What it take to be an esports photographer
© Stephanie Lindgren / Red Bull Content Pool
We talk to 27-year-old Stephanie “Vexanie” Lindgren an esports photographer from Stockholm, Sweden.
Vexanie carved a photography niche within the world of competitive gaming and has gone on to photograph epic moments and world class events. Yet, she didn’t start out as a photographer. This is her story:
Esports photography is a rather niche field. What made you decide to go in this direction?
Esports photography is definitely a niche, and I probably would not have delved into it as much as I have if it weren't for volunteering at my first DreamHack a few years ago. I volunteered for the social media team, but I also had a Canon Rebel Xsi which I decided to bring along to compliment any social media content I would be producing. In this team there were also a few dedicated photographers and when I saw their amazing shots, I immediately knew I wanted to do everything I could to learn more about esports photography and get on their level. The way they were able to immortalize these weekends was truly inspiring, every photo took me back to being then and there and I wanted to be able to do the same and share it with others.
Were you working as a photographer before?
Definitely not! If anything, around the time I volunteered at DreamHack was when I began respecting photography the most. I have always been a creative person, mainly focusing on drawing and paintings, so I used to think that photography was lazy ''art'' because I thought anyone could just take a photo, right? I wish I could go back in time and smack myself!
You’ve chosen a rather niche career path, did you love games before heading down this road?
Absolutely! I honestly don't know who I would be without gaming. I mean, if it weren't for gaming I would not know about DreamHack and with that, would probably never have gotten into esports photography at all. I have to say even though I love esports, I do prefer single player games in my spare time as opposed to multiplayers.
What piqued your interest in photography?
I have always been a very visual and sentimental person, so as I got older I started to understand the importance of photographs to me personally and the happiness it was able to bring others. I began developing an ''eye'' for things: people, colours, etc that I felt could evoke some sort of emotion. With the type of photography I was finding interesting and getting into, you had to accept the situation that was in front of you and make the most of it, so it’s challenging in a fun way.
What would you say is the hardest part about taking photographs at professional gaming events?
Within esports photography? Dealing with challenging lighting... Almost every esport event is different with this, so the lighting always changes and is usually challenging because since its esports it ''needs'' to be pitch black in the venue aside from overly saturated blue and red lights, and the screens giving minimal lighting to the players... Oh and plenty of water bottles or cans! Honestly, that is quite a common struggle. Although some events are getting better with this and meeting halfway with photographers to work out decent lighting. Chasing invoices can also be tough, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do!
Would you consider anything “easy” about your job?
I am not sure if there is anything that is consistently easy. Probably socializing! I manage to make new friends every event I attend. I am quite the introvert, and I hate small talk. But I have a super easy time getting to know people at esports events, probably because I already know we have something in common.
How does esports photography differ from say sports photography or magazine photography?
Three letters: ISO.
For someone starting out - how do they enter the field?
If you have no esports experience at all, volunteer. Volunteer because you think it’s fun. Even if you are a slightly experienced hobby photographer, no one probably knows who you are so you will have to prove yourself.
My first year, and some parts of my second year of esports photography, I flew myself out to every event I wanted to attend and paid for everything myself. Esports photography brings me joy in life that no other activity ever has before. It’s exciting, it’s unpredictable, and it’s challenging. It keeps me on my toes, and I always learn something new from every event I photograph. This has been what has kept me going, and I am extremely lucky to now get paid to do something I love. If esports photography sparks joy for you as a volunteer alone, keep going. If it doesn't, you should probably find something else that does.
What is your current gear set up?
- 2x Canon 5D Mark IV
- All of them at 2.8
What is your favourite esports title to photograph and why?
I am of course biased because it is the esport I photograph the most, but honestly any and every fighting game. Anyone can enter a tournament, anyone can make an upset. Having a sponsor or a team is usually a sign of someone being pretty good or well known, but even then it really does not matter because as long as you show up at an event, you have the chance to win.
Because of this, pools have the potential to be extremely hype which affects both the players but also the audience. You can hear an upset from across a giant venue filled with thousands of people, in many cases pool games are off stream at larger events, so being able to capture those moments of just raw human emotion and excitement which would otherwise just be a memory, is very special to me.