“Growing as an athletics photographer has similar fundamentals to developing as an athlete. You have to train, learn, practice and compete – but most of all, have passion, drive and respect.”
Oceania Athletics’ very own ‘Women In Sports’ Photo Action Awards Amateur Winner 2020, Casey Sims, sits down with the Oceania Athletics Association to discuss her progression, training and goals as a sports photographer.
How did you get into athletics?
I started Little Athletics in 1999 at Aspley Little Athletics. I became involved with cross country and road walking at the age of seven, and then transitioned into Queensland Athletics (QA) meets. As Little Athletics came to an end in U17s, I became more involved from a coaching and administration side of things. Due to an injury, I then became heavily involved with university athletics as a manager, promoter and casual athlete.
What is your current role within athletics?
Currently, I’m the President of QUT Athletics Club (QUTAC) that we started back in 2017, and I also look after the social media for the club. Outside of the office, I become a freelance photographer at meets, and occasionally will put some bib numbers on at a competition for club points.
How did you get into photographing athletics meets?
Around the same time in 2016/2017 two things happened. I was the youngest person on the committee at Aspley Little Athletics, so they handed me the club camera and went “you can figure it out and capture the meets”. Around the same time is when we kicked off QUTAC. We wanted to do well with social media – after all, that’s where all the athletes are! – and we wanted to celebrate them all. We needed images though, so with my first entry-level camera and kit lens, I went out at QA meets and began capturing (those images were pretty bad compared to now!) It’s exploded ever since, and I’m grateful for the opportunities that have arisen, especially at the Oceania Championships in 2019.
Casey’s top 5 tips for aspiring photographers?
1. Equipment: You don’t need top-of-the-line equipment. I still shoot on the entry-level camera body that I got back in 2017 (Canon 80d) and shot most things up until mid-2019 on a plastic nifty fifty lens. Sure, high-quality equipment will take good images, but what separates photographers is the ones who can understand the sport, angles, and fundamentals of photography (e.g. manual mode!)
2. Capture the moment, not just the motion. Capturing the action shot is essential, especially if that’s what your brief is. However, the bonus or sometimes the most magnificent shots are the ones that occur before the start gun or after the shot put has been released – don’t put the camera down, capture those the raw reactions and interactions.
3. Use social media as a tool for inspiration, connection and learning. Follow people on social media from a variety of sports. You will forever be a student, and you will continue to learn. Ask questions, learn from tutorials, and just get out there and practice. Plenty of local athletics clubs are happy to have volunteer photographers – just ask!
4. Safety is key! Listen to the officials, know the events, know the rules and respect the competition (both athletes and organisers). Eyes up – it’s hard to see what’s going on around you through a viewfinder or when reviewing images on your screen. Finally – and most importantly – look after yourself, shooting all day, editing all night can take it out of you. Just like any athlete or official, you need to hydrate, eat and, most importantly, rest.
5. Finally, it’s a small world in athletics photography/media; you don’t want to be the person no one wants to deal with. Be a kind of person, build good relationships (which can lead to opportunities) and be assertive. This will land you the gigs in the future, mean you make some awesome friends along the way, and will let people see your worth.
Where do you see athletics going in the future?
There is a huge opportunity to leverage media/social media for the athletes in our sport. If we can create ‘mint’ content that everyone gets on board with, it should create more buy-in from athletes, stakeholders and sponsors. That will create more opportunities to bring in money for meets, athletes, and increase the demand for media to get involved with the sport. We have an excellent sport in our hands, and some fantastic stories to tell and we just need to show it, especially in Australia. If we can enhance the media will, we can share innovation and generate hype around concepts that are hybrids of the traditional events.
What are your future goals for athletics and photography?
To continue growing QUTAC both on the field/track/road/course and continue to grow our media/social presence to celebrate the athletes and our sport. I might throw on the bib numbers a bit more too and compete! In terms of photography, I’ll keep learning and improving, refining my talent to hopefully one day reach the elite levels. I’ll continue to capture images that capture moments for our athletes, and if I get the opportunity to travel and work because of it all, even better! Hopefully, in the coming year, I can turn my hobby into a side business (Sports Photography and Content Creation). At the end of the day, I’ll be hanging around the track in either a club capacity, photography/media, or even a sports science/medicine capacity. Either way, athletics is a passion with countless opportunities beyond being an athlete.