Monday, July 22, 2024

Why hockey club photography is crucial to sport’s coverage

The Hockey Writers’ Club is looking to establish links with all club photographers to promote imagery in an evocative sport. Andy Mair reports

For many years, hockey photographers have sat at the side of a pitch in all kinds of weather, striving (with varying success) to capture images that tell the story of the match in front of them.

Some are full-time professionals, while many are enthusiastic amateurs.  Some invest thousands of pounds in their equipment, and take the time to understand how to best use it, while others will point and shoot with whatever camera that they have.  Whoever it is taking the photo, an image is the outcome.

The ever-increasing use of social media platforms has meant that the demand for images is very high, which in turn means that photographers should be in great position surely?  The key word there is ‘demand’.  

There are individuals looking for photographs for their media releases, to boost their ‘social’ image or satisfy sponsors.  Clubs are increasingly innovating with their digital ‘presence’ to advertise their activity to their membership and possibly attract more.  

Most photographers have requests for their work, with the expectation that giving them credit online is sufficient, while many discover that their image has been used without permission and may even have had their watermark cropped out (which is illegal).  Increasingly third-parties are resorting to ‘sharing’ posts by photographers, thus dodging the responsibility for requesting the use of an image, or paying the expected fee.  

These scenarios may service the needs of the users in the short term but are not sustainable for the suppliers, who in this case are the photographers.  Why should they outlay for things such as; travel to matches, investment in their equipment (servicing and insurance), time to practise and develop their skills, drinks and food at a venue; when nobody is paying for the work that they produce? 

City of Birmingham celebrate PIC: Mark Woodward Photography

The Hockey Writers’ Club (HWC) has recognised the potential demise of photographers, and decided to become pro-active in not only publicising the plight of many photographers, but also trying to establish a list of those that are working for clubs around the country, which can then be accessed by members.  They are also hoping to build a ‘best practise model’ for all parties to flourish. 

We know that some clubs have put a great deal of thought into how to support the photographers that service their media needs, and have recently heard of an example of this with Canterbury HC.

Canterbury HC chairman Robert Preston gave an insight into the direction that the club has taken in developing a more cohesive relationship with photographers.

We had come to realise, with the advent of mobile phones and social media, that we had very quickly gone a few years without formal photographs. At the same time, we simultaneously upped our sponsorship and social media ‘game’ and started to realise that we didn’t have a bank of photos or a supply of photos to use. What we did have was a couple of keen amateurs who were happy to take photos ‘ad hoc’ and for us to use their watermarked pictures. 

What we actually needed for our brand were photos without watermarks, that we could use whenever and wherever we wanted. Also, to be able to target our needs more precisely by asking for particular photos to be taken or games to be covered.  To do this, we knew the only way was to formalise something and also accept that it would have a financial cost. 

“Once we had broached the subject with the photographers, we realised that by working together we could also iron out some of their frustrations, such as; creating a schedule, to eliminate the cases of them both being at the same game, then neither of them at the next.

 Modest investment pays dividends

“What also became clear very quickly was (with a few simple steps) we could make the whole arena of photography safer and more professional.  So, as part of the arrangement the photographers are DBS checked and when they are ‘on duty’ they wear a bib showing they are working. This is then clear, not only to our own players – but also visiting players, that these are official photographers and we can safely and confidently have them take photos of every level and age group. 

“Within just a few weeks, we saw the modest investment make our social media platforms and 1st XI programmes look more professional, therefore giving our sponsors and partners a better experience. But, most importantly, there is now a joined up and transparent approach for both club and photographer.

There are undoubtedly cases of similar initiatives within other clubs around the country, and HWC is keen to hear of other examples, in the hope that innovations and developments in this field do not exist to ‘stand alone’, but can help develop the ‘best practise’ that the photographers and clubs need.

The aim of the HWC is to gain recognition for the work being produced, and hopefully build a more sustainable market place.  A major part of this is for all of us to understand that images are not always free, and that individuals and organisations may need to build this area into their budget, rather than relying on the ‘goodwill’ of already hard-pressed photographers.

Send a contact form at and an HWC representative will get back you.

Do you have a feature or story idea from across the globe? Get in touch with us!

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