Q&A Sports Stock Photos: Dean Northcott

7 Feb 2012 | By | Interviews

Image Source: Dean Northcott. Sports Stock Photos

With clients ranging from the BBC to The Daily Telegraph, from HSBC to Reebok, shooting advertising and celebrity, photographer Dean Northcott’s work carries messages for a variety of different products. But his love is the sports photo with its human drama and physical action. Dean reveals the trends in sports photography, the secret of good casting and the technique of the action shot

IMSO: How did you get started in sports photography?

Dean Northcott: I had been shooting portrait photography for 12 years when I felt like a change and love sports so it was a natural progression. I had an idea for project/exhibition on sportsman which is on-going and that is driving my work.

IMSO: How has sport photography changed in the last decade or so?

Dean Northcott: It has become a lot more polished and highly produced/retouched with dramatic lighting.

Image Source: Dean Northcott.

IMSO: Are you shooting different kinds of sports now?

Dean Northcott: Yes but I love shots with action and drama.

IMSO: What is the most challenging sport to shoot and why?

Dean Northcott: Something like Judo or Wrestling is very hard to shoot as the athletes are often in very close contact with each other with their chins tucked in so you don’t pick up the emotion in the face.

IMSO: When you shoot athletes in action – running, both feet off the ground, or a tumbling diver, twisting in mid-air say – how do you do capture that decisive moment?

Dean Northcott: Get them to go through a series of their moves/actions shooting them with available light and then choose one that best serves your purpose. I love strong powerful actions and just follow my instinct on what talks to me. Then set up the lights to best capture the action/moment I have chosen and shoot it over and over until you get it. Technically, use a medium format camera at 1/500 and broncolor flash for the fast flash duration to fresh the moment.

IMSO: What kind of uses are there for a sport photo? Do you find that sport imagery is often used in a more abstract or metaphorical way – as a metaphor for teamwork or determination say?

Dean Northcott: As I shoot mainly Advertising, my sports work is nearly always directly for sports related clients. But Library work is more often than not use in the metaphor sense, especially around the time of major sporting events such as the Olympics.

Image Source: Dean Northcott.

IMSO: Are the people in your sports images generally real sportspeople? Or actors/models?

Dean Northcott: I always cast a rugby player for a rugby shoot and a tennis player for a tennis shoot. They can be models, actors or athletes, but they must show a high level of skill/technique in the sport I am shooting and have the right look. In sports photography, more than other areas, if you cast the wrong person it will stand out a mile!

IMSO: Is there any one sport that you have yet to shoot but would like to?

Dean Northcott: A beer-drinking, beach volleyball World Championship in the Maldives.

IMSO: What has been your best experience on a sports shoot? And the worst?

Dean Northcott: Being a huge rugby fan it was incredible buzz to have three of the English rugby team in the studio for an Ad shoot. I had them for three hours, which included travel time to and from Twickenham, wardrobe, make-up and shoot. With four shots to cover off this translated in to 15 mins per shot. Sometimes this works for you or against you, this time it worked for me with the energy generating some great shots. The worst experience would be driving from London to Birmingham three times in three weeks with two assistants and a load of rented gear in the car to shoot World Champion Triple Jumper Phillips Idowu for a personal project only to have to turn around and go back home due to bad weather, bad timing etc. with not a frame shot. Phillips is a lovely man giving me his own time and we are still discussing ways to make it happen.

Image Source: Dean Northcott.

IMSO: Who were your heroes in photography in general and sports photography in particular?

Dean Northcott: David LaChapelle, Gregory Crewdson

IMSO: And who are your sporting heroes?

Dean Northcott: Being a Kiwi it would be All Blacks, Christen Cullen, Zinzan Brooke and Richie MaCaw – Legends!! Also Muhammad Ali – pure magic!

IMSO: How much has sports photography been influenced by fashion?

Dean Northcott: All commercial photography is influenced by fashion these days. It is the only area in commercial photography were you are given true creative freedom.

Image Source: Dean Northcott.

IMSO: Bodies in sports imagery have become more sculpted, more sinuous, more anatomical, like illustrations from old medical textbooks? Why is this?

Dean Northcott: I don’t entirely agree with this statement. I think what has happened is that, as mentioned above, images have been more heavily retouched and merged with CGI to create an otherworldly feel with a polished look. This is happening because this is where the creative edge is at present.

For Dean Northcott’s photos on Image Source

For Dean Northcott’s own website

For our Sports Stock Photos category

Image Source: Dean Northcott.

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