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Photography Tips From a Top Poker Photographer

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Photographers looking to go professional need to be knowledgeable, theoretically and practically, on how to photograph a wide variety of events. Unsurprisingly, poker events can be great practice grounds for photographers to test their mettle.

Seasoned poker photographer and player Damian Nigro explains the range of stories that you can capture when watching people playing in a tournament. Beyond testing their skill or creativity by fiddling with lighting or positions, poker photography also encourages patience. Nigro says that waiting for the end of a tournament to capture that final winner’s shot is the most painstaking task, and recalls once covering a final table that lasted for more than 11 hours.

This was during the World Series Of Poker Europe in Berlin in 2016. The renowned World Series Of Poker is the biggest poker tournament in the world. Starting in 1970, the WSOP annually features more than 80 events and is often held in Las Vegas, Nevada every summer. They also have expansions in Europe and Asia-Pacific, and all the way to Africa and the Caribbean.
Photography, even in the most specific of industries like poker, can take you to many events and locations. To make the most out of these opportunities, here are some expert tips for navigating these particular events.

Finding the perfect subject

Poker photography isn’t about shooting portraits. Players tend to be so focused on the round that they generally don’t really notice photographers, and will continue to act naturally despite the cameras.   The challenge in poker photography is capturing dynamic movements involving solo or group shots. This makes a great opportunity for candid natural expressions, but it requires skill and the proper tools.  Fortunately, media expert Danny Maxwell says that whatever camera you are using, it can still serve you well. For him, his trusty Canon camera was enough to get him started without breaking the bank.

As he continues to work and strive for crisper and cleaner photos, he uses better lenses that allow for continuous focus in order to make up for low-light capabilities. With faster autofocus and lenses, capturing dynamic subjects with sharp and precise detail becomes much easier.

Finding the perfect composition

Fans of Maxwell’s work like poker journalist Frank Op de Woerd explain that Maxwell’s qualities don’t stem from the price of his camera but from careful composition and an eye for detail. It is balance and framing that makes a photo interesting.

We go back to the basic principles in order to intentionally draw or redirect attention. In the rule-of-thirds, the photograph is divided into 9 equal segments of 2 vertical and 2 horizontal lines. Important elements in your scene, like the subject you are focusing on, are positioned along these lines.

Otherwise, room shots are a relatively easy shot, and one of the best ways to frame them is by going to one of the corners and shooting at a good height. Utilizing the unique angle while avoiding lots of blank space allows you to capture as many tables as you can, making the scene the subject instead of just one individual.

Ultimately, a lot of event photography is reliant on timing. There are no retakes. That is why PictureCorrect’s guide to timing stresses photographers need to be super aware when it comes to natural timing in events. This requires critical forethought and patience, and helps if the photographer is familiar with the event.

It’s worth considering shots where a significant play is happening that could determine the outcome of a game. The expressions of joy and fury on the players’ faces are unmatched in this instance. So capturing them in the moment requires you to point the camera at a player every time they go all-in or win or lose a round, and even then you might miss it.

No one said that photography is easy, but we all start somewhere. With intense dedication, we at
award-winning Jeff Kolodny Photography, Inc. have carefully honed our skills throughout various environments at event photography. If you want to learn from the best, start with us and read through our site to learn how to improve your game.