Roller Derby Photography – Don’t be a dick.

BoutDay GearEarlier this week Jason Ruffell wrote a blog piece about professionalism in roller derby photography – don’t be a dick. Quite rightly encouraging more professionalism among derby photographers in the hope that those of us with cameras will then be treated with less suspicion. While I do agree, I have a slightly different take on that argument, but I’d recommend you go read his first.

Roller derby photography is difficult. It takes a lot of time and effort, the equipment is spectacularly expensive and there’s no money in it. None. We do this for the love of the sport.

At the same time there’s no way to pass mins in derby photography. What generally happens is that a new photographer with no sports experience turns up and is just left to it. Needless to say, this approach doesn’t always go well. They don’t always have respect for the game boundaries and get in the way. That’s bad, but not entirely surprising.

As a result, photographers get a bad name at that league and they draft (or copy) a waiver for all future photographers to sign. This doesn’t help because signing a bit of paper doesn’t magically make you a better photographer. That’s a bit like having a Jammer Waiver that you get new skaters to sign to become jammers rather than testing them to see if they can actually do it. It also results in me staying away as it tells me that you don’t respect what I do, and it usually also transfers a lot of image rights to the league – rather than just asking me for the shots you need.

So what’s the solution? Go on experience. Has this person shot derby before? Have they shot sports before? What do other leagues think of them? What does their portfolio look like?  In 5 years I’ve been asked to sign (and walked away from) several terrible waivers, but I’ve only been asked to prove my experience once – for Team Scotland.

I’d suggest some sort of centralised endorsement list. If I’m on that list, endorsed by 5 of 6 leagues you can be fairly confident that I know what I’m doing. If I’m not on the list, do what you do with any untested person. Sent me to shoot a training session*, preferably under the wing of an existing photographer to show me the ropes. Your OPRs will tell you in no time if I’m a dick.

So I guess my point is that you can’t stop people being dicks, but you can filter them out in the same way that you do in the rest of the sport. Roller derby is very experienced at assessing people for safety and competence. You just have to do it.

You’ll get better photography, and you’ll be able stop treating your dedicated photographers like dangerous outsiders. We’re not the enemy. Honest.


*Unless I’m actually a press photographer. Don’t do that to the press. You need the press.