Mark Pain: Sports photographer
Mark Pain has photographed everything from the Olympic Games to football and rugby World Cups. He is Chief Sports Photographer for the Mail on Sunday, has twice been named Sports Photographer of the Year at the British Press Awards and this week is covering his fourth Olympics. Here, he talks about his career...
How did you get into sports photography?
When I was 17 I had a Saturday job in a camera store. A guy there photographed a lot of BMX and he got me started. My local football team was Wimbledon and they let me go along to photograph matches. At the time they were rising up the leagues – one season they were playing Shrewsbury and the next it was Liverpool – so I got to shoot bigger and bigger matches. I got a portfolio together and took it round to picture editors and it developed from there. I was planning on university but decided to go full-time at the shop instead as I just wanted to get out there and take pictures.
A couple years down the line, the Daily Mail asked me to photograph some golf for them but it was on a Saturday, the busiest day at the shop, so I pulled a sickie. The manager saw me on the TV highlights and on the Monday it was a choice of the sack or resign. I Ieft and haven’t looked back since.
How do you get a great sports shot?
Most of it is preparation. Knowing the sport is hugely important as it enables you to predict what’s going to happen to a degree. Arrive early and recce the venue to find a good, clean background for your pictures. Also, it’s very much a news agenda these days. It’s not always the best picture that gets published, but the most newsworthy. You need to keep an eye on what’s happening on the bench and in the crowd as well as on the field.
What’s your most famous picture?
There’s one I took of Tiger Woods at the Ryder Cup [pictured above]. He sliced the ball badly and it hit my lens but I got a shot of it just a couple of inches away. That picture went worldwide.
Any advice for young people trying to get into the industry?
You don’t need a degree in photography. Get down to your local greyhound track or village cricket and develop your skills. You need to know your camera inside out. Then contact a successful photographer and ask to shadow them or help out at bigger events. Ring the papers and get the email or FTP address of their picture desk. They want to see as many images as possible and your picture will go in the paper if it’s the best one.
What about equipment?
The golden rule is to spend as much as you can afford on a good telephoto lens – a fixed lens or zoom of at least 300mm. They bring the action close but also have narrow depth of field which makes the background out of focus and gives the subject more impact. A lens starts at about £1,000, but it’s an investment as they don’t change the designs very often.
See Mark’s website. He also runs sports photography courses which include one-to-one tuition and a chance to shoot alongside professionals at a major event.
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