FPA Member Profile

James Williamson – AMA
All Images © James Williamson / AMA Sports Photo Agency

Career

Highlights

  • Started covering Mansfield Town Youth team
  • Derbyshire Times covering Chesterfield
  • Freelanced for local newspapers, then regional newspapers and finally national newspapers
  • 2017 Joined AMA Sports Photo Agency
  • UEFA Europa League Final (1)
  • FA Cup Finals (1)
  • League Cup Finals (3)
Q&A with James Williamson

What came first, sport or photography?
“Sport”

What was your career path?
“I started shooting for the youth team of my local side, progressed to the first team, then covered Chesterfield for the Derbyshire Times for two seasons before joining AMA”

First football match photographed?
“Mansfield Town Youth team v Matlock Town Youth team”

If you weren’t a photographer, what would you be?
“Still working in an office, I guess.”

Who did you look up to when you were young and who has helped you most during your development?
“Development for sport was probably Matthew Ashton, as he was the first person to really teach me to shoot at the highest level. Before that, at 27, I just decided to give it a try and I just stuck at it. The first five or six years I picked up the odd tip here and there from people, but it was me basically winging it and just doing as many games as possible and getting as many newspaper commissions as I could.”

Do you have a favourite memory or anecdote from your time as a football photographer?
“There’s been a few. Shooting my first real match was a thrill. Doing the UEFA Europa League final in 2019 was a great memory, because when you start out and you are shooting a youth team game at Rainworth Miners Welfare FC you just don’t think one day you’ll be jetting off to Azerbaijan to shoot a European final. Being at Tottenham for their first game at their new stadium was pretty special, too.”

Favourite football ground to work at and why?
“Arsenal. Positions are great, and the media staff are first class.”

Biggest lesson learnt?
“Not to overthink whilst shooting, whether it’s a pre-season friendly at Shrewsbury or a major final. It’s still just 11 v 11, and just try to capture the moments as they happen, whilst trying to remember there are photos beyond a winning goal or cele.”

Canon, Nikon or Sony?
“Canon. I actually started with a Sony A55, which in hindsight was awful, but then I got a Canon 5D Mark III and just went with Canon from then on.”

Best advice for youngsters?
“Photograph as many games as possible and don’t worry about gear too much early on, because here’s the thing; if you don’t know what you’re doing it doesn’t matter what you shoot with. If you’re good enough, or show something, you will be noticed. Try and learn from people, and network as much as possible. But remember, it’s not about doing Premier League or Champions League when you start, as you will learn just as much, if not more, shooting a Sunday league or non league game, and there you can make as many mistakes as you like and it won’t matter.”

One change for the better to improve football photography for the next generation of photographers?
“There needs to be a better pathway that younger photographers can use to hone their skills and gain mentorship.  A lot of the older avenues such as local papers are closing, and as a result it is getting harder and harder to learn the trade. I got very lucky, but its just got worse and worse since.”

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