Photography can be such a varied and exciting hobby. One minute you could be on a rainy boulevard snapping, trying to emulate the great street photographers, the next directing a happy couple to pose briefly in moments they’ll cherish forever. You might be crouched pitchside at a ball game, shooting players, or hiding patiently in a tree waiting to get the perfect wildlife shot.
You might even be in a casino, trying to make sense of a poker game. It would bring in the skills required for indoor photography, perhaps some sports and definitely incorporate elements of street photography. If you haven’t been commissioned to shoot a poker game just yet, why not give it a go and test a plethora of skills at once? You might even be interested in creating and feel poker is a niche market where there’s some money to be made.
If you do, and we’re assuming you already know your basics of photography, such as Iso and F stops, then perhaps you need to brush up on these essential tricks you need to master for taking the perfect poker photographs.
The first thing to think about is your positioning. Poker is played on a table where all the players face each other, so shooting the action from one position is impossible. Much depends on the location; if you’re in a casino, you might place your equipment in one corner and then try to move around. You may be dodging crowds if it is a live poker event, but if you’re allowed into an exclusive poker room, you’ll have some freedom. If you’re shooting a group of friends and trying to create stock photos, then you’ll need plenty of portability to catch as many moments as possible from all angles.
Understand The Game
If you go to a soccer game, you’ll understand what a corner is or a goal and shoot accordingly. You should treat poker exactly the same; understanding the basics is an essential trick. For instance, familiarize yourself with poker hand rankings so you know when an interesting set of cards is on the table. You’ll also need to know popular variants so you can anticipate when the cards will be dealt and which moments are the best for those crucial shots. For instance, Texas Hold’em has five betting stages; it is vital to know what they are and what’s likely to happen so you can be in place to get the perfect shot.
Watch People, Not Cards
You might be tempted to follow the cards much like you’d follow the ball in another sport; don’t. Firstly, if you’re in a casino and you’re trying to shoot people’s hole cards (their hidden ones), you might cause some consternation. If it’s a smaller game and you’re taking stock photos, you might get away with it, but even so, there are limited shots you can take because just the hole cards on their own don’t mean an awful lot. Instead, you should look at the players, the crowd, the chips, and anything but the cards for long periods. Poker is a living, breathing event with so many factors that the cards are only the focus for those playing. If you want to capture the atmosphere and excitement of a game, you need to watch the people and their expressions, movements and emotions.
Poker isn’t a quick game, nor does it have a set running time. You might find you’re being as patient as if you were waiting for a polar bear in the Arctic; that’s how long games can be. Not every hand is exciting; cautious players fold early, and you might find you’re simply looking for anything other than the game to shoot. Then, in a moment, it can all blow up with drama and excitement, and you need to be ready. This ties in with understanding the game to a degree and understanding that for a long while, maybe hours, you’ll need to concentrate on photos that capture the event atmosphere rather than its action.