Ever wondered what the life of a professional archery photographer is like? We spoke with World Archery’s photographer, Dean Alberga, for an inside look at photographing an archery tournament.
A360: How did you get started in photography? Where did your passion start?
DA: My dad had a printing company and owned a Sunday newspaper, so there was always something to photograph for that. When I was around 15, I showed interest and got some of his old gear to play around with and stuck with it. During an internship at one of the biggest newspapers in the Netherlands, I got a full-time position as an infographics and photo editor.
A360: How did you get started in archery? How did you connect with World Archery?
DA: During a summer vacation in my home country of Surinam I was visiting my dad’s office, and they had a small archery range. Shot my first arrows there and loved it. There is actually more to that story but in short: Don Rabska and Lloyd Brown were there at the same time to set up archery, I believe through the Easton Foundation, and I got some instructions from Lloyd. When I went back to the Netherlands, I looked for a club and have been in archery ever since.
In 2006 I was at a tournament, the Vegas Shoot, with my camera and contacted World Archery to see if they would like some photos. The response was positive, and a few weeks later they contacted me to ask if I could do some events for them. They were just starting with the World Cup that year and I went to do the first one in Porec, Croatia. That same year I missed the second one in Turkey, and since that one I haven’t missed a single World Cup.
A360: What are some of your favorite events to photograph?
DA: At one point the camera was attached to me and I never left home without it. I did everything from family portraits, weddings, dance events, street and news but I do favor sporting events. I don’t do them as much anymore as I would like to, but action motor sports events were my favorites at one point. Now it’s archery, I guess.
A360: What do you look for to capture the “perfect photo?”
DA: I don’t know if there is such a thing as a perfect photo. Just trying to be there and be ready at the right time and place to capture the moment. There are some epic photos of others that I look at and think, “I wish I was there capturing that shot.” I get asked many times what is my favorite photo that I’ve taken, and I honestly find it hard to choose. I hope there are some of my photos out there that people will talk about or still remember let’s say 20 years from now.
I just feel blessed that I get to do what I love as long as I have and try to be good at it.
A360: Do you try to photograph the archer at certain angles, certain moments of the shot process?
DA: At target archery events you don’t have much angles to work with during the qualification stage. Just do the best you can and be creative. During finals you have some more room to move around and get all the angles. I always try to get an archer in all stages of his shot sequence. From loading the arrow till the release, just so I have an archive of the athletes. Catching an arrow mid-flight is nice but not my goal.
Field Archery is a totally different thing. That is where you can find all the angles. You can go front, back, high, low and get super creative with the surroundings. I love field archery.
A360: Do you edit the photos in a software program or are they published as is?
DA: At an event there is not much time to really edit. We have to get the photos out there for news articles or the people at home. I make a selection of photos and run them through a preset in lightroom. Those are mostly for internet, social media, news on the website, etc. I mean they have to look OK but I basically only do a “real” edit when it’s for a magazine or other publication. For that I use a combination of Lightroom and Photoshop.
A360: What’s unique about photographing archery? What makes it different than photographing other events?
DA: I have been around for quite a while in archery and seen people come up from the junior to senior ranks. They grew up seeing me at most of the international events. I guess the familiarity between them and me makes my job easier. They are “allowing” me to get close to them with my big lenses and clicking. I sometimes even get called or asked by them to take a photo. You get to know their personalities and know when you can get close or when to back off and keep some distance. We are both there to do a job so I respect them and they respect me.
A360: Do you prefer photographing “posed” photos or “candid” photos?
DA: I like spontaneous reactions after a shot or even behind the shooting line or anywhere in the field of play. Doesn’t matter which emotion they show. Sometimes a facial expression can tell the whole story.
Alberga’s love of photography and archery eventually combined to offer him a long career doing the things he enjoyed. He’s seen many archers evolve and perfect their skill to become top-level competitors. Maybe one day, he’ll see you on the line as well.
Visit your local archery range to start the journey.