This is becoming a bigger issue as the cost of camera's declines and the quality goes up and more people get into digital photography.
The key issue is that sports venues can not stop camera phones or compact digital cameras or even HD camcorders like the Kodak Xi8 or the FlipCam and therefore why do they stop owners of DSLR's that look like they are exclusively for professional use which is not the case.
I have just sent this email to FIFA specifically on this subject for the World Cup.
A question on photography - what is a large camera and why is accreditation needed ?
I am sorry it has been a few days since our call but I had decided to do a little more research and thinking before I put pen to paper as we discuss on the phone.
Hopefully you remember the point of my call was to discuss the issue that has been raised by the South African FA with regards to the issue of spectators using expensive camera’s that are perceived to be for professional use at matches.
This is based on the fact that I am a serious non-professional sports photographer with an expensive camera (Nikon D3) and fast lenses and would like to take some good quality images at the World Cup for my personal image collection.
Before I continue specifically about the World Cup it is worth mentioning that this issue has been around for a while now not just in your sport but many others including the current Olympics which like you, are very keen to preserve copywrite and prevent commercial gain from none approved or inappropriate sources, which I have to say up front, I am generally in support of. The point is that for the Winter Olympics the IOC and VANOC have taken a very pragmatic approach to the problem and have allowed general ticket holder to take pictures with consumer, pro-sumer and professional camera’s with large lens’s based on the fact it is easier to police the abuse of these images after the event through normal legal channels.
The reason for this is simply a technical issue that has manifested itself over the last 2-4 years in photography.
Let me go back about 5 years before digital camera technology really flourished, there are lots of debate about this as it is hard to directly compare analogue film and digital images but in those days a professional 35mm camera with a fast lens (say f2.4) to the eye had an approximate equivalent resolution 8-10 Megapixels and there was no consumer cameras to match this so professional photographers almost had exclusivity on high end camera’s and lens and therefore in the sports word to get “the shot” they had to be accredited so as to get close to the action and in the most advantageous spot knowing that no fan, supporter or guest could get these images.
However, today there are many small digital camera’s both DSLR and compact camera’s that have far in excess of the quality of a professional camera and lens from 5 years ago, therefore the personal sports photographer with a mid to high quality digital compact camera with a good seat relatively close to the action would be able to get images that have the pixel quality that would be greater than a professional photographer of 5 years ago and as got as some of the images that a professional of today might have, what the personal photographer will not have is “access and vantage point” and as an organisation it would be almost impossible, nah, it would be impossible to stop these camera’s entering a stadium.
The comment that was received from the SA FA was:
The Terms and Conditions of a ticket strictly prohibit any camera. We have made a special concession whereby we allow cellphone cameras and smaller cameras as these are usually for personal use only. However, any camera that may be deemed for professional use, as in this case, is not allowed. The stewards are not in a position to determine the intention of the photographer so we do not allow these as a rule. This is standard procedure at all major events.
FIFA Media also patrol the stadium arena and asks us to stop fans from using cameras they deem professional and evict repeat offenders.
To use this comment as a discussion point, what is a small camera if I turned up at the gate with Leica M9 (image enclosed) with a 90mm f2.5 lens it would be exceeding unlikely a steward with question this camera as it looks like a simple small camera, however, if I had arrived with a Nikon D90 (image enclosed) based on this statement it would have been refused, however, I am sure that if you are into photography or ask anyone that is you would appreciate the the Leica M9 would take far superior and much higher quality images than the Nikon, this is the whole point I am trying to raise is “ what, as an organisation are you a) trying to prevent and b) give professional and commercial photographers”
I would also like to add about the above statement is that if the steward is not in a position to determine the intention of the photographer they would also not be in a position to determine what is a camera for professional use or personal use, an analogy I have been using is that if I am a keen cook and buy an expensive cooker and food processor it does not make me a Michelin star chef, therefore, If I choose to purchase an expensive camera and lens it does not make me a professional photographer.
Back to my key point “ what, as an organisation are you a) trying to prevent and b) give professional and commercial photographers”
If you are trying to prevent high quality images getting used without licence or approval you would have failed, have a look at this image that is on Flickr:
This was taken with a compact camera at only 5 Megapixel, I have shown this specific image to 2 newspaper picture editors and they both would have been happy to use this, based on image resolution and quality as a “follow up story image”, had it been take with a Leica or even a Sigma DP1 at 14 Megapixel it would have been almost good enough for magazine print, what this image does not have is composition, I am sure you will agree and this is what a professional photographer gets by being accredited, they would get access and vantage point to make sure they get the best image with the best composition and this is something that a photographer in the stands with £5000.00 camera and a £5000 lens would not get which is key to my point.
I am sure you would get today the non-accredited professional photographer who will try and beat the system but this would happen whether you change the camera policy or not, again like the IOC/VANOC this would get picked up after the event and to be frank no serious commercial publication would use not accredited images for the fear of reprisal.
So my issue is that there are many amateur photographers who would like to take expensive camera’s into the stadiums for the World Cup that have no intentions beyond recording that “great image” for personal use, all it would take is for FIFA to change their policy / wording to something like VANOC which I have enclosed as an email when questioned about this policy, but to summarise:
If you have a spectator accreditation there should be no problems using a DSLR. Obviously you are not allowed to use any images for commercial use
Best regards, Media Operations, International Olympic Committee
I will leave this with you for some thought and whilst I am sure this is not a simple question with a simple answer I would appreciate a full answer with some either formal (which I would share) or some informal (to be kept private) answers as opposed to a “thanks for your email, we will read it and take on board you thoughts and comments”.