An inside look at the work of a tennis photographer: Interview Part 2 – Players

Last Monday I started a three-part series giving an insight into the work of tennis photographers, thanks to our wonderful Jimmie48 who has traveled the world for Women’s Tennis Blog (his next stop is Hong Kong!) and who found time in his globetrotting life to answer my questions. I’m so glad that Part 1 of the interview, which focused on questions about tournaments, was received so well, and now I’m excited to share with you this Part 2, dedicated to questions about WTA players. 

Angelique Kerber and Maria Sharapova

Which WTA player has the most photogenic on-court movement?

One of my favorite players to shoot is Angelique Kerber. There’s something about her game style that produces stunning action shots.

I’m also a big fan of shooting Maria Sharapova, because there’s a level of intensity to her game and in her facial expressions that illustrates the competitive nature of the sport very well.

Agnieszka Radwanska or Sara Errani are fun too, because their playing styles are somewhat different from what most of the girls play.

Andrea Petkovic - AEGON International 2015 -DSC_7397

Which players make the best face expressions?

One of my favorites is Andrea Petkovic’s “I’m about to swallow the ball” facial expression, that’s fun.

I like most of them actually. Some players look all serious, others look goofy… it’s part of their personality. I know some players hate the way they look while hitting the ball and they don’t like to see photos off it… but sorry, ladies, that’s the way it is! 😉

Ajla Tomljanovic - 2015 Bank of the West Classic -DSC_1040

In general, which WTA players are your favorites in terms of photography and why?

Tennis beauties: Maria Sharapova, Ajla Tomljanovic and Julia Görges. Players that are so photogenic that it’s pretty much impossible to take a bad photo of them. This type of player can pull off the most boring outfit or play under the worst light conditions, the photos will always come off nice because they make them work.

Emotional volcanos: Ana Ivanovic, Alize Cornet and Barbora Strycova. You can easily get great emotion shots, be it fist-pumps, racket throwing or screaming. Just shoot a few games with these players and you’ll end up with plenty of fun stuff.

Players that often wear interesting and unique outfits: Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Mona Barthel or Agnieszka Radwanska. You can always count on them to wear something different than your usual Nike or Adidas stuff, making for interesting photos.

Generally, every player that somehow breaks the mold and stands out in the crowd is the photographer’s friend. I like Sabine Lisicki, for example, because she’s one of the few elite players who frequently smiles and laughs while playing – always a good photo opportunity.

Alize Cornet - AEGON Classic 2015 -DSC_5021

How difficult it is to stay alert to capture the right moment in the behavior/movement of players?

Staying in the match is very important. I rarely put down the camera and stop shooting during the rallies as you only have a split-second to capture a unique moment. If you have to pick up the camera to take a certain shot, it’ll already be gone.

Knowing the players and their habits certainly helps in making your bet on which of the two players to shoot. Usually, you have to decide before a point which player to focus on, switching players during a rally is tricky and sometimes not possible depending on your location.

The more you know about what’s happening on court, the better the photos will be. Veteran tennis photographers get better shots than their colleagues who only occasionally shoot tennis not because they have better gear, but because they know the sport inside out and understand what’s happening on court on every given moment.

As a photographer, you have to move with the match, switch sides with the players to position yourself correctly for the key moments of the match. This often times involves a bit of guesswork, especially in close matches and sometimes you end up in the wrong spot anyways, but the more tennis knowledge you have, the easier it is to stay on top of the match.

Ana Ivanovic - AEGON Classic 2015 -DSC_7452

Have you developed good relations with any WTA players?

I’m fortunate enough to say that there’s only a handful of known players who have never used any of my photos or commented on them, most of the players on tour enjoy my work and frequently use it in some way or another. I also work for several players in an official fashion.

I spend more time on the WTA tour than most of the other photographers during the course of a season and that constant visibility has contributed to players’ knowing about my work as I sometimes get greeted by people who I wasn’t even aware knew who I was. As one player once put it: “Hey, you’re that Jimmie guy who does the photos, right?”

I generally value feedback from players very highly because as a photographer, there’s no bigger compliment than praise from the people you’re portraying. If someone tells you they enjoy the way you portray them, you know you have done something right!

People sometimes ask me “Which of the players on tour are nice?” and I can honestly say that I have had only very few bad personal experiences with players over the years (and no, I won’t name any names!), most of the girls are actually nice and easy to work with, which is one of the reasons why I enjoy my work this much.

If you enjoyed this, stay tuned for Part 3 of the interview, coming up next Monday. It will cover more general topics, such as some technical questions, challenging circumstances, etc.

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4 thoughts on “An inside look at the work of a tennis photographer: Interview Part 2 – Players

  1. Emman Damian

    I have to agree with your list Jimmie. Good job in capturing great photos. I always look forward whenever you post photos here in the blog as well as in Twitter.

  2. Jim

    Great photos of course. Just curious Jimmie, have you done any other sports photography or any other type of photography?

  3. Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

    Jim, I did motorsports photography for quite a while a few years ago. So I knew my way around a camera when I started with tennis, but aside from the basic practical experience it wasn’t of much use.

    I definitely started with a blank sheet of paper when it came to composure as it’s simply a vastly different environment that requires a different workflow.

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