Pogba, Morocco and FA Cup; The life of a football photographer

An exclusive interview with Laurence Griffiths

Laurence Griffiths is an acclaimed, talented football photographer whose work is instantly recognised. He’s taken many well-known photos of France’s 2018 World Cup celebrations, and he’s probably taken photos of your favorite player. He is the Editorial Content Director at Getty Images, and World SoccerTalk was lucky enough to chat with him about the ins and outs of photography.

World Soccer Talk (WST): How did you get started in sports photography and how did you eventually climb the ladder to become one of the best in the world?

LG: My uncle, Dave Jones, was a very talented photographer from the UK. As a child I was crazy about sports and I loved playing football and watching football. But it wasn’t until Dave won an award for a great shot of Keith Houchen scoring a spectacular goal in the 1987 FA Cup Final at Wembley that a career in sports photography really caught my eye.

Dave took me to competitions in Nottingham Forest when I was 16, where at each competition he gave me an old Nikon FM2, a 180mm lens and a few rolls of film. He taught me the basics and helped me get my foot in the door at a local photo agency. The rest, as they say, is history. I am now approaching my 25th year Getty Images and covered every World Cup since 1994.

WST: What technique do you have; rituals, rules of thumb or tips you follow during the game?

LG: Preparation is key. We started planning (for the 2022 World Cup) shortly after France lifted the trophy in 2018. During this year’s World Cup, Getty Images has a team of more than 50 people on site in Qatar, including 48 specialist sports photographers and operational staff. We are supported by a team of 20 editors, most of whom are based in London, while the others work remotely from their home offices to edit the footage live in real time. With such great support, our photography team can concentrate on the competitions and photography.

I travel in Qatar with a group of five photographers to cover a match every day so it is important to make sure all our equipment is maintained, the batteries are charged and the images are backed up after each match is made. We move a lot of equipment to each game every day on top of our normal equipment. We also shoot goals with our four remote cameras and net cameras, as well as from the catwalks of the stadium rooftops, so we wear and wear safety harnesses and gear.

I like football because it is so unpredictable. You need to be on top of your game when capturing in real time. The modern game is played so fast with a lot of one-touch football making it by far the hardest sport to shoot. My experience and knowledge of the game really help to secure a World Cup. This is my 8th World Cup so I hope I’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way!

WST: What was the day like in general when you covered the Morocco-Croatia game? Do you have a 24-hour timeline of what you do before, during and after games?

LG: Shooting a World Cup is busy and fast. Morocco v Croatia seems like a long time ago now. In this year’s World Cup, all the venues are so close together, while in Russia and South Africa we flew to every game, but this layout allows photographers to shoot two games a day. As soon as we get to the stadium, we give our kit one more go before heading to our pitch side positions three hours before kick-off.

Our first job is to set up our two external cameras behind the goals and attach our net camera to the back of each goal, which accurately captures the balls crossing the line. We need to do this before the players come out for their warm up. We then make sure our cameras are connected to high-speed Ethernet cables, which transmit our images to the editing team in real time, delivering the images to customers in just 30 seconds.

The first thing that really struck me about this match was the great support from the Moroccan fans. They were colorful, vibrant, noisy and bathed in sunlight as it was the early 1pm (local time) game. I made it my priority to document those scenes. Unfortunately, they didn’t get a goal to cheer for as the game ended 0-0, but it was at least a crucial point in the group stage. Football photography is all about big moments, goals, celebrations and reactions, so a 0-0 draw was far from ideal for the fans.

WST: What is your all-time favorite football photo you’ve taken?

LG: There are so many elements that need to come together to make a great soccer shot. My favorite image of a World Cup is that of Paul Pogba kissing the trophy after winning the 2018 World Cup. I love the fact that he hugs and kisses the trophy like it’s his child.

WST: During broadcasts, photographers are always in the background. But has there been a time when a player communicated with you while you were working?

LG: Getty Images has been FIFA’s Authorized Photography Agency since 2009, so we’ve interacted with players a lot over the years. We create exclusive content for FIFA, including portraits of every player who takes the field during the World Cup, and the footage we capture shows how much the players enjoy these shoots.

I was lucky enough to shoot the portraits of the French team before they won the World Cup in 2018. They were the most fun team I’ve ever made. Pogo (Paul Pogba) and Mbappé were in top form that day.

WST: Is there any other important information that readers of World Soccer Talk should know?

LG: In total, we will take 1.5 million photos during this year’s World Cup and upload more than 3,000 photos to GettyImages. com. Our unique access means we can bring the event to the world from the most exclusive positions, with behind-the-scenes shots from every angle, including the dressing room, players’ tunnel and near the team benches.

Photo credit: Laurence Griffiths – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images; Photos used with permission of Laurence Griffiths.

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