BY Katie Rosenblad
Eric Evans is a sports photographer with over 20 years of experience. He is based in Eugene, Oregon where he has been working for the University of Oregon the past 15 years. Evans photographs all aspects of the University of Oregon’s varsity sports. His other clients include the Pac-12, University of Washington, USC, UCLA, and various others. Much of Evans work has made appearances in local and national publications and advertisements. He also works with clients such as Nike, Cascade Outfitters, and Yurbuds.
KR: Have you always wanted to be involved with sports and/or photography? Why?
EE: I played sports through middle school, and football in high school, but that’s where my competitive sports career ended. After high school, I really got into outdoor pursuits like skiing and kayaking. That’s the same time I started to get interested in photography. At first, photography was just a tool to show people what we were doing in our kayaks. But I quickly became really interested in the photographic process, and what was needed to take better and better photos.
KR: How did you get started on your career path? (Did you go to college first?)
EE: I studied at the University of Oregon from 1987-1994. I worked for Oregon Daily Emerald during that time as a staff photographer, and eventually received my BS in Sociology in 1994.
KR: What is the best part of your job? Explain.
EE: The best part of my job is the unpredictability. Big plays in a football game, exciting upsets, or sad defeats there’s always some aspect of the events I shoot that are really visually interesting and you never know what you are going to walk away with. This also creates a lot of pressure and expectations I put on myself. This continues to make photography a challenge, and I like that.
KR: What is the most difficult part of your job? Explain.
EE: Well, photography has become a pretty tough market. A lot of people complain about the state of the professional photography world. Basically, photography has become a lot easier, and accessible to everyone, and its now sometimes more difficult to make a living wage vs. 20 years ago. So, as a professional, I think the most challenging thing is being able to adapt to changing times. For myself, I have found it really helpful to look forward, invest in myself, and never be complacent. I feel like those who can’t adapt or keep up with current trends are the photographers who end up struggling.
KR: What advice do you give to students looking to be photojournalists especially within sports?
EE: First off, you really need to be hungry to do this type of work. Besides the fact it looks kinda glamorous, I don’t think most people would enjoy the trials and tribulations it takes to make a living month to month. But if you have that passion and the stomach for highs and lows, then here are some tips:
NEVER BE LATE to anything. I hate to say it, but probably one of the biggest reasons I worked for Oregon Athletics for over 15 years is the fact they can count on me 100%. If they book a job four months out, I’ll be there on the day, early, and prepared.
Dress well. This is a no brainer but you would be surprised with what I’ve seen at events over the years. If your a guy, wear a nice shirt, clean pants or shirt , and clean shoes. If you’re a woman, wear a top that isn’t too suggestive, and keep your shoes on when sitting on the baseline. I also don’t want to see a thong.
DON’T GIVE AWAY YOUR WORK. Say No to “bad” deals, and never work for free. I don’t care how little you charge at first, but don’t give it away when working for small magazines, websites, calendars, or start up ideas. If someone is interested in using your images, then they have value. You should be compensated for your efforts. I try to have a minimum sale of $75 for file photo, and $100 minimum for anything I shoot. Both of those numbers are low, but they are a quick starting point for people with low ball projects or who want my pictures for free. Bottom line, it’s OK to say NO, and a lot of people and business simply aren’t who you want as clients.
Speaking of Clients, once you get one, you have to do everything you can to keep them! You show up on time, do the best job you can, follow up etc. I’m super excited whenever I get a new client, because it often leads to a long-term client and that’s what you need to create stability.
Invest in your equipment. In my niche, I think you really need to continue to update your equipment, and at least stay at pace with your competition.
I also think a person needs to specialize in some aspect of photography to really excel. It may be sports, wildflowers, travel, families, weddings, or whatever…. but you will start building a beautiful body of work, and an understanding for the clients in your niche. I some times get calls for shoots that are either over my head, not my thing, or I’m out of town, and I simply refer these jobs to others when I can. Concerning photojournalism at a paper, I can’t really speak for that. But as the trend indicates, it doesn’t seem all that viable of a goal for the student photographer. Moreover, I think students photographers will help define what is next after newspapers…. and that’s an exciting place to be. For example, I think the photo staff at the ODE has done a wonderful job in visual photo stories both online and in print.
I also think you should learn to shoot and edit video on a DLSR. Now’s the time to learn in school, while you have the resources and help. This will prove to be a real asset to young photographers.