FPA Member Profile

Mike Egerton – PA Sport
All Images © Mike Egerton / EMPICS / PA Sport

Career

Highlights

  • Picture desk at EMPICS Sports photo agency
  • EMPICS full time photographer
  • PA Sport full time photographer
  • FIFA World Cups (4)
  • UEFA Euro Champs (5)
  • UCL Finals (15)
  • FA CUP FiNALS (18)
Q&A with Mike Egerton

What came first, sport or photography?
“Sport came first. I had been playing rugby since I was seven, but would play any sport as a youngster.”

What was your career path?
“After leaving school I studied to become a graphic designer. It was around this time that my dad was trying to give up smoking, so to encourage him to stop he decided to save all the money he would have spent on cigarettes in a year and brought a SLR Minolta camera with the money. Sadly I don’t think he got to use the camera much as I was always using it and just loved it.

After finishing my graphics course I decided to go to Swansea and study on a photographic HND course. It was whilst studying on this course I decided that sports photography was what I wanted to specialise in. After completing the course I returned home and realized it’s not as easy as you think trying to get a job in this industry. I wrote letters to every agency and paper in the country and only received two replies. Luckily one was from a specialist sports agency based in Nottingham called EMPICS. They invited me along on Saturdays to run films back to the office from Forest and County games.

Over the course of a season I was allowed to shoot for the first 20 mins and then collect the films from all the other photographers and take them back to be developed. An opportunity then opened up on the wire desk to work the ‘grave yard’ shift during the 1994 USA World Cup which I jumped at. Over the next few years I managed to get off the wire desk and become a full time photographer.”

Who did you look up to when you were young and who has helped you most during your development?
“I never really looked up to any photographer because I liked their pictures. I looked up to the photographers who were genuinely nice people and who were never too threatened to pass on advice to young photographers. People like Chris Smth and Mike King.

As far as helping me most in my development, I would have to say Phil O’Brien, the owner of EMPICS. He gave me and so many other young photographers a chance when nobody else would. At EMPICS around this time we had some of the best photographers in the industry – Ross Kinnaird, Neal Simpson, Steve Etherington and Andy Heading. All of them happy to help and pass on advice. Just by being in this environment you were learning every day.”

Have you won any awards?
Sports Photographer of Year – Press Awards 2011.
Sports Photographer of Year – Pic Editors Awards 2011.
Sports Photographer of Year – British Photo Awards 2019.

Do you have a favourite memory or anecdote from your time as a football photographer?
“Far too many to mention. Six weeks staying in a five star hotel on Copacabana beach with England during 2014 Brazil World Cup was a highlight for obvious reasons.”

Favourite football ground to work at and why?
“Like everyone else, I always enjoy going to the Camp Nou and Bernabeu Stadium.”

Biggest lesson learnt?
“Never go to a game with a preconceived idea of what you are going to capture that day. Be ready for anything.”

Canon, Nikon or Sony?
“I have always been Canon.”

Best advice for youngsters?
“Just get out and shoot, and never be scared to ask advice.

Too many young photographers just want to cover big games using big lenses. Just get out to your local park with any focal length lens and take pictures. There are pictures everywhere, you just have to find them. Develop a style and an eye for a picture. Never try and copy what the pros are taking at professional matches. Most professional photographers would love to go and cover grass roots football. Even go to a professional match and just wander around outside. By observing the fans and putting some thought into it will give you a great set of pictures.

Any perspective boss would rather see a folio of photographs that show that you have thought about your subject and that you have an eye for a picture, rather than two men and a ball taken at a professional game.

We see it far too much these days at Premier League games where youngsters just turn up with all the equipment and think they have made it. With camera technology the way it is today it is very easy to capture an incident during the game using 20 frames a second and auto-focus.

I see so many people so scared to miss an incident that they shoot far too loose and crop into the image in photoshop. You’ve got to be brave and back yourself to shoot full frame.”

First football match photographed?
“I can’t remember the year, but it was Birmingham City v Norwich.”

If you weren’t a photographer, what would you be?
“A person with a better social life.”


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