Photography—it’s all about passion, skill, and commitment. Ever wondered what a day in the life of a photographer is like? Every week, we ask a photography pro to document and share how they spend their day at work, giving you an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at their shooting schedule.
Michelle Marino is a lifestyle features writer specializing in technology, photo and culture. Based in Boston, Michelle has written for multiple area publications, including Boston magazine. She currently writes and produces digital content for eBay electronics.
This week, we’re following premier pro-sports photographer Brian Babineau at a Boston Celtics home game against the Utah Jazz. Team photographer for the Celtics and the Boston Bruins and a staff photographer for the Boston Red Sox, Brian has photographed some of the most storied moments in sports history. He shoots with two Nikon D4Ss, a D3S, two D3s, a D800, and a D700, and 80-400, 70-200 with 1.4 converter, 24-120, 24-80, 14-24, 16 fisheye lenses.
Read on as Brian details his day, as told to Boston-based lifestyle features writer Michelle Marino, who joined him behind the scenes before and during the game.
9 A.M. I’m awoken by the sun filtering through the curtains of my bedroom window. Later today I’ll be shooting the Boston Celtics at home against the Utah Jazz, but for now, I need to get to the gym. I head to my kitchen and mix a drink—a fruit punch pre-workout brew. After the caffeine starts to kick in and my heart rate is up, I get in my black Infiniti to make the five-minute drive to my local gym.
10 A.M. I arrive at the gym, ready to tackle today’s workout regimen. Constantly being around professional athletes and photographing them working out motivates me to want to stay in shape myself. I’m on a pretty structured weekly schedule, and since today is a Monday, I’ll be working on chest, shoulders and triceps. Before I get to an hour of lifting, I ride the stationary bike for 10 to 15 minutes to warm up. By the time I’m ready to leave, I’ve gotten a solid workout in and am feeling ready to take on the rest of the day.
11 A.M. After I arrive back home, I prepare lunch, heading out to my back porch to fire up the grill and throw on a few chicken breasts. The end result is a grilled chicken salad complete with tomatoes, cucumbers, croutons, Ken’s Italian dressing and a pinch of Old Bay. Delicious. Since my work runs into the dinner hour, lunch is my time to prepare a healthy, full meal.
12 P.M. Now it’s time to eat lunch and relax on the couch. In between bites, I flip between SportsCenter and the History Channel, getting up to speed on the latest sports news while simultaneously escaping to another period and place. Keeping current on the sports world is an important part of my job, and I pay special attention to what’s happening with my Boston teams.
1 P.M. I head into my home office to check emails, take care of invoices, make a few phone calls and edit a recent photo shoot of Boston startup NIX, the developers behind a real-time hydration sensor for athletes.
2 P.M. Shower, shave and head for the TD Garden, home of the Boston Celtics. I’ll need to get to the arena several hours early to set up all my equipment and take pregame photos. On the way, I listen to sports talk radio, staying up to the minute on the latest sports news.
3 P.M. I arrive at the Garden and take the elevator up to level 9 to get my equipment out of my locker. In addition to the two D4S cameras I’ll have on me during the game (my 80-400 mm to shoot down the court and my 24-120 mm for up-close action), I grab two extra camera bodies (D700 and D800) and lenses (14-24 mm and 24-70 mm) I can choose from so that I can set up a remote camera on the visitor’s end of the court. I also grab a bag with my pocket wizards (devices that transmit radio signals and can be hooked up to the strobes and remote camera), my tethering cables, a magic arm for the remote camera and my seat for the game. Though my portable stadium chair isn’t exactly luxurious, it allows me to be as close and reactive to the on-court action as possible. I get back in the elevator and head down to event level 3, charge my batteries, set up my computer and head out to the court.
As the team warms up to the beats of Top 40 hip-hop in the background, I begin setup of the pocket wizards, tethering cables and remote camera. I take one of the strobe lights on the Celtics’ end of the court and plug a pocket wizard receiver into it to test the strobes located up on the catwalk. Every time I shoot, it will activate the strobe lights remotely with my camera’s pocket wizard transmitters, lighting up the whole arena. Timing is tricky since I can take only one shot every three seconds, but luckily I don’t have to worry about aperture since it’s set at f/5.6 the entire time.
As I shoot, the tethering cables will transmit my photos directly to the NBA offices in New Jersey, where they’ll edit them in real time and send them to Getty Images editorial department. To fire the remote camera, I run a separate sync line from a pocket wizard that’s connected to one of my cameras with an additional trigger that will set off the remote camera at the other end. The remote camera is also hooked up to the strobes. Once I get the remote camera secured on the side of the net, I pre-focus to the right location under the net and tape down the zoom and focus. That way, all my settings will remain steady. Using the remote camera, I’ll have the opposite side of the court covered to capture a player going in for a dunk or layup.
5 P.M. After making sure everything is set up properly, I walk to the Garden’s press room to grab some dinner from the buffet line—some pasta and salad will do. Now I’ll head out to the court to start my round of pregame photographs for about an hour or so. After setting up and taking numerous shots of corporate groups, season ticket holders, contest winners and sponsors at center court, my pregame work dies down. I’ll take an average of 1,200 pregame photos per season and make them available to the people I photograph on my personal website, where they can download them for free.
6:15 P.M. I’m back in the press room and take a seat with Celtics creative director Keith Sliney to enjoy some dessert before the game. The dessert spread includes brownies, cookies and cake. I reach for the chocolate chip cookies and take a seat next to Keith as I show him some photos from the NHL (National Hockey League) Stadium Series I shot a few days prior in Denver.
7:15 P.M. Both teams come out for a pregame warm-up where I’ll shoot the players stretching and going through their pregame routine. It’s hard not to get caught up in the chemistry and energy of this season’s young Celtics team, even in warm-ups. With five minutes left in warm-up, both team captains go to center court, where they’re pictured with the night’s honoree in the Celtics’ Heroes Among Us program, which presents an award every home game to an individual who has made an extraordinary contribution to the community. Tonight the honoree is Ray Tamasi, the CEO of Cape Cod’s leading substance abuse and mental health organization. After a 13-year-old girl boldly leads the national anthem, I shoot the starting lineup. Then it’s tip-off time.
7:30 P.M. The game has begun, and I’m actively switching between my short and long lens as the players run up and down the court. Since I’m using strobes, my camera settings are constant. I’ve already synced my camera and adjusted my aperture to the strobe lights, and I’m shooting at 250 ISO, a shutter speed of 2/50th of a second and an aperture of f/5.6. During the first half, my sister, Jamie (also my photo editor), comes out to retrieve my CompactFlash (CF) cards to download and file the photos into player folders for the Celtics’ team archives. She’ll continue to gather my cards throughout the game.
8:45 P.M. It’s halftime, and Boston is trailing by three. I’ve taken between 200 and 250 pictures by now between the two cameras I’m holding and my remote camera on the other end. Some people might not think this is a lot, but since I’m shooting with strobes and have to wait for them to recharge after taking a photo, I have to be very selective with the shots I take. At this point, I give Jamie the CF cards from the remote cameras and put fresh cards in to photograph the halftime act, which tonight is a youth basketball team. Then I head back into the press room for a five-minute water break and walk back out to the court to get ready for the third quarter.
10:30 P.M. The game ends in a victory for the Celtics in an amazing come-from-behind win. The final score against the Jazz is 100–95. Though the crowd is going wild and the atmosphere is electric, celebrating for me is more about capturing those moments through my camera and sharing them afterward.
After the crowd settles, I break down all of my equipment (pocket wizards, tethering cables, remote camera) and pack everything up as Jamie finishes organizing all of the photos, copying the entire shoot in the Celtics’ external hard drive. Finally, I head back up to level 9 to drop off my equipment.
11 P.M. I get in my car to head home for the evening with KISS capping off the night in the background.
We hope you picked up some great tips and insights from Brian Babineau about professional sports photography. For inspiration, scroll down for a collection of exciting images shot by him:
Check back next week for a new installment of A Day In The Life featuring another inspiring 500px photographer.