Photographers' Blog

Editing thousands of cricket pictures a day

By Altaf Bhat
April 4, 2011

Sports and Action photography is all about timing. It’s about reacting. It’s about being in the right place at the right time and it’s about execution.

India's Gautam Gambhir is bowled by Sri Lanka's Thisara Perera during their ICC Cricket World Cup final match in Mumbai April 2, 2011.                          REUTERS/Philip Brown

These are all qualities of the athlete and those of the photographer covering them as well. Each sport has predictable and unpredictable moments. For instance, in cricket, photographers will have opportunities to capture jump shots, players diving to make the crease, diving to take a catch, diving to field the ball, a bowler leaping in the air as he bowls, a batsman screaming in joy on reaching his century, etc. Understanding the timing of these predictable actions allows a photographer to capture the peak moment; when the action is most dramatic.

Before I start editing I always have a brief chat with the photographers about what could be the day’s great picture. The staff never fail to deliver and meet expectations. I briefed two photographers covering matches from the quarter-finals onwards not to forget to look for emotion in the players and the fans. A good number of the best shots come from the crowd. I received a bunch of nice pictures of the crowd from the final.

A fan of the Sri Lankan cricket team reacts as he watches the ICC Cricket World Cup final match between Sri Lanka and India on a big screen at Galle Face Green in Colombo April 2, 2011. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

While editing pictures from the semi-final match between arch rivals India and Pakistan, I thought I should leave the confines of our New Delhi desk and photograph the match in Mohali. The Mohali semi-final match had a few news angles attached to it. Firstly, India and Pakistan were playing each other after a long time; secondly the Indian Prime Minister and his Pakistan counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani were watching the match in the stands after the latter accepted an invite from Manmohan Singh to watch the match. It was a historic moment where one could see the prime ministers of two nuclear-armed countries sitting side-by-side enjoying the game. But in the end, I am glad I edited their pictures.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani (L) and India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wave before the  World Cup cricket second semi-final between India and Pakistan in Mohali, India March 30, 2011.   REUTERS/Daniel Berehulak/POOL

It was difficult to juggle everything during the India-Pakistan semi-finals because sport was mixed up with politics. One of the two photographers covering the match called an hour before the match saying Getty Images would pool the pix of Indian and Pakistan Prime Ministers meeting with players of both countries on the field. I called my manager in Singapore to convey the message to him.

I was worried about the pictures of the two PMs watching the match from the gallery. I knew I would receive a couple of pictures of hand-shakes of the two PMs with the players on the field from the Reuters photographers and I received them as predicted.

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (R) speaks with his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani as they watch the ICC Cricket World Cup semi-final match between India and Pakistan in Mohali March 30, 2011.  REUTERS/Raveendran/Pool

As the match approached its climax, I sensed Pakistan was going to lose. I started calling photographers for reaction pix, which we received from around the country.

HORIZONTAL SHOTS:

Australia's Mitchell Johnson celebrates after taking the wicket of New Zealand's Jesse Ryder during their ICC Cricket World Cup group A match in Nagpur February 25, 2011.  REUTERS/Vivek PrakashMost cricket pictures are good verticals. Think about the shape of humans; they are taller than they are wide. To fill the frame with a person playing a sport, they fit the frame better when the camera is held vertically. Even for a tight head shot, it’s a better vertical. A lot of sports shots, in particular if it is of an
individual, are shot vertically.

However, I thought of horizontal frames while going through each frame. Horizontal frames are extensively used by online slideshows and I was trying to find horizontal frames allowing for them to be published as double page spreads.

I sent on the wire a varied selection of pictures of dejection, jubilation and batsmen playing shots following the photographic mantra “The Rule of Thirds”, which says that if you divide the frame into a third vertically and horizontally and place the subject where the lines intersect, the resulting photo is more interesting.

New Zealand's Tim Southee throws a bottle off the field after drinking from it during their ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 semi-final match against Sri Lanka in Colombo March 29, 2011.        REUTERS/Philip Brown

KNOW YOUR SPORT, KNOW YOUR PLAYERS:

A photographer should know what he/she is covering and who they have shot. I was lucky that we had photographers who were fully aware of all the players. I edited and processed most of the matches and there was hardly a moment when I needed a photographer’s help to identify any player who was in the frame.

For the big final in Mumbai, we were allotted only two tickets by the ICC. My colleagues Adnan Abidi and Vivek Prakash pulled a few strings to get us two more just in time for the big game. The development gave me confidence as we had four expert photographers on the job and for this big day I had another colleague Rob Dawson in Singapore helping edit and process. We stayed in touch through the final while moving pictures on to the wire. We were first to hit the wire on a number of occasions.

India's Yuvraj Singh celebrates after their team won the ICC Cricket World Cup final match against Sri Lanka in Mumbai April 2, 2011.                         REUTERS/Philip Brown

As India inched towards victory, I sent a message to another editor/processor to get ready for celebration pictures and Vivek quickly took and transmitted the images. They came to us virtually live.

India's players celebrate with their trophy after India won their ICC Cricket World Cup final match against Sri Lanka in Mumbai April 2, 2011.                               REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

I knew it was never going to be easy to edit and process such a big event but at the same time I knew it was doable. Thanks to all involved, it went smoothly. While the matches were being played in three countries, I anchored the operation from New Delhi. For 42 days it was non-stop work. Now, it is time to put my legs up and rejuvenate.

Comments
One comment so far | RSS Comments RSS

Great images, pretty much my dream job – the photography rather than the editing :) Any pointers for my portfolio would be very welcome.

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