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Photographing Bowling

dbrunodbruno Member
edited August 2017 in general photography
Hi - Part of this year's Christmas/Holiday party for a regular corporate client of mine will be a bowling tourney, and they've asked me to photograph it. I've done some quick searching on line, and there are some interesting ideas. But I feel not only is the lighting possibly a challenge, but also the distraction to the bowler if you are set up to the side of them, waiting for them to roll. If you are set up where everyone is seated waiting for their turns, you get back side of the bowler and the pins. I've seen a couple of posts where the camera is set on a tripod to the side of the bowler, and is fired remotely. But this doesn't handle the issue of multiple lanes, and probably 50-70 people taking part (I'm sure they've rented the whole place for this).

Anyone ever do this with moderate to good success? Any suggestions otherwise? I know it's months away, but better to be early.

Thanks - Dave


  • You get some interesting shoots Dave! I have absolutely no idea how to shoot 70 people bowling. I most likely would not overthink it too much. I would just take candid and wide angle shots throughout the night and make sure I have a couple of shots of everyone. (Tip: Get extra shots of the bigwigs and compliment them) You will sure get the party next year!

  • Thanks, Jay. I saw a suggestion of setting up next to an alley, and use a remote to snap the photo so to not distract the bowler. So, maybe I set up next to one alley, take a bunch, go to another alley, take a bunch. I've got time, it's not until December.

    BTW, I do really like the variety of stuff that seems to come my way.

  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    Photographing 70 people bowling? 
    To be sure to get a shot of everyone, you'd have to work systematically with a team of photographers - unless they are more interested in just snaps of the event to remember it by? 

    I would most likely attempt this with just the available light, and shoot at a higher ISO. But that depends on the venue lighting itself. Still, I would take my usual rigs to have close-by in my car, so I can adapt to the place. 

    Anyway, have you shot this yet? 
  • Thanks, Neil. That's a good suggestion about available light. I'm sure I'll also be takingplenty of these folks clowning around with each other. Another good client of mine, and the people are really enjoyable to be around.

  • Hi -

    Before I describe the day, which you can choose to read or not, I have a question: if you are disappointed in a group of photos for a regular client, do you tell them and explain why you are disappointed?

    This regular (my 5th event with them in 18 months) client of mine had their holiday party in a building that had a restaurant and a bowling alley. Cocktail and apps 11AM to noon; Sit-down lunch, speeches, raffle Noon - 2 PM; bowling 2 PM to 4:30. Because I was already booked for another party (my other regular client), we agreed I would stay until 3:30 PM. In the bowling alley, they wanted "team" shots (20 teams!), and the rest of people bowling.

    I went into the alley a few minutes before 2, and set up an off-camera flash/umbrella at the top of a lane (24-105 mm F4 lens with on-camera controller). It was a good spot for this. The idea was to get the teams one by one, wrap up, and move on. In 45 minutes I could only get 4 teams to come over. After a while, I found out the people bowling were not warming up, and bowling for real.. After 45 minutes I gave up, switched to my 70-200 mm F2.8 with on-camera flash (I felt I needed the F2.8). It was dark-ish, I had to use direct flash dialed back, had trouble getting focus using AI-Focus and AI Servo modes, and maybe got 20 salvageable photos in that last 45 minutes.

    The place was mobbed, very cramped, and any photos I got I had to encroach on the lanes. And, as you can imagine, trying to get around with that honking lens was tough.

    So, again, do you tell this to the client?

    Thanks - Dave
  • Dave,

    Your expectations of the photos may not be the expectations of the client. We are sometimes our own worse critics. With that said, It seems you did your very best in the circumstances given to you. I have learned that it is sometimes difficult, if not impossible, to force people to pose and interrupt an activity.  If you feel you must say something, I would take the "shared blame road". I am the fist to fess up if the mistake/or fault is mine. It doesn't sound like it was too much yours. When presenting the photos to the client, I would mention that you would have liked to be able to cover the teams better, but looks like they were having to much fun to be taken away and organized for a photograph. That way, you are in a round about way, telling the client that their activity of choice was well received and your patting them on the back for choosing bowling for the employees. In easy terms, they were having too much fun to be taken away for a photo. How can they be disappointed when you just complemented them:) 

  • Thanks, Jay. These folks were coming from a cocktail hour from 11-12, and then had lunch with cocktails from 12-2. My contact could barely get them into the dining room when lunch was being served. As they entered the alley and started bowling, for the first 10-15 minutes I thought it was warmup, but they were keeping score from the get-go. My contact wanted not only team photos, but a group photo as well (HaHa!). I talked with her when I was leaving, and told her about only getting 4 team photos. I can't take all the blame on this part.

    What I'm unhappy about, and take blame for, are the "action" shots: when I put the big lens on (F2.8 zoom), my plan was to be at a distance, so as to not disturb the bowler. I needed AI Focus or AI Servo, but could not get focus with just ambient light. I then put my flash on camera, hoping to use the "focus-assist" beam, but I think I was just too far away for it to help. This part was on me, as I only have maybe 10 shots of people bowling. I couldn't get good focus. In hindsight, if I had more time, maybe use the 24-70 F2.8 I had in my bag, and just get closer so the assist beam could help. But, I know I would have been in the way.

    So, when you admit a mistake/disappointing results which are mostly on you, do you ever offer to give money back? My thought would be: don't send them the receipt for parking reimbursement this time, and next time knock off a little from the normal fee.

  • Hi Dave,

    Sounds like a chain of unfortunate moments. I am sure if you had enough time to concentrate on just the action it would have a lot more choices of pictures to takeaway. Unfortunalty it sounds like a lot of time was used to try to gather and get groups together until the realization set in that its not happening. Then it was a mad rush to get something to salvage. I am sure if time allowed and the stress of the situation was less, the options to change lens, focus better etc would open up.  Understood completely and how many shots do they need of the back of people throwing a ball down an ally? LOL just kidding, but half true. To answer your original question. I would ultimately let the client make the first move to ask for something in return or point a finger etc.....You can still mention that you feel bad that the time and circumstances hindered the ability to capture what you had envisioned initially. Just roll with it and move on and see what happens. Don't create a problem unless their is a problem. If that makes sense?

    *side note*

    Reminds me of the time I was asked for table shots of the attendees for a client.  What they didn't tell me was that it was changed to a cocktail reception. No sitting tables, only a few standing cocktail ones. Like 3 of them for 150 plus people. No way could I get table shots. They didn't have any!  I just got a few people leaning in and smiling:) The rest ignored me no matter how I tried to gather them. (I learned they really didn't know each other)  I gave the client what I could get, and mentioned to them that it was ultimately impossible to get what they originally wanted as the situation changed. They hired me again:) Don't let them see you cry! LOL thats my new motto! 

  • Hey, Jay -

    I did email the client. I took your suggestion for the first part, told her "I guess they were just having too much fun to come over". The second part was more "I was looking to capture most if not all the people bowling", and disappointed I couldn't get to that point. Also mentioned trouble focusing in the low light, but I changed the wording from "the camera had difficulty", to "I was having difficulty". Can't blame the camera if my finger is on it.

    The response from her about this was "No worries about the photos, I'm sure what you did get will be great."

    Not sending the parking receipt for reimbursement unless I'm asked.

  • Would have been good to get all the teams. I thought I had a good spot with the Bruins game on in the background for a little back lighting
  • I figured a good one to show is an example of the ambient light I was dealing with.

  • Looks kinda of fun Dave! A few things.  Looks like bigger bowling alley than I had envisioned. Looks brighter than I had envisioned also. Wonder why it was difficult focusing? Single point should have had no problem locking on. You were in single shot, single focus point? Continuous focus could give you grief, but still looks too bright for that. Maybe the image is just super bright for what it was?  I do see a little motion blur. Sorry for the quick response. Gotta run and head out, but wanted to get a few thoughts out there. 

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