Shooting Sports Differently

Simon Bruty, Photographer

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
Simon Bruty, Photographer.
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You approach sports more like a Life photographer, rather than like a straight-on sports photographer.

I get bored pretty quickly, to be honest with you. Coupled with the fact that I don’t want to be with the crowd of photographers. Sometimes, I don’t want to stand where everybody else is standing. And that plays into how I approach it.

You take a lot of risks with the kinds of shots that you do. Slow-motion, pans, high-altitude shots. What goes on in your head as you conceive these images?

Well, there’s not much in there (laughs). The fi rst thing is that I’ve been lucky enough to work with people who don’t necessarily want me to do the standard image of a person crossing the fi nishing line. When I’m sent to something, sometimes they’re expecting me to look at it with a different set of eyes.

Also, I like the fact that I can try something different. I remember, clearly, having this issue with myself in 1992 in the Olympic Games, when I was standing with 200 other photographers at the fi nishing line at the Olympics. I kept saying to myself, “Why am I standing here, with the same lenses as everybody else, shooting the same thing?” What’s the point?

How did you make the break from shooting what everyone else was shooting?

First of all, I understand what kind of assignment I’m getting. That’s how I break it down. I need to get something basic, and I’ve got it. Now, maybe I can shoot from up there and try something different. That’s how I approach an assignment.

Do you ever walk away from an assignment feeling like you could have done better?

Every assignment. I want to make a perfect picture every time, and it’s not possible. It’s never possible, so I’m always critical of my approach, I’m always critical of what I’ve shot, and that’s important to me. It drives me the next time — I know I should have done this, I should have done that.

I’ve always felt that the only person who’s going to be honest with me is myself. And that’s pushed me to keep going. I always question the shot, even if it’s great. Did my preparation work out? Or was it merely luck?

Things happen so fast in sports photography. How do you increase your chances of getting the shot?

Disciplining yourself to concentrate is an art. It’s so easy to talk to your friend, or look at something else, and get distracted. A fraction of a second, you were doing something else, and you’ve missed it.

Preparation is important. Getting there early, so you’re not panicking about time. Making sure you see where you want to go, seeing where’s available, instead of racing in at the last minute and just sitting there because you’re there.

What to you is the difference between a good photograph and a great photograph?

Oh, that’s tough. A great one would be a combination of what I’ve talked about. It’s the fact of you being prepared, luck, and being able to take advantage of all those factors coming together for you. I think that’s what differentiates a good photograph from a great photograph.

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