I’m sure everyone’s heard of Isaac Newton’s third law, which states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This applies to photography as well, especially the part about reaction. And as opposed to Newton’s law, that reaction is often more powerful than the action.

Some of the most iconic sports photos of all time were taken after the action. Remember Morris Berman’s photo of Y.A. Tittle kneeling in the end zone, blood running down his face? Or Neil Leifer’s picture of Muhammad Ali standing over Sonny Liston? That’s why smart photographers don’t stop shooting when the action stops, but keep their cameras up to their eyes, hoping for a reaction.

The Kansas City Chiefs’ Albert Wilson beats the Buffalo Bills’ defense to the end zone for this touchdown in the third quarter (photo copyright Reed Hoffmann).

This past Sunday I was covering the Kansas City Chiefs game against the Buffalo Bills. In the third quarter, the Chiefs’ Albert Wilson broke free on a pass play and scored a touchdown. I shot the series as he made the catch and outran the Bills’ defense to the end zone. And then I kept on him and kept shooting. Reaction, right? He ran over to a group of photographers, grabbed Charlie Riedel (an Associated Press staffer) by the shoulder, and pointed out towards the field, then gathered a group of teammates to pose for a celebration photo. Reaction. And it was better than any of the photos of Wilson actually scoring.

Albert Wilson telling Charlie Riedel to get ready to make a picture of the celebration.

Charlie’s resulting photo of Wilson and his crew (AP photo by Charlie Riedel).

It’s also worth pointing out that Charlie had a camera with a wide-angle lens around his neck. There aren’t many times you can use that lens in an NFL game. But of course, when those rare moments come, it’s the only lens that will make the picture. And of course, being in the right place at the right time is important too. that a big part of a photo like. I was off to the side, which gave me a good angle if the play went to the far side of the field, but not of players celebrating toward the crowd in the end zone. Charlie wouldn’t have had a good angle to the far side of the end zone, but he was in a perfect spot for this photo. Which is why wire services like the AP staff these games with multiple photographers covering different sections of the field.

So this whole reaction thing is a big deal. And it’s not just true with pro sports, but with all sports, as well as any situation where someone may react. Remember that as you go into this holiday season. If you’re photographing someone opening a present, watch for their reaction. My bet is that will make the better picture.

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