Q&A with Director of NCAA Photos

Jamie Schwaberow, Director of NCAA Photos, is a 1996 journalism graduate from Bowling Green State University. He joined Rich Clarkson and Associates in 1999 where he began photographing NCAA national championships along with Denver professional sports teams.  

Schwaberow received his first professional training at a variety of newspapers including This Week Newspapers in Columbus, OH, The Columbus Dispatch and the Boston Herald.

Jamie gave us some insight into the world of (college) sports photography and all it entails. Take a look at his answers to our questions below!

How many NCAA championships does NCAA Photos have to cover? 

♦ 88 annually

What is your favorite NCAA event and why?

♦ That’s a tough question. We are very fortunate to cover championships for the NCAA, because every event should in theory end in a celebration, which always makes for great pictures. I’m always a fan of photographing water polo, because I think it is such a dynamic, though somewhat challenging sport to photograph. I also really enjoy the Women’s Final Four and the Men’s College World Series.

What is your most memorable Champion magazine cover? Is there a story behind that?

♦ Probably the first one I shot down in Miami in September of 2007. The subject was a Division II Women’s Soccer player from Israel. It was the first ever cover of NCAA Champion Magazine, which made it exciting and brought a fair amount of pressure. Luckily, the subject, Maya Ozery from Barry University, was very easy going and willing to get to work early along with the sports information director, the art director and myself. We photographed her at the crack of dawn with the Miami skyline in the background.

What would be your biggest advice to beginning photographers shooting sporting events?

♦ Get there early! You can make so many interesting photographs prior to the actual competition starting. It also puts you at ease if you’ve had time to familiarize yourself with the stadium/arena, the work areas, your access areas… You never want to be scrambling around trying to figure things out when the competition is going on.

What is that little ‘extra’ that catches your eye from photographers submitting their championship photos?

♦ When looking at the photographs, composition is probably the main thing I notice between a true professional and someone who is getting lucky with a high quality camera. When I am editing a photographers’ take with constantly bad composition it drives me crazy.

Secondly, organization and attention to detail really impress me. We give out very detailed information about how we need the photographs captioned, keyworded, named… I can’t tell you how many times photographers seem to blow those details off.

The photographers who I hire repeatedly are the ones who can continually achieve both of these goals.

Do you find any differences in pictures of collegiate sports/student athletes?

♦ With a good portion of the NCAA championships we cover there is a lot more freedom than at a traditional professional event. The facilities tend to be more intimate and we usually have greater access to the athletes than you would have at a professional game.

Besides sports, what else do you enjoy shooting?

♦ I love to shoot portraits and have really enjoyed the opportunity to photograph the covers for NCAA Champion Magazine. That being said, I used to work in newspapers and really developed an appreciation for shooting a variety of assignments, so as long as I’m out shooting, I’m usually happy.

What is your favorite NCAA photo you have taken?

♦ I’ve photographed 119 NCAA championships at this point, so it’s hard to choose just one image, but I’d say a photograph I took of the UCONN women’s basketball team celebrating at the end of the 2009 Women’s Final Four would rank right up there.


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