How to photograph roller derby

Every single skater that plays a game waits with anxious, baited breath for the first photographs of the game to come out. I know I do! 99% of the time the photographs are amazing; they capture the awesome moments of action you remember, the ones you don’t because you’re so adrenaline fuelled and all the smiles, hugs and tears.

Occasionally, just occasionally though, there are photographs that make you want to untag yourself and crawl into a small ball. Having been on both sides of the camera I’ve got a few hints and tips to help to get the most from photographing roller derby ranging from an iPhone to a professional set up.



    I don’t think I can stress this point enough.If the injury is serious more often than not the referees will take a knee in front of the skater until help arrives. This is for the well being and privacy of the injured individual. The main thing to take away from this point is consent. Injury is painful both physically and emotionally, and images of this may trigger the individual further down the line.


    We’ve all seen this famous image of Caitlin Krause’s ankle spiralled all the way around. I read that she asked for it to be photographed and, also, agreed to its release. This comes back to consent.

    Now enough of the “what not to do”…

  2. Try to photograph the ambiance of the day, not just the track.

    There’s usually loads of fun things happening on game day from skaters with their supporters and families to cheering fans and face painting. You can get some great shots between the action so don’t put your camera down too quickly.



  3. NSOs and Referees like photos of themselves too.

    The officiating staff are integral to the organising and playing of the game, so why not get them at their best? With their impartial faces on.



Coco’s top tip – Jammer referees make a beautiful shape when following/signalling the lead jammer. If you can get them in the shot when photographing the lapping jammer it makes an excellent shot.


Now the first three pointers are for anyone with a camera; for the official photographers, let’s get technical!


  1. Make sure you check in with the organising league.

    If you’re going to be making use of vantage points like the centre of the track; they need to know. They may wish for you to be identified in some way like a lanyard or even high-vis. They’ll also want to know how to credit you or contact you should they want to use your images in the future.


  2. Pick your spot

    Photographers are given defined areas in which to photograph from, especially in the centre of the track. If you choose to shoot from the centre; you will usually have two spots defined by boxes or crosses made with tape. You must remain standing in the centre for safety and not get in the way of any officials.I personally choose to set myself up around turn 1 and 2 and not move too much. From here I can get all of the pack action from the jam line and jammers as they later lap the pack.

    Coco’s top tip – Photographing lapping jammers makes for a striking image but remember, most of the action is happening in the pack!



  3. Get a high shutter speed

    This one might be obvious to those technically minded, but, just a reminder for the others. Most sports halls seem bright to the naked eye but cameras hate that dim orange light given out by their bulbs. It might mean pushing your ISO higher than you might want to or sticking to a wider aperture but either way, you’ll need a higher shutter speed than you think.




  4. Get your colour right

    Going back to that dim orange light, yeah, it causes a murky orange cast and is a massive pain isn’t it? It’s simple to correct in post processing and makes your images look much better. If you don’t use post processing, try going through your white balance settings on your camera. Always fire a couple of test shots to see which looks best.


  5. Flashing!

    Maybe it’s because during my time photographing live music it was drilled into me “NO FLASH!” I don’t use flash during games. It comes down to the idea that it may distract a player or official so I’d rather play it safe. It’s all personal preference though!



I hope you’ve found this fun and informative; I’m sure I’ll see you on one side of the lens or the other soon!

Coco x

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