How do you find out about paintball? Well, in this day and age, you probably go online and carry out a little Google search, right? That’s what most people do. However next time you come across a cool paintball site or gallery of action shots, spare a thought for the brave soul who’s job it is to go out into a game zone to capture quality paintball photographs.
There are a surprisingly large amount of websites specialising in paintball photography, and even a few snappers who are experts in the art of capturing paintball mid-action. Obviously though there a few perils you need to avoid if you’re keen to take your camera in to a venue, but with a little practice you could hopefully be getting some great dynamic shots in no time.
Here a few nuggets of wisdom and things to look out for if you want to get into paintball photography (with each point accompanied by a pretty ace paintball photo too!).
1. Always ask permission
This should hopefully go without saying. Different venues have different rules, but if you want to take your camera into a game zone then first you have to clear it with the marshals. Some will simply say no as their insurance policies won’t cover any possible damage and they naturally want to save themselves any potential nasty outcomes should your camera break. However, some will let you in amongst the action, but only as a photographer, and certainly not if you plan to play at the same time. These aren’t holiday snaps you’re taking!
2. Take the right gear for the job
If you’re serious about your photography, then you’ll probably have an idea of the sort of images you want to walk away with, so take the time to consider what gear you will need to get them – as you certainly don’t want to be dragging a lot of equipment around a site. And you can forget about setting up flash rigs too! For example, you might want a longer lens to help capture the action from a safer distance, or you might need to bring a body with a quicker shutter speed to really capture the fast action in a clearer picture.
3. Camera safety
Once you’ve decided what camera and lens to bring with you, next consider how you’ll be able to look after them in the middle of play. You might think the chances of your camera getting broken is slim, but rest assured there are probably hundreds of other people who thought the same – and needed to buy new cameras. The simplest way to do this is to buy a cheap lens safety filter, which is just neutral clear reinforced glass that will stop a paintball destroying your lens – though the shield itself might get ruined. Most modern digital SLR cameras have what’s called a ‘weather-sealed’ body, meaning that they are reasonably protected against the elements, however it would be smart to perhaps find a light cover for your camera whilst using it (or even wrapping a plastic bag around it would be good) as it would still be a pain trying to get paint out of the buttons etc.
4. Your own safety
Obviously the field marshals will be on hand to brief you, and every player should know that there is a photographer in the game zone too. However, think ahead and take a few simple precautions to ensure that you’re safe from any wayward paintballs. Wear a completely different coloured jumpsuit from the players and, if possible, wear a different coloured mask and goggles too – do not even think about going out there without all the safety clothing. Another good idea would be to walk through the zone beforehand and find a bunker or good spot that you can stay in throughout a game that is still in the middle of the action. This way, you don’t have to move around and get in players’ way, whilst also ensuring your own safety.
5. Always wear the strap around your neck. Trust us, if you get shot on the hand you will automatically let go of your camera!