You will never make money on roller derby photography but it may…

ByDarren Stehr

19 September 2023
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Read Time:5 Minute, 54 Second

…give you some of the most valuable experience you will ever get. Tri-City just made getting that experience a whole easier to get.

The best advice or probably better described as a caution I got before the derby photography bug got me was that there is no money in derby. Money was never my goal but nonetheless I would give the same caution to someone today if they asked me. Value is different than money. The value to a new photographer or to an experienced one wanting to get into sports photography is extremely high. For $10 Tri-City is giving you a huge gift.

Are you a photographer interesting in learning about capturing roller derby? Our very own Gorticia Addams is hosting a training class on September 21st from 7:00-8:30 p.m. at the New Hamburg Community Centre. The intention of this training is to increasing the number of roller derby photographers throughout Ontario. There will be a $10 cash fee on arrival; all funds collected will go towards league fundraising efforts. You must bring your own equipment. Please fill out this form if you are interested in signing up: (link below next paragraph)

BONUS: All participants will receive free entry to TCRD’s season closer on September 30th to practice what they learned with the support of trainer Gorticia Addams.”

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfFREiXEaSOA7msBGtB-h1mGrN6ZnlJdI-fy6Xm4DvEgdqg7w/viewform?fbclid=IwAR3_vAeZL5ha17IaEsV7s32P2VBNnH4nLzbNKzdf-ZJP7P4u739IlSb4o-A&pli=1

You will get exposed to fast moving erratic movement that will put your camera to the ultimate test of its capabilities. You will have to know how to exploit those capabilities. Low light and derby go together. You master dealing with that and you are set to move into any other sport or venue. Some venues have lights where each bulb emits at a different colour temperature. Add a couple of windows and it really cranks up the mixed lighting situation and you will lose hair over it trying to balance it all out. I am ahead of you all as Mother Nature stole my hair. Want to try lighting a large venue with strobe and shoot the action? Perfect place for it. I would hazard to say that it is a bit easier than dealing with low light. Editing afterward. Do you really want to hear me complain that much?

It does not stop there but you do not have that much time for me to drone on. You also get to learn how to tell a story with your approach and there are many different approaches. A photographer who has played will have a different approach than me as will one that may be a parent of a player. You never have to worry about how many photographers there are. We all have different approaches.

What is the best camera for roller derby? The one in your hands. Upgrade not when advertisers tell you but when your ability to shoot exceeds the ability of your camera to keep up with you. Canon if you would like to sponsor me I will gladly change my tune. Just saying.

Derby photographers are some of the friendliest and most helpful group of photographers you will ever meet. I have been involved in photography one way or the other for 35 years. Besides thinking about how old that makes me feel writing that I cannot honestly think of another group of photographers that are as good. Met a lot of great and helpful photographers but for every good one in their group there was one or two not so nice ones. If someone tells you I am probably the most miserable and aloof derby photographer out there I would not dispute it. Though I like to think I am more in tune with that Hammer City t-shirt with the logo, “Awkward but Effective”. As usual I have digressed.

Again. You will never make money from derby. The opportunity alone has more value than the $10. What you learn will just add extra value.

Survey says!

I did some quick polling of a private Facebook for roller derby photographers from around the world to give you a bit of insight. There are 520 of them in the group as of this writing. The response rate was about 10%. Will give you a brief outline.

I asked what skill did they learn photographing derby that helped them outside of derby photograph. There were 40 responses.

47% said “Capturing fast erratic action.”

27% “Lighting with strobes.”

12% “Dealing with low light.” 

5% “Social/connections for paying photography work.”

1% “Operating my camera overall.”

Where do derby photographers come from? 52 responses. 

66% were either a friend, lover, or parent of a player. 

17% are current/former players.

Saw a derby movie and saw an ad for derby both took 5% each. 

3% wanted play but for whatever reason could not. 

Want to keep that derby photographer coming back? I asked them what discourages them the most when considering photographing a game? I was surprised at the response here. There were 59 responses.

44% listed “distance”.

15% “Other (unspecified) priorities”. 

9% listed no credit when their photos are shared and being disrespected. If I were guessing I would have guessed this to be the choice of 75% in general photography and above 60% for derby photographers. I will bore you another day about why. 

8% “No help in defraying costs (gas, hotel, food)” – I wish I had gotten more specific with this question as it relates to distance. Could be I phrased the question(s) poorly. Though maybe distance and the next are related.

8% “Physical toll on my body and time to recover.” This was very unexpected. I cannot say much. I have left one derby game in an ambulance and second time at a derby related event. Both cases my fault.

One dumbass listed “Too much attention”…oh…wait…that was me.

I debated with myself about whether or not to include this poll, especially the last one, for fear it might scare someone away. It should not scare anyone. The responses came from committed derby photographers. These people are out there photographing derby despite all this. It is honest. Think of what I said earlier about the warning I got. I still photograph derby. It is all I photograph for the most part. Apart from being a fucking awesome sport we keep going back for reasons, good reasons, that cannot be explained. It would be like me trying to explain to you why I will not drink coffee cause I hate the taste but coffee flavoured ice cream is my favourite.

Thank you to those that answered the poll questions.

ds

Another survey coming. 

Another extensive survey is coming to poll players and fans about the relationship between photographers/photography and roller derby in the next three to four weeks. It is at some 30 questions at this point and will be done with something more robust than Facebook polling.

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