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Sports photography is experiencing a shift, experts say

Social media and TV coverage have made it difficult for sports photographers to monetize their work

Rich Lam taking photos of basketball players after their win at UBC. Photo by Mathilda de Villiers.
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Reported by Mathilda de Villiers

One of the biggest changes in sports photography is monetization, according to Nick Didlick, a professional photojournalist who has been in the industry for over 40 years.

According to Didlick, with large amounts of money now being pumped into the industry, the reporting side of it is being lost. “Sports and sports photography has become at a high level more of an entertainment product than a reporting product,” Didlick said.

Didlick is known for his work in the world of sports as well as covering dangerous and intense situations such as riots at soccer games in Europe.

Didlick came to Langara and spoke to journalism students about his career in covering sports and riots. Alberto Tufano, a journalism student at the college, was at one of the biggest riots at Heysel Stadium in Brussels in 1985.

Didlick said that he has had to adapt to television rights taking over still photography locations. “Doesn’t matter where, whether I’m covering the Olympics or ice hockey, photographers are permitted into the buildings but we have less and less space to work from because television is picking up on all the angles,” he said.

Speed and volume are the key to sports photography success

Rich Lam is a Vancouver based photojournalist who has been working predominantly in sports photography for the last 20 years. He is the official photographer of the University of British Columbia’s athletics department.

Lam started working for Didlick in 2010 at the Winter Olympics. “He took a huge gamble on me to work for him because I was the youngest member of his staff,” Lam said. Through their work together, Lam said he learned a lot from Didlick, the biggest lesson being that of organization and being able to adapt to difficult situations.

For Lam, the big change in sports photography is how fast one has to work. “Speed and the volume of what’s coming out of events,” he said.

Stu Walters is the senior manager of media relations and communications for UBC varsity and athletics, and has been in the sports industry for roughly 15 years.

For Walters, throughout his career, the biggest change for him is the social media presence. “People build their own brand that way. So if you’re trustworthy and your news is correct and some of your breaking news turns out to be true you can create quite the following for yourself,” he said.

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