My Harlem Globetrotter Photography Job

By | April 9, 2011

Last week Gord sent me a link to a Craigslist posting asking for photographers to photograph fans at the Friday and Saturday Harlem Globetrotters performance. I applied immediately and received a phone call from someone at the PrintRoom on Monday confirming my application for Friday night.

The rest of the week I was nervous about Friday. I have always wanted to approach people on the street to take their photo but never worked up the nerve to do it, and Friday would be doing exactly that. I have also thought about getting into paid photography jobs for quite a while now and I felt this would be a nice introduction to see if it would be something I would want to do.

I arrived at Northlands early and met Karen, the other photographer waiting in the designated zone. A few minutes later Ella showed up (who applied for the job after I forwarded the Craigslist ad onto her) and then us three were escorted into Hall “D”.

I didn’t dislike the work, but as Travis (the tour manager) said, this is about quantity and not quality so you check your creativity at the door and get through as many people as possible. We were tourists on Travis’ day job and I think it could be repetitive to do this night in and night out. It wasn’t hard work but it was physically more demanding than I expected. For five hours I was walking, crouching, kneeling and interacting with people and once I put the camera down I realized how sore and tired I was.

The highlights of the evening was photographing the Magic Pass portion before the show. Magic Pass was a pre-game performance by the Globetrotters and we were allowed to go on the court and shoot the kids interacting with the players.

After that concluded I was shooting fans against a green screen with a Globetrotter. It was repetitive work but I enjoyed it. When you are processing a line of 60 people deep you don’t have much time to compose the shot so you move around as much as you can, click, rotate the camera to get a portrait orientation, click again and then move onto the next person in line.

When the game started the candid photos stopped and we moved onto photographing the fans. Judging by the amount of photos I took from Magic Pass to fan photos it was obvious I was having a hard time switching shooting rolls. For the 30 minute Magic Pass portion I took nearly 330 photos, but for the game I took just under 90.

I wasn’t uncomfortable approaching people asking to take their photo, and after the second rejection I wasn’t bothered by hearing “no”. However, the problem I had was asking people to take their photo during the game. I didn’t want to interrupt their enjoyment of the game so I would wait for quarter breaks and did my biggest stretch of work during half time where I took 1/3 of my photos.

It was easy to keep track of people you asked when the stands were empty but as it started to fill up you quickly forgot who you asked. At the end of the night I realized I never went back to the people that agreed to have their photo taken but wanted to wait for someone else from their group to return. When the stands started to fill up you could only approach people on the aisles and that made asking people difficult.

I would watch the audience, pick my mark, ask them for a picture and then ask a few others around them. I think my downfall is that I wouldn’t work the entire section. I would get in, take a few photos, and then return to a safe distance to watch the crowd (and the game).

It was hard not to watch the game because it was incredibly entertaining. The game was more than trick shots and hilarity, there was a large amount of basketball skill but yet the Generals lost to the Globetrotters, continuing a tradition of losses that goes back to the 1970’s.

At the end of the day I had as many people decline having their photo taken as I did who agreed to have it taken. I wondered if they were declining because of my introduction, if they genuinely didn’t want to have their picture taken or if it was something else. One of the other workers was able to get a lot of photos taken but they put effort into it. They would walk up and down the aisles and ask everyone they could. Their hard work paid off because a lot of the photos from Friday April 8 are marked with their gallery name of KXL. Mine are listed as SXG and Ella was EXE. MGR was Travis, the photography tour manager.

I was asked to return to shoot the Saturday performance and I declined because I didn’t feel I was giving them the quantity they were looking for. However, looking at the photo gallery and seeing a few SXG’s made me think I did have something to offer. I would probably take more photos of fans on the repeat performance but I was happy to have been given the opportunity to try this, and if something like this came up again in the future I would strongly consider it, but doing it again on Saturday felt too quick.

All in all this didn’t turn me off from making photography more than a hobby. I would like to stretch my creativity with being a second shooter at a wedding but being confined to quick “get in and get out” photo sessions is fine with me too.

Because any photo taken on my Compact Flash card was property of the Globetrotters PrintRoom the CF card dumped and wiped I had to switch CF cards if I wanted to take photos for myself. You can see the limited photos I took here or any of the official photographs on the PrintRoom website here.

4 thoughts on “My Harlem Globetrotter Photography Job

  1. Gordo

    Nice work man. I backed out early due to a lot going on personally. It looks like you had a good time, and I’m extra happy that you managed to invite some moral support. That must have made it even more enjoyable.

  2. Sean Post author

    Having someone else was a definite help. It was good to bounce your frustrations with approaching people off of someone you knew and it was good to know you weren’t alone.

    It’s too bad that you couldn’t attend the Calgary one but maybe something similar will come up in the next few months that you could get in on.

  3. Diksha

    I got to meet the Globetrotters when I was a teenager. They had plyead in Savannah, GA, but stayed in my hometown, 45 min. away. They were just as funny off the court as they were on. 🙂

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