"Our goal is to project through photos the excitement and energy of the Kings team, it's players and the experience of NHL hockey." Kings team photographer Andy Bernstein
They are the front lines of all things media. Living in the trenches, they wait for that one perfect shot, the one classic image out of 100.
The role of team photographer is unlike any other in sports. They encourage you to see the world through their eyes. They take you inside the game, allowing the viewer a perspective not seen anywhere else. Good photographers tell a story, capturing an entire game's worth emotion in just a few still shots.
For hockey photographers, the job takes on a different kind of intensity than those that work in other sports. Unlike baseball and football, hockey is a game of constant flow, demanding that those who shoot the game have quick reflexes and even quicker trigger fingers.
"My biggest challenge in shooting hockey is staying a split second ahead of the action," said Kings photographer Andy Bernstein. "Hockey is the most challenging and most difficult sport to shoot because things happen so quickly, so anticipation is the key to getting a great shot. A little bit of luck helps too."
Bernstein should know. As the Kings official team photographer, Andy Bernstein and his company, Bernstein Associates, have handled the Kings photography needs since the late 1980's. He and his staff currently serve as the official photographers for most of L.A.'s professional sports teams, including the Clippers, Lakers and Dodgers. Bernstein also holds the position of Director of Photography for STAPLES Center, putting him in charge of all concerts and non-sports related activities as well.
"The Kings were the first professional team I worked with," said Bernstein. "I will always be grateful to the Kings for helping me at the start of my career. In 1978, I was attending Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and wanted to do a semester long documentary assignment behind the scenes with one of L.A.'s sports teams. The Kings were very responsive and helpful, providing access and game credentials.
"My project turned out great and I was able to establish a nice professional relationship with the Kings staff, even though I was still in school. I then approached the Kings and Lakers to allow me to install strobes (large electronic flash units) in the catwalk at the Forum. They both agreed and I submitted photos to both teams in exchange for game credentials. I then became the Kings team photographer during the Gretzky era." While fans often see photographers up against the glass, angling for the best possible shot, few realize how often they come in contact with Bernstein's work.
"As the Kings team photographer my staff and I are responsible for everything photographic that is produced for the Kings," Bernstein stated. "That includes photos for the game night program and promotional items, headshots and team photos, media guide, advertising and marketing pieces, framed display prints for the team offices and locker rooms at the Toyota Center and Staples Center. We also provide game night live coverage to the Getty Images andlakings.com so that fans can have access to photos as the games are in progress. Our goal is to project through photos the excitement and energy of the Kings team, it's players and the experience of NHL hockey."
So how can one go about becoming a sports photographer? According to Bernstein, it all begins in school.
"An education in journalism and photography is very important," Bernstein said. "Also, on the job education as an assistant is vital to understanding the job and how to work with clients."
While most people are aware of the theory that "it takes money to make money," the world of photography takes that philosophy to a whole new level. Disposable cameras and Poleroids may be OK for vacations to Europe but, in Bernstein's world, photographers need top-of-the-line equipment. And that takes cash.
"To start off as a serious professional sports photographer these days requires an investment of about $40,000-$50,000 for the minimum amount of cameras, lenses, lighting and digital support equipment," claimed Bernstein.
As someone who has certainly made a name for himself in the world of sports photography, what words of wisdom would Bernstein give to a young, up-and-coming shutterbug?
"My advice for someone trying to become a serious sports photographer is to shoot, shoot, shoot," Bernstein said. "Shoot everything you possibly can--it doesn't have to be professional sports. Build a strong portfolio of quality images of different sports. Seek out photographers whose work you admire and offer to assist or intern for them.
"Make contacts with publications, photo editors, sports information directors and team public relations directors. Be patient and have a plan for success. Use all your free time to work on your skills and improve your portfolio. If you have a unique vision and you are a good and honest businessperson, you will have success. Treat everyone with respect and keep your ego in check. Those qualities go a long way in achieving a lasting and successful career."