How to Turn Your Hand to Poker Photography
The art of photography encompasses many different disciplines and skills.
Lots of professional photographers with particularly public profiles focus on couples’ shoots: shots of a wedding day that last a lifetime, for instance. Other photographers sit for hours under a canopy waiting for the right moment when an animal walks past to capture a shot. Some opt for street photography to snap real life, creating social and cultural images that capture moments in time. All are valid and varied photography disciplines that come with their own skillset requirements.
Occasionally, photographers have to switch skillset, try a different approach even within their own genre. Within the busy field of wedding photography for instance, it isn’t unusual to enter a slow season. If you’re a photographer, either at an amateur or professional level, this could be when you find yourself seeking other inspiration and projects. And the game of poker makes for a surprisingly appealing solution.
Poker is actually a lot like photography in that to succeed you need a wide skillset, lots of patience and technical knowledge –– but just a splash of luck as well. Photographers need to understand their f-stops; poker players need to understand their poker hand ranking charts. Photographers need to be patient for the subject to make the right pose; poker players need to wait for the right card. Both need to understand other people’s emotions, when to be brave and bold, and when to shrink into the background.
When the lens is pointed at a poker game, there is so much to catch and bear in mind. Of course, this isn’t the case with online poker, but as we cast off the shadow of 2020 and casino closures, real-life games are beginning to start up again. As such, we’ve come up with three excellent tips for taking good poker photography. It may be you wish to expand your skills and photograph a game of your own accord. Alternatively, you might incorporate the skills into the next shoot you do of your normal primary subject.
1. Understand the Game
Snapping a poker game is a little like street photography; you’re hoping to capture a moment that the player is unaware of. In the street, you might wait by a puddle as people avoid it or by a street vendor to find people buying and selling. Wherever you are, you’ll need a basic grasp of what is around you, and what might be about to happen. Poker photography is the same; you must understand the game to get the best shots. If you know when a big hand is happening or when someone might fold, you’ll know where to point your camera and when to press the shutter.
2. Look for the Unseen
When you’re working in a specific space, you tend to have some built-in targets. In wedding photography for instance, you’ve got the standard shots of the bride and groom –– but what is next? Do you look for those candid moments where they share a whisper or when a guest aims a loving face at the pair? Finding those moments is the key to great photography, and it applies to poker. The action isn’t always as interesting as the non-action. What expression does the dealer have as they flop the cards? Can you capture a reaction from the crowd rather than the table? Looking for those moments’ others ignore is what separates a good photographer from a great one.
3. Be Patient
Wildlife photographers can wait for hours, maybe even days, to capture the perfect moment. That patience is often rewarded, and those skills will be required in poker photography as well. A game can go on for hours, and you never quite know when something might happen. You might see several hands played before anyone puts on a big bet, but suddenly everything could get wild, and chips start piling up in the middle. Whether it means waiting for minutes or hours, having the patience to wait for the big play will be rewarded, as that’s what the best photographs do to get the very best shots.
Taking photographs of a poker game might be something you never considered, but it is well worth investigating if you endure a quiet moment in your calendar. Sure, you’ll practice some technical skills in terms of lighting and exposure, but the real benefit will come from practicing the skills you just can’t teach, such as the ones we have covered here. Who knows when you might need them in your next wedding shoot?