In the first of our new feature series profiling the people who make the sport industry tick, we meet Naomi Baker – a 25-year-old sport photographer and editor, originally from Southampton. Naomi is a graduate of Getty Images’ inaugural female sport photographer internship. She is now a full-time editor with Getty Images in the UK.
MY DAY STARTS…
It totally depends. Today, I’m shooting the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals at The O2 in London. Yesterday’s evening session finished late. I left the venue around 11pm, so I allowed myself a bit of lie-in this morning. I travelled in by tube and arrived at 11am, an hour or so before the first match of the afternoon session.
The first thing I always do when I get onsite is to set up all my kit. If it’s a new venue, I start by working out all the positions and where I’m allowed to go. Today, I’ve set up a remote camera by the entry tunnel. You tend to need a bit of help from colleagues, to set the focus and so on.
I always try to get as much advice as possible. It’s great to be around the top experts at Getty, like our specialist tennis photographers at this event. Everyone’s so happy to share their experience and advice.
Before the match starts, I try to remember to grab some food. It can definitely be hard to find time to eat in this job. Energy bars were my saviour during the Winter Olympics, when I was often up a mountain for hours at a time.
WHAT MY JOB INVOLVES….
There are two types of day, depending on whether I’m shooting or editing.
Today I’m on court, but tomorrow I’ll be back in the media centre editing my colleagues’ shots. We connect our cameras to cables that send the images directly to the onsite editors within fractions of a second.
I never did any editing before Getty but it’s taught me so much to be able to see everyone else’s work and get some perspective on what works and what doesn’t.
Sometimes photographers can be particular about their shots, and really it’s all so subjective. So it helps that we can add a voice caption via the camera – a little audio note to the editor that says: “keep this upright” or whatever. It’s useful to know what the photographers want and all part of learning here.
This is only my second time shooting tennis and, to be honest, the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals is quite a hard event to shoot, just because it’s so quick. The speed and anticipating the movement is the biggest challenge.
With every event, I always like to look for different views away from the big action. I like the quiet moments that people don’t normally get to see.
My favourite shot is one I took during my internship, when I spent three days in Ireland with the female Barbarians on their first tour. It’s of one of the players looking out of the window on the coach to the game. For me, it really sums up that focus and composure of athletes in those hidden moments before the game.
BEING A WOMAN IN THIS JOB…
Is something I always get asked about, but it’s never really been a thought for me. It’s true there aren’t as many female photographers, especially in sport. But you definitely see more and more nowadays and it’s something Getty in particular is trying to bring through.
To be honest, when I get to an assignment, I’m always so focussed on setting up that being in a female minority just isn’t something I notice.
Physically, it can sometimes get a little pushy and competitive in the press pack. I do remember that a little bit at the FA Youth Cup Final. There are definitely situations when you need to hold your ground.
HOW I GOT MY JOB….
It all started quite naturally. As I kid I had a passion for photography. On family holidays, we’d have little competitions to see who could take the best pictures. I was also really sporty, particularly in rowing, swimming and trampolining.
But when I got to university to start my Photography course, I found that the women’s sports on offer weren’t the ones I wanted to do. Photographing sports became a way for me to get my sports fix, and be around teams again, which is the thing I love most.
At the time I also did a lot of volunteer work with Bournemouth FC, focussing on their Youth teams. I was really lucky because it was the season they went up to the Premier League. That led to an opportunity with Southampton FC, where I was on the staff for three seasons, mainly working with the youth teams but also assisting the first team photographer. It was an ideal environment to learn and experiment because the pressure wasn’t on me in those big games.
The portfolio I built at Southampton definitely helped me get the Getty Images internship. As soon as I saw that advertised, I was 100% in!
THE BEST THING ABOUT MY JOB….
There are so many good aspects. To be out on the field of play at some of the biggest events in the world is incredible. You’re part of those moments of history.
My proudest moment so far was being at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. I was pinching myself the whole time. To achieve a lifelong dream so early in my career was amazing.
Shooting sport is different because it’s all unscripted. You never know what you’re going to come away with. It’s the excitement of not really knowing what the day’s going to bring.
THE WORST THING ABOUT MY JOB…
Sometimes it can be frustrating because there are aspects that come down to luck – if you’re in the wrong corner for a goal celebration, for example. But I try not worry about the things I can’t control. All I can do is prepare as well as possible.
It also takes up a lot of time, because obviously sport never stops. It’s a constant calendar. Having an outside social life can be difficult but it’s fine because I really feel that I’m part of a family with the people I work with at Getty. You become such close friends.
At the end of the day, I love my job and you have to make sacrifices. As much as I hate saying “no” to social things, I also know that I’d regret missing these amazing career opportunities.
When the action’s over, I go and back up all my files. Some photographers don’t bother but I like to know everything’s secure. I’d hate to have my laptop stolen on the tube and lose everything.
Because social media now is so key, I also always like to pick a best picture from the day and post that out before I go home.
I’ll leave here around 11pm, so it’s usually a 12-hour day at this event.
ON MY DAYS OFF….
On average, I work five or six days a week. But I like to shoot on my days off too, so I can sometimes find myself working every day!
When I get downtime I try and see my family as much as possible. I’m lucky as they only live a couple of hours away.
I make an effort to prioritise my friends and family when I do have time because I know, for example, that at the Winter Olympics I was away for two months. That was quite tough, but everyone’s in the same boat and we keep each other going.
I also go to the gym as much as possible. There’s a lot of sitting around in this job and it can be hard to stay fit on the road.
My favourite place I’ve travelled with work
Korea. I’d never been so far east. I loved discovering a totally new culture.
I couldn’t do my job without…
The team at Getty. There are so many people you need to make it all happen. I also love my 85mm lens with its special wide aperture!
If I wasn’t a photographer…
I’d probably be a graphic designer, working on brand identity projects. I did graphics at college and really enjoyed building my own website.
The best advice I ever received…
Came from Catherine Ivill, another one of Getty Images’ female sports photographers. She told me: “Treat every shoot you do as a Champions League final.” You come away with such a better set of images that way. It’s all about what you make it.