Award-winning sports photographer speaks in Istanbul

Seasoned Getty Images photojournalist Adam Pretty talks about his work behind camera at show of selections from Istanbul Photo Awards

An award-winning sports photographer from Australia on Friday spoke about his secrets for capturing eye-catching images, as well as his experience taking pictures at the Olympic games.

Adam Pretty, a photojournalist with Getty Images, spoke at a special Istanbul exhibition of selections from the Istanbul Photo Awards, an international photography contest held by Anadolu Agency.

The talk, held at the Energy Museum at Bilgi University’s santralistanbul complex, was moderated by Atilgan Ozdil, a chief photographer at Anadolu Agency.

Ozdil asked Pretty, who has so far won honors in four Istanbul Photo Awards, including third place in this year's Single Sports category, what his "secret" is for winning contests.

"I've always sort of tried to be part of the Istanbul Photo Awards," he explained. "I think it's important to support photo awards wherever they are in the world."

He said it was "obviously important" to him that Istanbul Photo Awards includes sports coverage, adding: "Also, it's just a different opportunity to reach another market, as well as a bunch of people who still want to look at photography."

Shooting the Olympics

The seasoned photojournalist told the audience that he still got nervous before covering big events like the Olympics.

"If you're at a big event, you know, you only get one chance with that picture. And you’re competing against a lot of other photographers from around the world."

For some assignments, Pretty said, he would start preparing even a year or six months in advance. "Other times, I like to go to a venue totally blind and just go in and see what I see."

He said that his best work often emerges with a degree of spontaneity, when he is able to act “on instinct” rather than thinking too much.

Pretty said that when he starts putting too much thought into his work, it tends to be "a little bit more static or lacks a bit of life."

"So, I think it's a bit of a mixture," he explained, adding that to cover the Olympics, "you need to plan," as there are strict rules and accreditation regulations for photographers.

He also recalled his experience during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which were only held in 2021 under strict coronavirus measures, and how he used the runup to the competition.

"I spend a few days or a week before, without all my decisions (made) about what to do,” he said, adding that this gave him “the chance to shoot something different.”

Pretty told how while attending a session of the Tokyo Games, he was able to ask a supervisor if he could go under the water to take photos.

When the actual race starts, he said "it's much more strict. You know you're stuck in a position."

Technology and photography

According to Pretty, technology helps photographers a great deal. "It's also made the competition get much better."

"When I started, sort of 20-25 years ago, the best sports photographers were the ones who put the men in focus the best. And then autofocus came in and almost anyone could do that," he recalled.

But he still sees the person behind the lens as key, saying: “I still believe the camera doesn't take a picture by itself. Image has that vision. So, I think if you want to stay on top of the game, you need to have something else than just technology."

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