We caught up with Ben Lumley earlier this month, the official photography partner of the NPA and Sports Photographer of the year 2020 as awarded by The British Photography Awards.
Ben started his business just 3 years ago, however he has quickly forged a string of repeat clients which include ITU World Triathlon Series, Vitality Netball Superleague Franchises and England Netball. Talking about his work and setting up his business, Ben talks passionately about setting out to do things differently.
How did you get into sports photography?
I had previously been working in website design, however with a passion for photography I decided to set up my business in 2017. I started out with a focus on setting myself aside from the norm and just looking at producing highly creative photography that is multidimensional. For me it is all about high quality images that draw people in rather than trying to photograph everything for everyone.
I actually started out as a running photographer, taking pictures of trail races. It was when there was an event close to my home one Sunday that I went out with my camera and took some photos. These were picked up by British Triathlon who then invited me to do some work at other events, from there the ITU World Triathlon Series picked me up and I’m now travelling as part of the ITU media team to events all over the world.
When did you first start photographing netball?
I first got involved with netball about 18 months ago. Through my relationship with Loughborough Sport I got talking to Sara (Bayman) and had a really good conversation about raising the visual image profile of the game. Showing off netball at its best. High quality work draws people in. England Netball and the Vitality Netball Superleague have done a great job at commercialising the sport but for me the image profile of the game domestically wasn’t quite there.
What do you see as the specific challenges of photographing netball?
Theres a few challenges photographing Netball that even the pros struggle with at times, the biggest one is indoor lighting. Arenas all have artificial lighting which is darker than daylight so it can be a challenge to keep images sharp and looking good in low light. I think the main challenge that more photographers should be focusing on is how players look in images. There's an awful lot of images of bad body positions and facial expressions going around. What I strive to do however is to work on creating images that not only capture the action but also the strength, dynamism and power of these athletes.
What you particularly like about working in netball?
I really like the professionalism of the Superleague and England Netball. Everyone is there to try and give the best possible experience they can while the players give their everything on court. It's exciting to be a part of. Netball, even during this global pandemic, is on a rise and I very much feel like I'm in the right place at the right time!
We recently watched your vlog about The Power of Free, both your Triathlon and Netball work started from giving up your time for free. What advice would you give about your experiences?
I’m a massive believer that when you put yourself out there for free to start with, taking money off the table, you can just have a really good conversation with someone about all being part of the same drive, to push the sport forwards.
When you’re first starting out as a creative it can be really hard when you have nothing to show for the quality of your work. I think there is a lot to be said for putting yourself out there for free. Of course you need to have agreements in place, but you need to think longterm. Success is built on forging successful relationships. You need to think about what relationships can leverage in time rather than just thinking about what you can get paid straight away.
I went into netball, just looking at getting some really really good images, raising the profile and making it about everyone moving forward. The initial work I did with Loughborough Lightning for free led to them asking me back as a paid photographer and now I have four franchises interested in using me and I’ve also done work for England Netball.
I think the netballers can definitely benefit from this mindset. Talk to people and find people you want to work with and put yourself out there to gain experience in the first instance. The more experience you can get, the more people you will meet and the more people you meet, the more opportunities will come your way.
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