When Brad Mangin was a child, there was no greater thing in life than to have San Francisco Giants season tickets. When he first stepped onto the field in Candlestick Park in 1973, there was no forest-green diamond with freshly cut grass and powdered sand; instead, "the AstroTurf was this really awful lime-green color; it had this really burnt-out look," Mangin remembers. "But it was still the coolest thing I ever saw."
Now a seasoned fixture not only at AT&T Park (the Giants' current home), but also at Yankee Stadium (for the 2000, 2001, and 2003 World Series) and at countless spring training camps, Mangin has made a career out of his childhood dream. The freelance photographer's love of the sport, as well as his passion for photography, has kept him a grounded storyteller whose success has landed him a laundry list of jobs for Major League Baseball, Sports Illustrated, Contra Costa Times, The National Sports Daily (where he was hired by legendary Sports Illustrated photographer Neil Leifer), and the Associated Press. With All-Star and playoff games around the United States, eight World Series games, the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, and various Super Bowls under his belt, Mangin is a solid sports journalist with a knack for catching the right play that tells a specific story.
NARRATING THE GAME
Based out of the San Francisco Bay Area, Mangin usually shoots both baseball and football games. Depending on the season, the sport, and the story, Mangin will shoot anywhere from 500 to more than 1,000 shots a game. "There are some days where you need to shoot a lot of batters, and other games where you're just sitting on defensive players and waiting for them to dive," Mangin says. Everything is relative to the story, which is ultimately decided by the sports editors.
"At Sports Illustrated, each sport has a different editor," he says. "It's fun because every day I'm doing something different. One assignment may be shooting a pitcher, so I'll photograph him every inning at a different angle. Another assignment could be to get images of a left-handed hitter, so I'll shoot him at bat from first base, then from third base, and then from behind the plate. You move around and you talk with your editor about where this player looks best-from first or third, from up or down; we really dissect and analyze everything to create the best picture for a particular story."
Shooting what editors want is integral to freelance work. "Many times photographers go on an assignment and get carried away, and start shooting other things that the editor doesn't need-that's a huge mistake," he says. "If your editor doesn't have an image of the athlete that they asked for on their desk on Monday morning, then they aren't going to hire you for another assignment."
Part of giving the editors what they ask for is shooting pictures that reflect a story, so Mangin is a keen observer of the essential plays. "When you're doing game coverage, the questions should be: ‘What's the story? Who's winning, and who's losing?'" says Mangin. "You need to shoot the winners looking happy and the losers looking sad. You need the key play and the key hit. If the story is about the Yankees winning, and you have an amazing picture of the opposing team doing well, then that photograph doesn't work, no matter how good it is."
The World Series is the Holy Grail for die-hard baseball fans, and one of the most important series to cover if you're a sports journalist. For Mangin, who's both a fan and a photographer, the Series is "hard core." "When you get to the World Series, it's critical to be on your A-game, because you're documenting an historical moment," he says. "You need the big, crucial plays; you need to capture the game-winning home run and the team celebrating."
A VIEW FROM THE TOP
A self-described "freak" when it comes to background and light, Mangin notes that these two factors are essential to any photograph. "You don't want to end up with a background of a chain-link fence and cars," he says. "When I go to an event, the first thing I do is look at the background, and I position myself accordingly. I learned early on to get a good spot and make the action come to me."
For Mangin, those spots are often taken from above the field. "I go upstairs and shoot from overhead," he says. "When I shoot down, the ground becomes my background. Magazines love that-it cleans things up. They can drop type in the grass and it looks neat and organized."
If Mangin is shooting on deadline, he'll photograph the game, fill up a couple of memory cards, and ship them overnight to his editors. If he's shooting during the week, he'll burn a DVD and FedEx the images to his editors. "With digital, we know when we have a picture," he says. "Film was scary because you were putting raw film on the red-eye. I would call my editors the next day, and I could instantly tell by the tone of their voice whether or not they had something good."
KEEP YOUR COPYRIGHT
Inherent to Mangin's success as a photographer is his refusal to sell out, both literally and figuratively. He's adamant about not selling his copyright, and not selling his passion. "I do only what I want to do," he says. "I don't shoot PR jobs, I don't shoot things for money-I shoot them because they're fun ball games."
According to Mangin, keeping your copyright is every photographer's right. "Too many young photographers today give up their copyright and work for free, and it's suicide," he says. "I own all my own pictures."
Since 2003, Mangin's identity off of the ball field has been through his two websites. "A website is the best way to get found," he adds. "Also, having your images searchable so that you're able to sell your shots is critical. If you do a Google search on ‘sports photography' or ‘sports photographer,' I come up anywhere from number two to number five."
He archives and sells his pictures online through his liveBooks website (he switched to liveBooks in 2005). "On my liveBooks site, I have my archive (which runs through PhotoShelter) integrated into the site," he says. "I have almost 16,000 publicly searchable editorial images for sale going back to 1987."