Friday, November 16, 2012

The Care and Feeding of Photographers: A Boy Named Tsunami

I asked A Boy Named Tsunami to share some of his knowledge about how a league can keep its photographers happy!  You know I'm a fan of keeping your volunteers happy, and yes, photographers are definitely volunteers who cross the line into being a sponsor.  I often get sick and tired of hearing "Well, they are just following their hobby, why should we care?"  Art takes a lot of work folks, and if you don't reward people who work hard at it, you won't have any documentation of your bouts.  Pay attention and please read the following from a photographer.

Care and Feeding of your Roller Derby Photographer:
A Boy Named Tsunami

So your team is the proud owner of a new roller derby photographer. Congratulations! Your team photographer (or videographer) makes the team look good. It’s his* images that your town sees when it thinks of your team in action. He works both during the bout, and then spends time processing those photos during the week – probably as much time as you spend at practice. His contributions help your team succeed.

But why do you have to take special care of your photographer? Isn’t he just another one of the volunteers? Well, yes and no. The photographer straddles the line between being a volunteer and a sponsor. He volunteers his time, AND he gives you something that has tangible (and legal) value – his photos. He’s both volunteer and sponsor at once; that’s why he takes special care.

On the volunteer side:

It’s all about the relationship. As in any relationship, communication is key. Knowing what each side’s expectations and needs are. Photographers need appreciation, just like the refs, NSOs and all the other volunteers who help out on bout day.

Is your photographer on or in touch with your bout planning committee? Photographers need to be involved in decisions that affect them. Are you sectioning off areas near the track for special fans? Make sure they aren’t where the best shooting positions are. Is your new venue going to make it impossible for him to set up his flashes? If you make it harder for him to shoot, you’re not going to look as good in the photos. It’s time to talk.

Does your photographer shoot from center track, or in other high risk zones? It may be time for him to be insured like the skaters and the refs in those areas. Make sure that he and your head referee are communicating about when and where shooting from the center can happen.

Does your photographer get comped into bouts? Get compensated for travel to away bouts? While things like this aren’t always necessary, it should be something that the team considers along with all the other volunteers.

On the sponsor side:

In every sponsor/team relationship, there is an agreed-upon exchange. For instance, a local restaurant may give the team money, in exchange for ad space. A photographer gives you photos. You not only get the enjoyment of seeing them, but the team may also use them for advertising or other promotion of the organization. What compensation does your photographer get? Is it a beer and thanks at the afterparty? Is it ad space to promote his business? Is it cash? I’ve seen examples of all of these. Any of them could be appropriate – as long as both the photographer and the team are in agreement.

Another thing to consider is the use of photos (especially in the age of instant on-line sharing). Do you have a media agreement between your photographer and team concerning the use of images? If not, here’s what the law defaults to: the photographer, or any other GWAC (Guy With A Camera) at the bout, owns the copyright to the photos that he takes. He can: publicly display them, sell prints, and use the photos for any news or other editorial usage online or in print. He cannot use the photos for any business (advertising) purpose without the written consent of the skaters in the photos.  Skaters and the team can only use or distribute the photos with the photographer’s explicit permission. If those rules work for you, great! If not, you and your team photographer need to sit down and talk, and come to a mutual agreement.

Photographers aren’t that hard to care for. Generally, they love the sport of roller derby as much as everyone else in the organization, and they’re willing to do a lot to help your team succeed. In the end, it comes down to communication and coming to a common understanding of each side’s roles. If you pay attention to this, your roller derby photographer should provide you with a lifetime of enjoyment!

*For this post, I’m going to refer to the photographer as male, like me, even though there are a lot of great female derby photographers!

Check out Tsunami's work!


  1. Great post!! My boyfriend chose to pick up a camera as his way of getting involved in derby. He's kinda lucky because he gets free (ish) rides to away bouts and he gets a lot of love from the team even when he thinks his shot don't come out great. This is info that every league should have and be aware of though!

  2. Great post indeed! Little touching, very informative. It could/should be inserted right into a handbook somewhere. Is there a PFTDA?

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