Q&A: Documenting a Unique Tokyo 2020 with Shutterstock

10 Aug 2021

By: Sport Industry Group

After a unique Olympic Games, taking place a year later than planned and without spectators in Tokyo, Sport Industry Group chatted to Dave Shopland of Shutterstock - an Official Partner of the Sport Industry Awards 2021 - to find out what it was like to document the global event under different circumstances. 


What have the Games been like , and how do they compare to other sporting events you’ve done in the past?

I have actually really enjoyed this year’s ‘Covid games.’

Without any spectators the media has had more freedom to move around the venues and find the best angles, rather than simply chasing Great Britain’s Medallists. My brief this year was just to ‘shoot good images,’ - a photographer’s dream! 

Is there much of a difference to other mid-pandemic events you might have covered in the last year or so?

Surprisingly, the Olympics this year have been much less strict on the movements of the photographers in comparison to other events I have attended recently. All members of the media are frequently tested to reduce the risk and allow us more access to get that all-important coverage.  

Do you see any extra pressure on your role this time around to document the event given the absence of fans?

There’s always a lot of pressure! I didn’t necessarily feel any extra pressure this year specifically, as the images taken at the Olympics are always important.

The games are known for the amazing action shots that are produced. Even though the absence of fans has been noticed, there is always pressure to get those everlasting photographs. It was very strange at first not having the crowds and the atmosphere is absolutely missed, but it’s made me even more grateful to be here and have such amazing access to the athletes and the events.

When the sport itself starts, are you conscious of the differences, or are you focused on your work?

I think that, at first, the content was a lot more focused on capturing the differences of this year’s games. Photographers wanted to highlight empty seats in order to showcase the unique aspect of the Tokyo games. Once people accepted the games as exclusive to media coverage, the photographers were able to concentrate more on the athletes and achievements.

There haven’t been any fan distractions at Tokyo, so I’ve been able to give my full focus to the athletes. The Olympics is known for the breathtaking action shots and the all-important glimpses of celebration. So, following the initial days, it was important to photographers to highlight the work Olympians have put into their training for these historic games.

Is there pressure that comes with knowing the shots you take might become the defining moments of an Olympic Games (or even an athlete’s career)? And if so, how do you deal with that?

As an experienced Summer Olympic Games photographer, I have learnt to deal with the pressure through the years. However, certain events still make me nervous!

Events such as the 100 metre sprint only last about 10 seconds, this always brings some pressure to get the perfect shot. 

This Games is one of the most gender-equal in history, and with such a focus on equality and inclusion, how much thought do you put into how athletes are portrayed in your shots?

I have covered many global sporting events over the last 25 years, having the privilege to capture athletes of all genders, race, age, and ability. It is fantastic that this year’s games are so focused on equality and inclusion.

However, my role as photographer for Shutterstock is to ensure I capture as many of the magic moments at the games as possible. Whether it’s Tom Daley winning gold or Sky Brown becoming the youngest ever Olympian - the world’s media wants to see it, and it’s my job to bring that excitement to the photos I take.

An Olympian is an Olympian – all of them deserve their incredible achievements to be documented!

Images: Dave Shopland / Shutterstock