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  • Gerry Broome

"The Times They are a-Changin'" Bob Dylan

Change is constant. That's been the case in the news photography industry for as long as I have been a part of it. From D-76 and black & white film to color transparency and E-6. From transparency to color negative and C-41. From the darkroom to the computer. From manual focus to auto-focus. From film to digital. From mechanical shutters to mirrorless. Nikon to Canon, Canon to Sony.... You get the picture.

The changes aforementioned are mostly technical. A career in this industry means constant attention to updating this and learning that. Mastering the technical aspects of the industry are mandatory, though it's only a fraction of the job. After all, it's really about making pictures in the visual sense. If you're constantly worrying about one thing or another, you'll never make a decent photo. That's why it's so important to master the technical aspects in order to free your creative juices to take over. Today's technology seems to make it a little easier in some ways for the untrained and uneducated to evolve into self-appointed "professional" photographers. Auto focus started the trend and of course the cameras have gotten better at exposures and light balances. But you don't suddenly learn to "see". I'm all for a change in career if you so choose. I too, play music and I have for most of my life. But I would never assume to be a professional musician and try to make a living at it. I even have some of the fancy gear and I can play a multitude of chords and instruments.

I laughed one day when a colleague said of a non-professional with a camera and a credential who was taking up valuable space where we work; "I don't show up at your place of business and put my feet up on your desk and get in your way while you work. Please show us the same respect". Photographers are a tight bunch. Unless you are one of us, some of us aren't that helpful. How can you blame us? We fought hard to get here and it was not easy in any way, shape or form. We are mostly educated in our field, experienced, vetted, have proven ourselves in the industry and in many cases taken huge risks for pictures. And your credentials are what? You have a "nice" camera and you love sports. I've played most roles this industry. I started out as a stringer (old school word for freelancers), became a staff photographer, then chief photographer, director of photography, photo assignment editor, senior photo editor, night photo editor, wire service photographer. I've freelanced and I've hired freelance and staff. I've seen most sides of the industry.

Much to the surprise of many of us, this new breed of amateurs came along seeking a piece of the photography pie. Many of them attempting to reinvent their careers. I guess they thought it looked cool to be down there on the sidelines, sweating or freezing and running around strapped with too much gear getting bombarded by huge athletes. Mostly, however, they were (are) sports fans (fanatics). Sports was just something that daily photojournalists shot when we worked nights and weekends. It was part of the entire repitoi. Not something we did (or ever wanted to do) all the time, unless of course we wanted to work for SI or something. We were out making real life photojournalism every day.

These newbies had gear, it sort-of worked for them, sometimes, and you could spot them at every event because they had no clue. It's written all over their faces and especially in their actions. But then the rub began. They get in the way of those of us with a real, paying job with lots of pressure and deadlines. They take up workspace, shooting positions and worst of all, some of them won't shut the hell up and have zero sideline or media room etiquette. But they have a camera, and a credential, and they look good on their social media account. They use words like "we" and "us" when referring to the teams, and talk like some sports analyst or someone that might be better suited to be in the press box with the scribblers.

But they wouldn't be allowed there. Non-professionals would never be allowed in their workspace.

I can't count the number of times I've had to politely say to the amateur beside me, "When you lean out like that I miss pictures". Of course I'm sure my tone and body language speaks much louder than my semi-polite words. If it happens a second time I usually get pissed off and express my discord. I, on the other hand, know NOT to lean out or block the person beside me. Professionals afford each other that courtesy. We all need the picture. That's the difference between us and them. They are there for the games. We are there for the pictures and the paycheck. Times are a-changin indeed.

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