My big break

NPhoto - - Contents - Keith Wil­son

See the shot that cat­a­pulted sports pro Mark Pain from na­tional pa­pers to global ex­po­sure

As the chief pho­tog­ra­pher for the Mail on

Sun­day, Mark Pain was al­ready well es­tab­lished as one of the UK’s fore­most sports pho­tog­ra­phers when he cov­ered the 2010 Ry­der Cup. Hav­ing pho­tographed nu­mer­ous Olympics, World Cups and other in­ter­na­tional sport­ing events, you could say he was in no need of a ‘break’. How­ever, when he hud­dled down with the rest of the press pack to pho­to­graph Tiger Woods play a chip onto the green of the 18th hole at Celtic Manor, lit­tle did Mark re­alise that he was about to be the head­line story of the fol­low­ing day’s pa­pers.

“At the time, Tiger was the world’s big­gest golfer by a coun­try mile,” Mark re­calls. “He was num­ber one in the world, but he hadn’t been play­ing well and he sliced the ball 45 de­grees off to the right straight to­wards me and my cam­era. The ball came to­wards me, hit the cam­era and landed at my feet. It looks as if I’m be­tween him and the flag, but to the right of me there were four or five pho­tog­ra­phers and to the left there an­other four or five, all kneel­ing down.”

The next day Mail On­line ran Mark’s pho­to­graph with the head­line: ‘Easy Tiger! The mo­ment Woods’s Ry­der Cup chal­lenge was halted… by a pho­tog­ra­pher’. Sud­denly Mark’s name was more than a small credit line at the bot­tom of one of his pic­tures: “It was the first time I had been part of the story of one of my pho­to­graphs,” he says.

The break­through

Af­ter the Mail On­line story, this im­age went vi­ral. “It wasn’t just the pic­ture that was ex­tra­or­di­nary, it was the story be­hind it. It was my first ex­pe­ri­ence of a pic­ture I had taken go­ing vi­ral all around the world and me be­com­ing part of it as well.” As part of the story, Mark was in­ter­viewed by Amer­i­can tele­vi­sion and his pic­ture pub­lished in the coun­try’s ma­jor golf mag­a­zines. It was his trans-At­lantic break­through.

Hav­ing spent years vir­tu­ally un­known out­side of the UK, Mark’s pro­file soared, in Amer­ica. “I even had a lec­turer in Amer­ica thank­ing me for the pic­ture and telling me how he’s used it in a lec­ture for his stu­dents in a pho­tog­ra­phy de­gree!” The re­sponse also proved to be an awak­en­ing for Mark: not only did it show how widely an im­age can cir­cu­late on the Web, but he also dis­cov­ered that vi­ral im­ages do not lead to great fi­nan­cial re­turns.

“Back in 2010 that was all new to me,” he says. “I thought it would make me good amounts of money, but it was not re­motely like what I ex­pected. If your pic­ture has gone vi­ral, there’s noth­ing you can do in terms of chas­ing it (for re­pro­duc­tion fees). I quickly be­came aware that there’s not a lot you can do and you should just try to max­imise the mo­ment for self-pub­lic­ity as much as you can. It’s very hard to make any kind of re­turn for on­line im­age us­age.”

Mark Pain is the chief sports pho­tog­ra­pher for the Mailon­Sun­day. He was named Sports Pho­tog­ra­pher of the Year in the Bri­tish Press Awards in 2005 and 2011. In 2011, Mark launched the first ded­i­cated sports pho­tog­ra­phy school in the UK. www.mark­pain.com

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