FPA Member Profile

Mark Pain – Premium Sports

All Images © Mark Pain



  • 1989 – 1993 Freelancing for several National Newspapers including Daily Mirror, Mail On Sunday and Allsport (now Getty Images).
  • 1993 – 1997 Sports Photographer For The Mail On Sunday.
  • 1997 – 2014 Chief Sports Photographer – The Mail On Sunday.
  • 2014 – Present – Mark Pain Sports Photography.
  • FIFA World Cups (4)
  • UEFA European Championships (5)
  • FA Cup Finals (29)
  • UEFA Champions League finals (6)
Q&A with Mark Pain

What came first, sport or photography?
“Photography was first for me, and I remember having an early fascination in playing around with different shutter speeds as soon as I was given my first SLR at the age of 14. Photographing sport soon followed when shooting several school sports days for the school magazine, and I distinctly remember having a great week photographing my team-mates on a week long school cricket tour of the West Country. That soon led to me honing my follow-focussing skills shooting lots of top level English Basketball. Shooting such a fast sport court-side manually focussing was a great learning curve.”

Who did you look up to when you were young, and who has helped you most with your development?
“David Ashdown and Michael Steele’s brilliant photography in The Independent was a huge inspiration for me. Great pictures, beautifully used. Pascal Rondeau’s incredible eye. He turned Formula 1 photography into a personal art form. I was also inspired by colleague Peter Blake whilst working at Jessops camera shop in Kingston. He was a Canon user and addicted to his new T90. He was also a dead keen mountain biker, and went away and shot amazing flash-blur pictures every weekend of downhill mountain bike races which inspired me to be more creative with my photography.”

One change for the better to improve football photography for the next generation of photographers?
“I think that the only way forward is for there to be more mentoring schemes run by the big agencies, leading to real jobs. It takes years and years to develop the skills you need to be a professional sports photographer and there are no short cuts. If you want to be respected by your peers, you’ve just got to put in the hard graft and learn from your mistakes at smaller events.”

Favourite football ground to work at and why?
“Craven Cottage, Fulham. Don’t know why really. It can be really awkward, and a bit of a nightmare logistically, but there’s something about the place. I can’t actually remember it, but it was the first ground that I was ever taken to as a boy, so maybe that’s somehow why. It just feels like a special place from the cramped photographers room under the old wooden stand to it’s amazing location. I hope the new development at the ground doesn’t change it too much.”

Do you have a favourite memory or anecdote from your time as a football photographer?
“I was fortunate to spend several days with Bobby Robson on a trip he was making to Madrid. Bobby was a columnist for the Mail On Sunday at the time and we travelled to Madrid to interview Jonathan Woodgate, whom Bobby had sold to Real Madrid whilst he was manager at Newcastle Utd. Woodgate was going through a tough time with injuries at Real, and the idea was to see how he was dealing with it all and life in a new country etc.

On the second day of the trip Jonathan arranged for Bobby, the journalist and myself to be allowed into the inner sanctum of the Real Madrid training ground and to watch the morning training session. We chatted to Jonathan as he was having his daily morning physio to help him over his latest injury and were then allowed to go down to watch the rest of the first team training – just the three of us, with no-one else present at all.

At the end of the training session we walked back to the players private area, waiting for them all to come back in. I was now allowed to snap away. I said to Bobby that I’d just step back and take pictures from afar as he greeted the players as they came off. The idea was to photograph him saying hi and chatting to David Beckham and Michael Owen who were there at Real too at the time. It’s not a lie to say that every player that came off shook Bobby’s hand and hugged him with genuine warmth and respect, and this a former Barcelona manager! Not just Beckham and Owen, but Ronaldo, Luis Figo, Roberto Carlos and more all embraced Bobby with huge smiles and warmth. And I hardly got any pictures at all, because the first of the players came off the pitch through the door and hugged him; someone called Ronaldo. Bobby waved at us and insisted we instantly come over, where he introduced us to them one by one as his colleagues over with him from England for the trip. I have never seen such universal warmth and generosity of spirit shown to anyone before, even by those players with whom he had no previous professional relationship with at all. And it just summed up Bobby perfectly that he insisted on us meeting them all properly too. I didn’t take a single picture of note. But with Bobby it wasn’t about the pictures, it was about the people.”

Favourite footballer to work with and why?
“Bobby Robson.”

Canon, Nikon or Sony?

First match photographed?
“A match whilst at school for the school magazine when I was 15. In the professional game – at Wimbledon’s old home ground at Plough Lane against whom I can’t remember. They were hugely generous and let me in as a local, young and naive 18 year old.”

If you weren’t a photographer what would you be?
“Genuinely don’t know. I’ve never wanted do be anything else.”

Some advice for youngsters?
“Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Failure is the most important part of learning.”

Biggest lesson learnt?
“Never take anything for granted.”

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