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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Sports Talk 
Thread started 07 Jan 2011 (Friday) 20:13
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How do I get into sports photography?

 
ben4633
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Jan 07, 2011 20:13 |  #1

Ive been thinking about trying to get into sports photography and make a few extra bucks. Not sure exactly how to do it or if its even possible. High school sports, little league etc. Ive heard of photographers just going to events and shooting the athletes and passing out business cards with their website. Do they even let photographers into high schools to shoot basketball or volleyball games. Is there enough money in it to justify my time? If so, what is the best way to move forward? Not expecting to make a ton of money but maybe a few bucks to justify the time out and a bit to offset the cost of my photography habit. Any tips or suggestions would be greatful.


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DC ­ Fan
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Jan 07, 2011 20:41 |  #2

ben4633 wrote in post #11595456 (external link)
Ive been thinking about trying to get into sports photography and make a few extra bucks.

Get in line behind the countless people who have the same idea, and get ready to have some interesting conversations with the shooters who already have become an organization's "official photographer" and may not like the competition.

First, learn how to take pictures at sporting events, and learn how to produce prints and files right after the event is over - when the customers want the product. Then, get ready to spend a few months getting to know the people who organize the events you attend, to gain their confidence and trust. You'll also need to learn the rules, written and unwritten, of the sports where you want to make sales.




  
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squires
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Jan 07, 2011 20:50 as a reply to  @ DC Fan's post |  #3

This blog had some interesting info on the subject.

http://www.scottkelby.​com …9/archives/4945​#more-4945 (external link)




  
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Cozmocha
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Jan 07, 2011 21:18 |  #4

I like that article.


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sch_photo
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Jan 07, 2011 22:34 |  #5

The biggest thing to watch out for is exclusive contracts. Some schools, not all, will have a contract with a photographer to do all of their photography work for the sports teams. This will include all sporting events. Even if the photographer is not at every game, you are still in violation of the exclusive contract. If you go and start shooting images to sell and the school has an exclusive contract don't be shocked if you get a cease and desist letter from a laywer.

I have contracts with two local schools and I am very protective of those contracts. Now I am not going to ask a parent or student to put a camera away, but if another photographer tries to edge in we are going to have words. My contracts state that I am the exclusive photographer for all sports teams and individual athletes. In return I provide all the images back to the school for the yearbook and reserve the right to sell those images to the parents and individual athletes.

You might try to get a start by working on a freelance agreement with a photographer that does a lot of little leagues and high school sports. I got my start by shooting for a photographer and it gave me the chance to make a little money on an hourly rate and get feed back on my images.


Equipment list: Canon 1Dx, Canon 1D mk III, 50D, 400mm 2.8L, 70-200mm 2.8L, 17-40 4.0L, 24-105 4.0L IS, Sigma 15mm 2.8 FE, (2) 580EX II

  
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MJPhotos24
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Jan 08, 2011 02:56 |  #6

ben4633 wrote in post #11595456 (external link)
Ive been thinking about trying to get into sports photography and make a few extra bucks. Not sure exactly how to do it or if its even possible. High school sports, little league etc. Ive heard of photographers just going to events and shooting the athletes and passing out business cards with their website. Do they even let photographers into high schools to shoot basketball or volleyball games. Is there enough money in it to justify my time? If so, what is the best way to move forward? Not expecting to make a ton of money but maybe a few bucks to justify the time out and a bit to offset the cost of my photography habit. Any tips or suggestions would be greatful.

This reminds me of the old hanging sentence "if you have to ask..."

Of course it's possible to make money shooting sports, thousands of photographers do it, but it's getting harder and harder each year. Every team has a parent with camera and you have to go above and beyond producing results they can't get, after all they are almost always giving away free CD's of images at the end of the season or even week to week! Most photographers fail, and there's tons - and I mean TONS - of talented photographers out there working other jobs right now because it's just that difficult.

Schools and leagues you need permission, you don't just show up and shoot. Any time I'm going to a school or event the person in charge has already given me permission, even last year when my cousin invited me to shoot his daughters championship game on a last minute whim my gear didn't leave the car until the league president gave the thumbs up. You do NOT want to step on toes, you do NOT want to create a bad name for yourself.

Money wise, it really depends. There's events that do well and there's events that do horrible. Just showing up and shooting randomly you're in for one rude awakening to be completely honest. If you're talking about higher level stuff and landing those gigs and making money, you're in for a nightmare awakening. Those jobs are disappearing fast! It sometimes takes years to find a niche, an area, or something that does well in sports - even then though year to year you just don't know if it will be there. I had my best year ever in 2010 by far, hope 2011 is even better but who knows...I don't!

Honestly, sounds more like want to just half a$$ it and shoot some games here and there and hope for some money in the end. That's not really how it works! Used to tell the kids I coached if "you put in half a$$ effort you get half a$$ results", and it is a life lesson. I honestly do that in winter season because it's my time off, don't do it for money but more to keep up and practice and if it sells fine - NOBODY though is getting anything free even if it is practice. For the most part though any shooting in Dec/Jan besides two I fly out of state for is just practice and honing skills, trying things, etc. You can take a wild guess how much money I make during that time frame, it's not very good! 95% of my income is made Feb-Nov.

Also, think of what you need before you shoot sports. You need insurance, though many schools or leagues don't bother to ask, you better have it if something happens. Kid falling out of bounds and you're shooting under the basket, (s)he cuts his arm up and mom calls the lawyer because he's scared for life.

So, all in all it's not easy, but it can be done if you do it right.

Best way is to find niches, leagues that are not covered well, sports that are not easy for the parents to get good images in. Of course that means you need lighting gear (strobes) and/or fast glass - preferably both. You find an "in" and shoot, but showing up just when you want won't be worth it - you need to cover a lot of games, and the ones that mean something. Playoffs/all-star games, something special. There's plenty out there to cover, the problem is finding it - I love shooting the local youth league, kids are awesome, parents are great, but besides T&I the game action sales are horrible. So I'll spend my time elsewhere to make a living, have to be decisive, do the research, etc. If it's about making money head to the T&I market more than game action market, it's best to do both, but T&I does better than the games almost always.


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CatchingUp
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Jan 08, 2011 06:42 |  #7

sch_photo wrote in post #11596135 (external link)
The biggest thing to watch out for is exclusive contracts. Some schools, not all, will have a contract with a photographer to do all of their photography work for the sports teams. This will include all sporting events. Even if the photographer is not at every game, you are still in violation of the exclusive contract. If you go and start shooting images to sell and the school has an exclusive contract don't be shocked if you get a cease and desist letter from a laywer.

I have contracts with two local schools and I am very protective of those contracts. Now I am not going to ask a parent or student to put a camera away, but if another photographer tries to edge in we are going to have words. My contracts state that I am the exclusive photographer for all sports teams and individual athletes. In return I provide all the images back to the school for the yearbook and reserve the right to sell those images to the parents and individual athletes.

You might try to get a start by working on a freelance agreement with a photographer that does a lot of little leagues and high school sports. I got my start by shooting for a photographer and it gave me the chance to make a little money on an hourly rate and get feed back on my images.

Not sure if I totally get the having a 'contract' that makes you 'exclusive'. I can understand you taking the T/I shots to sell, and providing the yearbook with pics...but how can you legally exclude 'competition' ?

I've done reasonably well the past few years doing pretty much what you are doing, but with no contract. Granted, I live more in a rural area and not many people around here do what I do but I shoot a ton of game events as well...post pics on a web site, etc. And while it is great having no competition cutting in on my business, I for the life of me can't imagine telling some new photographer who started showing up at high school football games and taking pictures that he has no right to be there. How does one get away with that?


Tony
I use Canon gear...have several bodies and lenses and am quite pleased with them.

"A person's gift will make room for itself."

  
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CatchingUp
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Jan 08, 2011 06:55 |  #8

squires wrote in post #11595638 (external link)
This blog had some interesting info on the subject.

http://www.scottkelby.​com …9/archives/4945​#more-4945 (external link)

Very well written...he about covered it all.


Tony
I use Canon gear...have several bodies and lenses and am quite pleased with them.

"A person's gift will make room for itself."

  
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jcpoulin
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Jan 08, 2011 09:36 |  #9

Mike presents many good points and covers the topic well. People need to realize that you don't click the shutter, post the pictures...and people come flocking to you with money. Working with leagues provides access for sure. Many leagues require something back for this as well...I have done 10%-15%of sales and this appears to be the norm for my area...and must be considered. In return, they send out emails to parents for publicity. Also, if you are doing multiple locations, you are paying gas etc. Website costs, insurance, gear updates need to be included. You need to do something different then parents....Don't shoot from same sidelines...shooting side-by side the father who is shooting is not helpful! Get to the endlines where parents are not allowed, and most officials may allow. Gear has to be considered... a picture taken with a 300 at 2.8 looks different than a picture taken at 300 5.6......people see it!

Lastly, know your demographics....know what areas/sports where parents have the resources to purchase...shooting inner city basketball may not yield the same sales potential as suburban hockey....just the cruel reality!


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NGC2141
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Jan 08, 2011 10:26 |  #10

The thing I have run into with most sports organizations locally is that someone already is contracted to do it. What I did was offer to shoot events as a contributor and then built a portfolio of their league. When the other photographers contact was due for renewal I applied and was selected. I was contracted for three youth leagues last year for action photographs. This year I stepped my game up and now I am shooting at the college level. We also have a new Double-A baseball team coming to town so I will be trying to get my foot in there as well.


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sch_photo
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Jan 08, 2011 10:42 |  #11

CatchingUp wrote in post #11597444 (external link)
Not sure if I totally get the having a 'contract' that makes you 'exclusive'. I can understand you taking the T/I shots to sell, and providing the yearbook with pics...but how can you legally exclude 'competition' ?

I've done reasonably well the past few years doing pretty much what you are doing, but with no contract. Granted, I live more in a rural area and not many people around here do what I do but I shoot a ton of game events as well...post pics on a web site, etc. And while it is great having no competition cutting in on my business, I for the life of me can't imagine telling some new photographer who started showing up at high school football games and taking pictures that he has no right to be there. How does one get away with that?

The competition part comes every one to three years when the contract is up and open for other photographers to submitt proposals. Typically the contract renews with no issues, but anyone is welcome to submitt a proposal.

My point is that I have put in the time, effort, and energy to get my products a services as good as I can. I invest thousands of dollars every couple years in newer better equipment. After all the work I have done what business does some "Debbie Digital" have coming in and selling images for 50% less than mine or for that matter yours. While yes my quality is way better, what parent won't "settle" a little to save a few bucks? So I just wanted to point out that while yes you can do it, just watch that you don't cross a line and get yourself black listed with the local photographer gang.

The 800 lbs elephant in the room by far is Lifetouch. In the past they have used some very shady business practices (free vacations to the pricipal, thousands of dollars to the yearbook staff, etc...) that killed loacl photography businesses (in my area at least). Since they were called out on these practices it has opened up the doors a little, however the schools that they do still work for they are extremely defensive of. So just watch your back.

My suggestion would be what Mike said. Do a little recon first and make a phone call to the Athletic Department or ever the high school office. Find out if they have an exclusive first. If they do call or visit that photographer and ask. You might get told no or you might get a green light, but ask around first.


Equipment list: Canon 1Dx, Canon 1D mk III, 50D, 400mm 2.8L, 70-200mm 2.8L, 17-40 4.0L, 24-105 4.0L IS, Sigma 15mm 2.8 FE, (2) 580EX II

  
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dmwierz
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Jan 08, 2011 11:37 |  #12

What I did was offer to shoot events as a contributor and then built a portfolio of their league. When the other photographers contact was due for renewal I applied and was selected.

Let me ask: by contributor, do you mean you worked for the contract photographer or you shot them for free?


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dmwierz
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Jan 08, 2011 12:08 |  #13

I'm gonna go a slightly different direction than some of the other bits of solid advice by asking a few questions. Firstly, what is your ultimate objective? How serious are you and how far do you want to go? How hard are you willing to work to get where you want to go? Is it to shoot pro events; youth: high school; take pictures of your own kids? Do you have a feel for how much money you would charge per event; per shot; per day?

Despite what you might hear to the contrary, there are really no shortcuts to developing your skills. Many aspiring photographers want to start out by shooting the NFL, or even NCAA. Games at this level are serious business, and folks covering these events are there doing their jobs...not just trying to a make a "few bucks to justify the time out and a bit to offset the cost of my photography habit".

If you're looking at building your experience, my suggestion is to contact as many of the local youth sports photographers you can locate via a Google search of your area, and offer to work for them as a second/third/etc. shooter. You can make some money this way and learn a lot and develop/refine your skills. The exact same skills are required to shoot youth sports as are used in shooting pro or college, but the pace of the game is slower and the conditions aren't normally as severe and access isn't as restricted as it can be shooting pro/college. You will still have to be able to take sale-able images, though, as these companies aren't out there, working their tails off, for fun.

After you have your skills locked down, there are several ways to shoot high school sports, some independently and some through national prep sports organizations. Once again, though, these companies are expecting you to already know what you're doing - they are in this to make money along with you, and won't let you learn on-the-fly. If you go your own way, be sure you have adequate liability insurance and again, know what you're doing.

Now, if you are wanting to cover pro sports, things get a lot more complicated. At this level, the competition is extremely tough, the money isn't so great, and the expectations of the speed, the quality and the quantity of your work are at the highest level. You are expected to get "the shots" at least as many times as the other shooters working the event, and in addition to having your photography skills totally nailed down, you have to do all this on deadline, meaning you'll not only have to shoot the game, but you'll have to review all your images, select those to be used, edit them (tone, crop, straighten, resize, etc.), caption the shots and transmit them, all DURING the game. It's not for the faint-hearted or for those who don't do well under pressure.

Does this help?


http://www.denniswierz​bicki.com (external link)
http://www.sportsshoot​er.com/dmwierz (external link)

Dennis "
Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand."

  
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sch_photo
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Jan 08, 2011 12:32 |  #14

dmwierz wrote in post #11598759 (external link)
I'm gonna go a slightly different direction than some of the other bits of solid advice by asking a few questions. Firstly, what is your ultimate objective? How serious are you and how far do you want to go? How hard are you willing to work to get where you want to go? Is it to shoot pro events; youth: high school; take pictures of your own kids? Do you have a feel for how much money you would charge per event; per shot; per day?

Despite what you might hear to the contrary, there are really no shortcuts to developing your skills. Many aspiring photographers want to start out by shooting the NFL, or even NCAA. Games at this level are serious business, and folks covering these events are there doing their jobs...not just trying to a make a "few bucks to justify the time out and a bit to offset the cost of my photography habit".

If you're looking at building your experience, my suggestion is to contact as many of the local youth sports photographers you can locate via a Google search of your area, and offer to work for them as a second/third/etc. shooter. You can make some money this way and learn a lot and develop/refine your skills. The exact same skills are required to shoot youth sports as are used in shooting pro or college, but the pace of the game is slower and the conditions aren't normally as severe and access isn't as restricted as it can be shooting pro/college. You will still have to be able to take sale-able images, though, as these companies aren't out there, working their tails off, for fun.

After you have your skills locked down, there are several ways to shoot high school sports, some independently and some through national prep sports organizations. Once again, though, these companies are expecting you to already know what you're doing - they are in this to make money along with you, and won't let you learn on-the-fly. If you go your own way, be sure you have adequate liability insurance and again, know what you're doing.

Now, if you are wanting to cover pro sports, things get a lot more complicated. At this level, the competition is extremely tough, the money isn't so great, and the expectations of the speed, the quality and the quantity of your work are at the highest level. You are expected to get "the shots" at least as many times as the other shooters working the event, and in addition to having your photography skills totally nailed down, you have to do all this on deadline, meaning you'll not only have to shoot the game, but you'll have to review all your images, select those to be used, edit them (tone, crop, straighten, resize, etc.), caption the shots and transmit them, all DURING the game. It's not for the faint-hearted or for those who don't do well under pressure.

Does this help?


Very well put... translation if you have the head and stomach for it, get ready for a ride...


Equipment list: Canon 1Dx, Canon 1D mk III, 50D, 400mm 2.8L, 70-200mm 2.8L, 17-40 4.0L, 24-105 4.0L IS, Sigma 15mm 2.8 FE, (2) 580EX II

  
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philwillmedia
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Jan 09, 2011 06:57 |  #15

I've posted this several times elsewhere on POTN - people are probably sick of seeing it.
It's essentially related to motorsports photography but the principles are the same for any sport.
It's a bit long, I know, but It covers most things you probably need to know and, dare I say, it tells it like it is.

A quick few words about my background.
I started my motorsport photography over 20 years ago when I stopped competing in rallies.
The biggest problem I and fellow competitors had back then was getting pics of ourselves.
When I finally parked the rally car, I still wanted to be involved. I picked up the camera and started taking pics at club level events to national championship level from spectator areas and selling them to competitors.
After a while I started submitting to a couple of motorsport magazines. It took a while but eventually, after about 3 years, I started getting some images published and then it snowballed from there to the point where I was able to get accreditation.
Today, I cover all types of motorsport and supply several magazines and agencies with images. I have also covered a number of different sports and events for image libraries including Federation Cup Tennis, International Netball, Wrestling, Pro Golf, AFL Football, International Soccer, Pro Cycling and several other sports and events. Later this week I will be coveruing the World Tennis Challenge in Adelaide.

Firstly, what is your reason for wanting media credentials.
Are you a member of the media?
What can you give the organizers by your presence?
Media creds are usually only given to WORKING media. This means people working for and supplying bona fide media outlets ie: Magazines and newspapers and other recognised media outlets such as websites and press agencies.
I’ve been shooting sport, mainly motorsport for over 20 years, and still do club level and grass roots sports.
I supply several magazines and newspapers as well as photo agencies.
I often get asked…
”How do I get a pass to shoot from where you are?”
My reply usually goes something like this…
“How long have you been photographing (insert name of sport) and what outlet do you work for?
To which they reply something like…”Oh I never do. I just want to get in and shoot from where you are. I’m just taking photos for myself”
Ask yourself this…
If you’ve never taken a photograph of an American Football (substitute for any sport) game, would you approach the NFL (again substitute relevant organization) and say to them “Hey Mr NFL Media Man, I’ve never taken a photo of a grid iron game before but I think I’m a pretty good photographer, I’m not shooting for anyone except myself so you won’t get any publicity but can I have a media pass for the Superbowl…"
Seriously, what do you think they would say.
It would probably be cool to be there and you’d get off on it and brag to your friends, but seriously…
Unless you are working media, why should you be there.

Media credential's ARE NOT a free pass to get in to an event.

Admittedly, sometimes I have seen some people with creds who probably shouldn't have them - and people who probably should have them who don't - however it's not for me to make that decision.
I do sympathise with people who wish they could get creds for events and can't.
Event organizers are after publicity. You shooting for yourself does not give them that publicity and they do not have an obligation to give you a media pass just because you think you should have one. It is up to you to justify why you should be accredited.
Remember that the 'togs you see shooting at a track or sporting event etc are being paid by somebody therefore IT IS A JOB. They are not there for the fun of it.
Imagine if somebody came into your work place and thought it looks like cool job, do you think they'd just be able to start doing what you were for the fun of it?
Also, there is a whoooole lot more to it than just standing by the track and taking photo's. There are deadlines (sometimes very short) to meet and as a rule I would suggest that for the same amount of time spent trackside there is at least 1/2 to 3/4 of that time to be spent on editing, sending images etc when the day at the track has finished. If you spend 8 hours at the track, then you will usually spend another four to six hours, at least, once you have left the track on editing etc.
I attend a lot of events where I don't have creds so I do know what it's like from behind the fence or in the bleachers, but I still manage to get good and sometimes great images.
It makes you see things differently and find different angles and ways of shooting.
I'd estimate that about 50% of events I go to, I don't have the magic press pass and pay to get in like everyone else.
Sometimes I'm just there for being there, and sometimes it might be a sport I've never shot before but want to see what it's like. Occasionally I do manage to sell some images.
Also, just because you have good gear doesn't mean you should be there either.
I've seen some 'togs with basic DSLR's and kit lenses take some better stuff than guys with 1D's and white lenses (and Nikon equivalent). I occasionally use a 400D with the 10-22 lens and have had those images published. I also use a sigma 10mm fisheye.
In closing, I will say this...
THERE ARE NO SHORT CUTS.
If you want to have creds for big events, start shooting the grass roots of that sport (no it's not glamorous like the big events - but you'll probably make more money) and start supplying images to publications etc.
This is a great way to get yourself known to event organisers. They learn to know who you are and that you are committed to photographing their sport and being known is half the battle. This is not going to take 5 minutes and may take several years, yes... I did say years.
To do this you need to have passion for both the sport and your photography.
You must be prepared to put up with the elements, rain, hail, shine, and depending on the hemisphere, maybe snow (not generally an issue in Australia) etc etc.
Just like any job, sometimes it will NOT be fun and just plain hard work.
It just depends on how hard you are prepared to work to get there.

Except when learning to swim, always start at the bottom.
I see too many people trying to start right at the top. it doesn't work that way.

Apologies if this appears blunt and straight to the point, but it is fact.


Regards, Phil
2013/14 CAMS Gold Accredited Photographer | 2010 & 2011 V8 Supercars Aust. Accredited Photographer | 2008, '09, '10 South Aus. Rally Photographer of the Year | Catch Fence Photos - 2009 Photo of the Year (external link)Finallist - 2014 NT Media Awards
"A bad day at the race track is better than a good day in the office" | www.freewebs.com/philw​illmedia (external link)

  
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How do I get into sports photography?
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Photography-on-the.net Digital Photography Forums is the website for photographers and all who love great photos, camera and post processing techniques, gear talk, discussion and sharing. Professionals, hobbyists, newbies and those who don't even own a camera -- all are welcome regardless of skill, favourite brand, gear, gender or age. Registering and usage is free.