I had a brilliant little outing in Bethnal Green yesterday, I went along with my mate Dave to shoot for "Groves V DeGale" for the first in hopefully a few pro boxing matches. I had done little research and had never been inside the venue, York Hall, previous to yesterday. I didn't know what the lighting was going to be like and I certainly didn't understand "Boxing Photography Etiquette"
I wanted to note down some tips I picked up on the day as before hand I had NO clue about boxing photography and couldn't find much about it on the web. So, without further ado, here's a little piece on "Boxing Photography, A beginners guide"
Can I bring my camera? It would seem that you're welcome to bring a camera to a boxing match as there were many there - varied shapes and sizes scattered throughout the crowd, though that would vary depending on the match venue - I can't, for example, see o2 letting you in with anything larger than a camera phone, in short - check with the venue... However, as yesterday was a press accredited gig, let's work on it from that perspective shall we?
Where can I shoot from? There are four sides to a boxing ring, however, as of yesterday there is only one (see below) There is one side for medical people to monitor the fight (right) There is one side full of judges and officials (behind) There is one side for trainers and such (left) and there is one side for press (front) ..this was my experience yesterday, but was told by one of the photographers that this was "the norm" (No, not that fat bloke in the bad Aussie TV commercials) So, "general rule numero uno" you're allowed on ONE side of the boxing ring only. (During punch on)
The first thing that happened when the opening bell rang was that I was told to get down by a press guy sitting behind me - makes sense, he's got to see what's going on, so, I adopted the position that has me in a good deal of neck type pain today... You can see in the picture above that the other guys are "getting down low and.. err.. go go go'ing" - It would seem that "general rule number two" is stay with your head below the second rope from the floor, or, below about a foot and a half off the floor.
How long can I shoot for? When the round is over, you're free to climb up the side of the boxing ring and snap off a couple of portrait type shots.. Until then you're clear to go unless told otherwise... I was splashed with sweat and most likely blood as well... I did find myself jumping back out of the way when the two fighters ended up on the ropes a couple of inches from my head... whoaaa!
What Lens did I use for most of it? Well, I was mostly hard up against the ropes, the right side of the ropes! and was very happy with the Canon 24-70L on my Canon 5DMk2 camera. For boxing or any quick moving sport, the 5DMk2 is not fast enough by any stretch... The others were sporting 1D series contraptions... Still, I got a few shots that I liked!
Did I shoot from anywhere else? YES, I did, but I had to get permission from the security, his boss, the team manager, the promoter and this is all after having a text from the guy that was in the ring asking us to video his fight because his video person pulled out last minute. So, generally - NO.
Did I need a long lens? If you're shooting the world championships, you're going to have a couple of different camera bodies and a longer and a shorter lens, if you're shooting a pro match up like I was, but in a smaller venue - the 24-70L was just fine. Maybe a 70-200f2.8 would have been nice to get in close and get some real detail, with the faster aperture really helping in less that idealic light conditions.
How about flash, can I use flash? Using flash at a boxing match has been accepted for many years, I would advise getting a bracket to mount your flash off the side of your camera, two reasons - you're always better having the light source further away from your lens AND you literally have very little room to move under the second rope to fit a top mounted flash on your camera... (see above)
Tripod, MonoPod or Handheld? Hand held all the way, no room for a tripod / mono.
How many shots did you take? I was shooting for the duration, that's six fights on the day. I took about 1300 images all up, but I would imagine that as I get more accustomed to shooting boxing that I will pick my timing more easily and slow down on shooting everything.
Any other pointers? Same as any other sort of photography, be nice and introduce yourself to all, make sure you're professional and don't get in anyone's way for a while - they look menacing, but they're a nice bunch... Oh, and if you're tall... You will have a sore neck for (as of right now) two days after the fight... Mine's killing me!