawa, on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Thompson-Okanagan population grew despite COVID-19: report

The Chartered Professional Accountants of BC said there are 8,462 new residents in the region

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

(TNRD Library)
Let the mystery of the Summer Reading Club begin

Are you ready to ‘Crack the Case’ at the Barriere Library?

(Metro Creative photo)
Gardeners of all ages invited to enter 2021 NT Fall Fair contests

The North Thompson Fall Fair Drive Thru scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 4,… Continue reading

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

Kelowna General Hospital. (File photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna General Hospital declared over

Three people tested positive for the virus — two patients and one staff — one of whom died

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

A worker, at left, tends to a customer at a cosmetics shop amid the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Half of cosmetics sold in Canada, U.S. contain toxic chemicals: study

Researchers found that 56% of foundations and eye products contain high levels of fluorine

Most Read