Capturing the cards in photography—Beginner’s pointers for poker photography

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Capturing the cards in photography
Beginner’s pointers for poker photography

Apart from actually coming across the many natural wonders of nature or some truly amazing manmade structures, photography for the most part is all about capturing the ordinary and making it look extraordinary.

It’s not just about taking a picture of a sunrise. It’s about taking that picture when the sun’s reflection on the waterline makes it look as if it’s half-submerged, with that perfect shade of twilight sky for good measure.

It’s not just about taking a picture of a kid smiling. It’s about placing your camera perfectly so that the light bounces just right to heighten the child’s beaming smile.

And when it comes to poker photography, it’s not just about taking random shots here and there. It’s about amplifying the energy inherent in these gaming sessions, an energy that’s otherwise hidden from unsuspecting eyes. This might prove to be a bit tricky for some budding photographers. Unlike other sporting events, poker isn’t particularly physical. In lieu of players running up and down a field, you have them sitting around a table, giving just the slightest of gestures every now and then. Everything, it would seem, is relatively static. That said, anyone who has witnessed a World Series of Poker tournament match will attest that the tension in this sport is no less palpable.

And therein lies the challenge: how to bring that tension out with your photography. Needless to say, getting a good eye for this type of thing takes some skill, but it isn’t necessarily difficult to achieve. There are a couple of things you can do to get you started right.

Lighting is everything in this field of art, and since poker is an indoor sport that often isn’t too brightly lit, increasing your camera’s ISO to within the 900-1000 range allows more light to enter the lens. From there, gradually bring it down until you get a lighting scheme that you feel best captures the mood you’re going for.

Another thing you can experiment with is the shutter speed. In direct contrast to something like an NBA game where a fast shutter speed is of the utmost importance, slowing that speed down is the way to go with poker. Not only will it help highlight your subject, but you could also get cool shots such as when the player you’re taking a photo of casually flips his poker chips. The spinning chips (and the people constantly moving in the background if you’re lucky) will register as blurs on your camera, but your subject will still remain in focus, contrasting that “poker face” attitude against busy surroundings.

Joe Giron is one of the more notable names in poker photography. His recent work on the World Poker Tour event—many of which are showcased on WPT online partner Partypoker’s Twitter page—display his skill to a tee. Of his work, he emphasizes the importance of being “comfortable in the studio, on the set, or on location.” It’s this level of comfort that you need to reach, because that’s when you start getting a feel for things, which hopefully would translate into some very beautiful shots.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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