I’m a freelance photographer based in Dorset in the south of England. My background is newspaper photography. I’ve developed a Lightroom workflow that helps me get the job done as quickly and easily as possible.
I got started working for the Dorset Echo and stayed with them for over 10 years. The job had a lot of variety – I shot sports events, courtrooms, portraits and royal visits among other things.
Now I’m a freelance photographer. I mainly shoot football and cricket matches. When I’m not at a sports event I shoot news and weather photos that I sell through online agencies. All the major UK newspapers regularly use my sports and weather photos.
My Lightroom workflow for sports photography
I use Photo Mechanic, Lightroom and Photoshop Elements at sporting events. There are a number of practical problems that I have to deal with that makes these applications the best ones to use.
The first problem is that I rely on a MacBook Pro for editing and sending photos from the game. I’m usually without mains power so it’s essential the battery doesn’t go flat. Cold winter nights are a real challenge as they drain the battery. I always restart my laptop before the game to kill any power-draining apps. I also use a laptop tent to protect it from rain.
Lightroom is slow and power hungry. Photo Mechanic is faster and uses less power. I use Photo Mechanic to import photos from my memory card, add captions and send the photos to my agency via my mobile phone’s 4G connection.
If I need to make any tweaks to the photos I use Photoshop Elements 8. It does everything I need and uses much less of the computer’s resources than Photoshop.
In fact, I don’t use Lightroom at all for my sports photos when I’m at the match.
Photography at football matches
Photographing a football match can be quite demanding. If there’s a major incident, such as a goal, a tackle or an injury then I send the photo off to the agency as soon as I can. I have a little time because of the three minute rule – photographers have to wait at least three minutes before sending a photo otherwise it would be classified as live. Photos can appear very quickly on news websites with live feeds following a match.
I add captions myself. Photographers that work for bigger agencies don’t need to do that. They can send photos straight from their cameras to the agency, using FTP. Agencies like Getty add captions in the office before making the photos available.
I use Photo Mechanic to view photos and check that they are sharp before sending. If the photo is out of focus then we can’t use it.
I always use the JPEG format. There is no time to process Raw files during a match.
My cameras can shoot at 9 frames per second and I typically take 1500 photos during a match. I have two cameras, one fitted with a 400mm f2.8 lens and the other with a 70-200mm f2.8. For premier league matches I also have a remote goal camera set up behind the goal with an 18mm lens.
The remote camera is connected to the camera fitted with the 70-200mm lens by a wireless trigger. Whenever play comes close to the penalty area I switch to the body with the 70-200mm lens as the action is closer to where the photographers are stationed. This camera fires the remote camera, so they are basically synchronized.
Working with licensing restrictions
Because of licensing restrictions I can send a maximum of 45 images to my agency during the match itself. I can send 15 more if it goes into extra time. That means I have to pick the photos I send carefully, allowing for any last minute match deciding action.
I’m not allowed to send more than three photos of any one incident. This is known as the ten second rule. We can only send off three photos taken within the same ten second period.
I send the rest of the photos from the media room after the match.
I back up all my sports photos once a month. The photos from one match take up 8-9GB of hard drive space. I back them all up because it’s too time consuming to select the best images. I only back them up in case somebody asks for a photo of something in the future. That rarely happens. These photos aren’t historically important. I don’t have an offsite backup.
My Lightroom workflow for news and landscape photography
My other work is very different in terms of Lightroom workflow as well as subject matter. I take landscape photos that I sell through an image library, and news and weather photos that I sell through agencies.
I use Raw for these photos. Sometimes when I’m in the field I’ll have my laptop with me and do some processing during quiet moments. I use Photo Mechanic to select the best images, and drag them from there into Lightroom.
I have Lightroom 4 installed on my laptop as it uses less power than Lightroom 6 and has all the tools I need for basic developing. I’ve never updated the operating system either, in case that slows the laptop down. It’s still running Mavericks.
If I wait until I get home to develop the images I import them all into Lightroom 6 on my iMac and don’t use Photo Mechanic.
I keep my Raw files on external hard drives. I back up the developed and exported JPEG files, but not the Raw files. My internet at home is too slow so I don’t use a cloud backup service. My phone has limited 4G bandwidth, which is mostly used for work.
Weather photos can be quite lucrative as the national newspapers love to print weather related photos. It’s fun to go out shooting extreme weather conditions, when they happen. I upload my developed weather photos to the Alamy news site. Good photos may be used by several newspapers.
For my weather photos I use Photo Mechanic as a selection tool and develop selected images in Lightroom. I don’t back up my weather photos. I’m not overly worried about them. I’ve uploaded the best photos to Alamy anyway, which is kind of a backup.