Golf photography etiquette

Discussion in 'Sports' started by obi-wan-yj, Jun 14, 2010.

  1. My brother-in-law's company is sponsoring a local charity golf tournament next weekend. Being the president's bro-in-law, I'm taking photos of the event. I'm an advanced amateur photographer, never having made any real money at it. The course is one of those that's scattered throughout a mid-priced neighborhood, with back yards containing swing sets adjoining many of the holes. Not a public course, but not exactly Pebble Beach. The contestants are probably all local folks (Omaha, Nebraska).
    I haven't swung a golf club in 15 years and have never followed the sport enough to bother watching it on TV, so I'm new at this golf photography thing. I am familiar with the terrain of the course in question, though. Anyway, I'm wondering what sort of etiquette would typically be expected of a photographer for an event such as this. I've read a few threads on PN about pro golfers being really anal about shutter noise on the PGA. Should I be concerned about that sort of thing at an event like this? Are there any other things I should be aware of avoiding, which a non-golfing photographer might otherwise be inclined to do? Like standing off-course down the fairway and looking back toward the golfer? Or squatting past the far edge of the green during putting? I want to have the freedom to get good, creative shots, but I don't want to piss off any of the contestants.
    I have autofocus lenses from 10-300mm at my disposal (1.6x crop sensor), plus manual focus 400mm & 800mm lenses if the light is good that day. I'll have a cart to lug my gear around in.
    Any input would be appreciated.
  2. Some thoughts from a golfer:
    Be as far away as possible to minimize shutter noise.
    If you are close enough to be heard, do not release the shutter while the golfer is setting up or swinging.
    Try not to be in the golfer's line of sight, especially when he/she's putting.
  3. Ben,
    First, be as QUIET and as UNNOTICEABLE as you can! NEVER Distract a player... period!
    Use as long of glass as possible within reason unless you are going for a wide angle shot. NEVER fire any shots off during a backswing. Some of the best shots can be caught after the hit, like the players reaction to a long ball or the horrible slice. If you plan on a shot during the backswing be as far away as possible or use a camera like the Canon G11 that is silent.
    Shoot something different... capture the surroundings, try to include the ball in the composition (know where they are hitting, if the ball path is across you then you don't have a large window for capturing the ball, if its coming straight at you or close to it you will have a better chance), use a high shutter speed to freeze any motion but remember sometimes to slow it down and allow a little motion blur to show the speed of the club head.
    here are a few things to look at and consider...
    Where will the sun be while you're shooting?
    Is there a location with the sun to your back with a good background?
    Are you wanting shots of them teeing off? Chipping in? Sand trap? Putting?
    Are they all taking off on the first tee or is it a shot gun start (everyone starts at the same time from all 18 tees)?
    What I've done when shooting golf if find a good location between a couple of holes where you can shoot a variety of shots without moving. A non golfer out on the course can be a distraction especially if he's constantly moving around. For example at my home course the green of 2 and tee box on 3 is one spot that I really like to shoot from. Also any hole that is side by side works well for having double the golfers passing by you, but keep your head up since there will be double the balls slicing straight for you from different directions!
    I hope this is what you are looking for and I didn't jump around to much!
  4. Along these same lines... as has already been said. Never... ever release the shutter during the backswing. As a general rule of thumb, as soon as the club contacts the ball... go for it, but not a second before.
  5. I've always thought golfers were a bit on the precious side with this absolute silence business; polo players are trying to hit a moving ball, on a galloping horse, one handed with a 52-inch "club". and that can be with a cheering crowd of up to 20,000. Cricketers have to hit a swinging or spinning ball traveling at 50-95mph with crowds of up to 100,000. I understand that baseball players have the same problems too. So why someone standing on a bit of turf can't hit a ball that isn't even moving if there's any noise (including birds and passing aircraft?), is quite beyond me.
    That rant out of the way, I had a quick look for "golf stock photos" and found that the majority of playing shots are taken at the end of the swing, or setting up and taken with a long lens.
    Hope this helps.
  6. Ben -
    For events such as this most of the players tend to want / purchase photos of their group as opposed to "action" shots.
    Consider that the majority of the players are no-where near the PGA in terms of style or form and they probably don't need a photo to remind them of that fact. Add to that the reason the majority of them are there is to a) get face time with someone (boss, politician, potential client) b) donate to the charity c) drink heavily.
    After 15 or so holes of "C" the players probably will care less about the photos and the quality of their shots.
    My advice - go for the posed shot on the first hole or a signature hole of the course. Sell the prints and donate a chunk of the sales to the charity.
    If you do the action shots - watch out for stray shots, and follow the advice given above.
  7. Thanks for the advice. I never knew what a "shotgun" start was, and yes, that's what this is. That means a shorter day than I was expecting, which will be nice. It also means less time to practice catching the decisive moment. The sponsoring company has given me no direction on the types of shots they want, saying only that they thought it would be cool to have some photos of the event for some future use.
    I've already walked the course with this event in mind, and there are a half dozen or so holes where I'll probably spend most of my time as the light changes throughout the day. Most of the course has holes side by side running opposite directions, which is convenient. A number of holes have sand traps that are shallow enough to provide good photo angles from across the fairway.
    Also, thanks for the idea about the types of shots preferred by the players. I hadn't considered selling photos to them, but I probably will now. Gotta scramble to setup a web site that makes that easy to do...
    FWIW, my 400mm lens is a cast iron bazooka (Tele-Vivitar 400/5.6) that should easily withstand a direct strike from a golf ball in the event that I have to duck & cover. Also, the forecast calls for mostly sunny with a 30% chance of showers. Sounds like good light with visually interesting sky.
  8. hey ben.
    i shoot and play golf often.
    get some sand trap shots where you can see the ball and the face of the player.
    putting strokes are boring, look for fairway shots, tee shots, and of course posed shots with the 4some at the tee.
    backswing ok, but follow thru poses are great.
    in a shotgun start, if you set up at one particular hole, everyone will play thru that hole at some point. but during putting, get over to some nearby holes for action shots.
    after putts, look for the "emotion" shots, the grimaces, the cheers, and the fist pumping....really.
    the action is on the tee and fairway, the emotion is on and around the green.
    i use a 400 f2.8 which is perfect aor even a 70-200 f2.8.
    enjoy, and good luck.
  9. If the event is being sponsored there will probably be signs up and you will owe it to your employer (the sponsor) to get shots that include their signage in a good way. These shots may have more potential affect on your photography career aspirations than shots of players.
  10. Never... ever release the shutter during the backswing​
    I've shot 9 FPS at PGA events thru the swing.
    The difference? Access + Distance
    If you have the distance, press credentials for position and a long lens, high FPS shooting won't distract.
    Now; if I am greenside with my wide angle, well cha'yeah!..I'm not clicking.
    I think one of these shots will disprove the above theory.
    Have fun, get position and be respectful.
  11. 2nd image
  12. Thanks for all the advice you folks gave me. As it turns out, the contestants at this tournament were considerably more laid back than the ones most of you are used to dealing with. I started cautiously, shooting from a distance and asking permission to shoot during their swings. After getting several responses like, "hell, you can pop the flash in my face as I'm swinging and it won't make no difference," I stopped being so careful.
    By the mid-way point in the tournament, I was squatting in the middle of the fairway 20 yards directly in front of the golfers as they were teeing off (again, with their permission) and capturing them mid-swing. Only once was I nearly grazed by a worm burner. I didn't see it coming, but I heard it hit five feet from me, and I got a great shot of the guy's face as he cringed while watching it go.
    How often can you get action shots during a golf tournament with a 10mm lens and a flash? I just couldn't pass up the chance to capture the storm front that made it look like we were headed for a Caddyshack moment. It ended up barely spitting on us. It cleared up eventually and gave me good sun for the bulk of the tournament.
    Also at David Haas' suggestion, I set up a Zenfolio site to make prints available. I'm just finally starting to get shots uploaded. A disfunctional telephoto lens (now being serviced) made a lot of soft shots that need work in post. The result is I'll end up uploading only a small percentage of the 600+ shots I took. I'm not terribly happy with the group shots I got; I'll do several things differently next time. Also, the sponsor hardly had any signage up with their name on it (first time sponsor); I'll have to recommend they use more next time. All in all, I enjoyed the experience and would do it again in a heartbeat. Check out the shots in a few days and let me know what you think.

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