Matthew Emmons: A Family Football Legacy
by Kevin Jairaj
Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning hoists the Vince Lombardi trophy after Super Bowl XLVI against the New England Patriots at Lucas Oil Stadium this past February.
May 01, 2012 —
A long-time sports photographer shares what he learned from his family’s photo history and his own years in the business.
On February 5, 2012, Matthew Emmons entered Lucas Oil Stadium, just like he had entered a football stadium many times before. This time, however, something was a bit different. After all, it was the day of Super Bowl XLVI, and just walking into the stadium and standing on the field brought back wonderful memories of the times he had shared with his legendary sports photographer father, Malcolm Emmons.
Matthew (who has photographed 10 Super Bowls) says that Super Bowls are a huge part of his family history—so much so, that his father covered the NFL Championship games even before they were called Super Bowls. In addition to those games, his father also shot the first 23 Super Bowls, until passing away in 1989 at the age of 54. Malcolm was even consulted by NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle when the NFL was trying to sell this newly formed championship game (later to be named the Super Bowl) to the public.
Matthew shared one story about how his father photographed the famous “Ice Bowl” game between the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers in 1967. “Dad would shoot four rolls of film and pray that one roll didn’t break, and that the only roll that survived would be processed—if he were lucky,” Matthew describes. “There was no Auto Focus and not many of the luxuries that we take for granted today. Not to mention that motor drives were unable to be used in that environment. It is truly amazing to me to see the quality [of] images my father was able to capture.”
Malcolm Emmons passed away when Matthew was only 17 years old, and having an iconic sports photographer father shaped the career and direction of Matthew’s life. In fact, at age 10 he and his older brother, Malcolm Jr., used to work in his father’s darkroom developing prints to send out to sports annuals. It was a family business where even his mother, Mary, contributed by drying, stamping and sending out the photos, and doing many other administrative tasks.
Matthew credits his father with teaching him the rules of composition, exposure, lighting and the overall desire to become a sports photographer himself. He graduated from Ohio State University with a business degree and worked at a camera store during college. After college, he worked at a newspaper, eventually making his way up to the chief photographer/editor position. Matthew says the experience taught him what editors liked to see, and gave him a good grasp on shooting story-telling images. He also learned most of his photography basics by shooting film. (When Matthew worked for NFL Properties, he shot everything on slide film. This helped him learn to nail exposures, as shooting with slide film leaves little room for error.)
Matthew now works for U.S. Presswire as a photographer, as well as an assignment editor. He has been published by all the major sports publications and Web sites, including Sports Illustrated, USA Today, ESPN the Magazine and Fox Sports, to name a few. His work ethic, reputation and image-making skills have put him at the top of the sports photography landscape in an otherwise highly saturated genre.
But what’s the biggest change in the photography industry from when he started until now? Matthew says the simple answer is speed. “No longer are the days where you shot an NFL game and came in at the first quarter or halftime to transmit,” he says. “Now, whenever a score or big first down happens, I’m running in to transmit. This is because there are so many Web site clients now and some of the sites such as ESPN, Fox Sports, Yahoo Sports, etc., refresh their pages several times an hour. We are in an information age where everyone needs to see images right away.”
Another change that he notes is camera technology: “We can shoot in almost total darkness now and not have to worry about as much grain and noise in our images as in the past. We also now have super fast auto focus and motor drives on the cameras. And the level of sharpness with the new bodies and lenses is amazing.”
When asked what advice he would give young shooters who want to get into sports photography, Matthew stresses that it doesn’t matter the event, only how you shoot it. “Great images and action can be made at whatever level you are shooting at, whether it is a great high school rivalry or a Super Bowl,” he says. “It doesn’t have to be just pro and college sports. Women’s sports in general are very exciting as women tend to be more emotionally involved in the games and show lots of feeling.”
Another thing he stresses for emerging photographers to be aware of is to make sure to tell the whole story of the game in your images, not just capture good game action. Also, learn what to shoot that sells. “For example,” Matthew advises, “learn to maybe shoot that tight end who might not be a starter yet. Get some photos of him smiling and without his helmet because if he ends up being a star, those shots from your archive will earn you a lot of money. A great recent example of this is the New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin. Those photographers that took great images of him a few years ago have seen their archived shots run everywhere now that Lin has become a sensation in New York.”
There is also the need to learn the storylines of what you are shooting. “Many new photographers go into a game not knowing much about the team they are covering,” he says. “Things like the latest team rumors, injury possibilities, scandals, etc. While capturing action shots is great, getting images of the story of the game like fans, important team executives, famous college alums and other detail images are equally important.”
As for equipment, Matthew says that he cannot live without his 400 2.8 lens. “It can produce such a sharp image, whether the frame is close and tight or capturing action half way down the field. It’s the first lens I had to have! In fact, I traded a Hasselblad for my first 400 2.8.”
One of the most crucial pieces of advice that he wants to relay to young photographers is to own the copyright to your images. “To this day, the Emmons family is living off the royalties from what Malcolm Emmons shot in the 1960s,” he says. “Since our family owns his copyright, we get paid every time one of his historic images is used—and they are used quite a bit!
“You are an artist; own your image. It’s like a savings account. You will get paid every time it runs if you own the copyright. If you give up the copyright, you lose all potential revenue. Sports images have a life cycle. Images are used by newspapers, magazines, books and Web sites whenever anything occurs or changes with an athlete. If you own the copyright to your images, all of these life events could end up getting you paid.”
You can see more of both Matthew and Malcolm Emmons’ exciting sports images at www.uspresswire.com and
THE EMMONS SPORTS SHOOTING WORKFLOW
While shooting, Matthew will “TAG” images using the tag button on his Canon 1D Mark IV. He will shoot until something major happens in the game (a touchdown, turnover, major injury, etc.).
When it’s time to transmit images, he will run into the photo room (usually located close to the field) and download his cards via the “Ingest” feature in his Photomechanic software. Then he will immediately pull up all the tagged images to review. (Note: Photomechanic allows you to view images by ‘just tagged’ for faster viewing). Next, he will caption the photos that he wants to upload. For the sake of speed, Emmons makes several pre-captions before the game so that he can load them into each photo as needed. Next, he will crop and tone the photo in Adobe Photoshop and then upload the images to the editors.
Emmons only uploads three to five images at a time so that the first few can hit the wire right away while he works on others to transmit. (Doing more than this at a time would slow down the process and speed is everything when you’re trying to beat deadlines.) Emmons then returns the cards to his camera and heads out to shoot again, repeating the process throughout the game.
Once the game ends, Emmons will immediately upload the celebration shots of the winning team and players so that they can be used by newspapers, Web sites and magazines. He then makes a final upload, which contains a collection of his favorite images from the game.
Based in Dallas, Texas, Kevin Jairaj is an international award-winning wedding and portrait photographer. He uses techniques he learned as a fashion photographer to achieve unique results and create dramatic shots. In a few short years, Kevin has not only become one of the most sought-after photographers in the United States, but also worldwide. Kevin has won first place in WPPI’s 16 x 20 and 8 x 10 Competitions; he has been in the PPA Loan collection numerous times; he’s been awarded a Top Knots of Wedding Photography by Photo District News; and he has had his work published in countless major newspapers and magazines around the world. To view his portfolio, please visit his Web site at www.kjimages.com.
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