I would say working as a LCC for various professional sports leagues has to be one of my career highlights to date. I get to go to numerous games, interact with top athletes as well as having my work shared and seen by millions of people. It sounds like a glamourous job, but the business side of being a LCC is cutthroat and sometimes it’s not for everyone.
Working as a LCC has definitely opened my eyes up to the business side of sports and sports photography. I never really knew how other photographers viewed our program as a whole until I became a LCC. I’ll be honest there isn’t a lot of love for LCCs in the sports photography community. They view us as cheap labor which drives down their value as other love to use the phrase, “Well so and so can do it cheaper etc.,” and of course there are LCCs who don’t follow sports etiquette and that infuriates other photographers even more. I can go on social media after a game and see or read about how a LCC did this or that and that’s why photographers dislike them so much. I will say that not all LCCs are bad or don’t follow the rules, there are just some who stand out more negatively than others.
There are a lot of team photographers and other wire service photographers that look down on LCCs. I’ve been lucky to not directly experience this type of disdain personally or at least been aware it’s been directed towards me. I have had other team photographers who travel talk to me and tell me their stories and I’m shocked to hear some of the stories. People running onto the field to get a walk-off photo or asking players for autographs when that is a huge no no in this industry.
Being an LCC Isn’t a Career
Unfortunately you really can’t make a career out of being an LCC. For one the pay isn’t always the best and two there isn’t enough games to work. Often you’re in a market where you have to split games. So if you’re working in baseball you have 81 home games and split those in have you have about 40 games. 40 games spread out over 6 months isn’t a lot. Football is only 8, maybe 9 games.
You either have to have another day time job that lets you work nights and weekends or you won the lotto to support yourself and being an LCC. That is just the cold, hard truth. I know the glitz and glamour of shooting professional sports blinds us in a way, but when you look at it as a business you understand why you’re not able to make it a full time job working as a LCC.
There are former LCCs who’ve used being an LCC as a launchpad to other great gigs. I would love to try and do the same. I’m trying to launch myself into other sports or events like concerts. I just want to shoot. And shoot some more and then some more after that.
Plenty of People Want to be an LCC
I’m always asked how to I become an LCC or they want to get into sports working as a LCC. I don’t have an answer for that. Everyone’s stories and reasons they became an LCC is different. The NFL reached out to me asking if I had an assistant or protégé that I could recommend to their program. They had seen my work and liked it, but figured I was working for someone else. After a few calls back and forth explaining it was only me and that I was available, I accepted their offer to be an LCC for them.
A year later a NFL LCC who worked in the MLB referred me for the position working as a LCC for baseball. Same thing, I applied, interviewed and was offered the job. And I got the NHL gig by another colleague in the NFL LCC program. Been grateful ever since.
What I Enjoy Working as a LCC
I enjoy getting to the ballparks, stadiums or arena early. I love watching everything come together in time for practice, warmups etc. I enjoy the pressure of always trying to get the shot even though it’s impossible to get every shot. I love being at the games and feeling like I’m helping out. There is no better feeling than seeing your work being liked by thousands, even millions of people on social media. I get so proud saying, “Hey, I took that.” It’s little things like that I enjoy.
I also can’t forget about the people. From the clubbies (clubhouse attendants) to the security guards to the grounds crews and other photographers, I make it a point to say hi and at least talk to people while I’m there. Everyone has a different role and everyone works together to make the games go. I honestly can say that I’ve made a lot of friends in my time working as a LCC.
There are a lot of LCCs who shoot for multiple leagues and there are photographers, security etc. who also work in other places as well. So I get to see a lot of the same faces at every game and just being friendly goes a long way. It makes life easier sometimes. A club house attendant can give me a scoop on what time a certain player is arriving so I can be there waiting to take their photo. Or a security guard can tell me if someone important is singing the national anthem or throwing out the first pitch.
I also like to take photos of players with the clubbies or security guards etc. and send them the photos. They don’t have photos of themselves working and it’s not me going out of my way or anything. It’s just being a decent person and they’re all grateful for them. It’s the little things that make things enjoyable and I enjoy knowing that a photo I took made their day.
And working with the same photographers makes it fun as well. I will say that the South Florida sports photographer community is fun to be around. They are a great group of people and honestly that have no egos or issues working with others. We joke with security in the photo wells or we point out a person or player on the field that just came out that they may be needing to shoot. In the photo workrooms its the same. We talk about the game or we bitch about a TV person blocking all of our shots. I don’t go to work dreading that I have to work with photographers that don’t like me and it makes working as a LCC fun.
My Favorite Sport to Shoot
I love the hard hits of the NFL or how fast the NHL is, but baseball is my favorite sport to shoot. For one, I get to build relationships with players and coaches. There are some teams I get shoot 7 or 8 times a season. With hockey the only interaction I may have is when they’re arriving otherwise there is a sheet of plexiglass between us. With football, yes we’re up close and on the field with them but there isn’t time to bond with the players or make relationships unless it’s with a home team player after the game etc.
Baseball is different. I grew up loving it and being able to sit in a dugout before a game or smell the pine tar on the bat never gets old. I love how I have some of the players routines down. Like what time they come out, do they sign autographs before or after BP. Do they smile for the cameras or ignore us? Things like that.
Even this season I was walking past the visiting team’s laundry room to head to the tunnel and I heard a coach yell to me, “Hey, where have you been these past two games.” I wasn’t scheduled to work, but they were expecting me to be at the stadium. He came out and we were talking, catching up. How’s the family doing or how’s the team; things like that. After BP we sat on the dugout bench and talked some more. Even players that I’ve seen enough and shot a lot of come up and say hi or joke around in front of the camera for a shot. I always say thank you when they allow me to take their photos. Or I’m shooting by the dugouts and they’re about to run on the field and they’ll fist bump me and say have a great game. It’s those things that make shooting baseball enjoyable.
I also love that I have access to shoot intimately and up close with the team’s helmets or bats and gloves of the players. I basically take stock photos shots to keep in case someone ever needs them. For me I thought shots of bats and helmets. I have a collection of every team I’ve ever shot bats and helmets photos. That is just my thing.
Life After Being an LCC
I don’t know where my LCC journey will end. There are always plenty of people lining up to take your spot and sports is a business and if the business wants to replace you with a younger, newer model they will. I have no delusions that I’m going to be an LCC forever. I just don’t know when I’ll punch my final ticket. I’m grateful for every moment, every opportunity but I don’t know when it will be my last.
Slowly but surely things are moving more to video than photo. I’ve seen the writing on the wall for some time now. Where I was shooting every NFL game for 4 seasons and now I’m just shooting when needed as video is the more desired media format at the moment. It doesn’t matter that I traveled all over the state, shot team functions, college bowl games and what not for them, it’s a what have you done for me lately business. I don’t take it personally because it’s a business.
I know I don’t ever want to stop shooting sports. Hell I want to shoot them all from PGA to Nascar to tennis to boxing. I just want to shoot. If anyone knows if the NBA has a need for a LCC let me know as well. I would love to shoot that.
I’m a 40 something year old LCC. There isn’t a lot of old people like us working as a LCC. It’s mostly a young persons game. Maybe my age will push me out one day, but it sure as hell won’t be my talent that does it. I may not have all the newest and greatest gear, but I can still out shoot people with my old Nikon gear. My burst rate might just be a bit slower hahahahaha
If you want to be a LCC know it’s not a glamorous gig. You’re working long, hard hours. Always on your feet, always moving. The pay isn’t the greatest and there are no benefits. But if you love shooting sports and you get to work with some amazing people like I have then it’s all worth it.
Being a LCC is a great way to get your foot in the door, after that whatever happens is up to you.
And I’m dead serious about shooting every and anything sports. If you know of gigs or opportunities I’m all ears; literally. Just look at my headshot, all ears. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org