Baltimore born-and-raised photographer Shawn Hubbard has been a team photographer for the Ravens for the past seven seasons. Here’s a look into how it all started, a look at some behind-the-scenes with the Ravens shots, and a few of his favorite prime-time and sometimes emotional Ravens moments.
Shawn Hubbard, Twitter
– 31 years old.
– Shoots with: two Canon 1Dx camera bodies
– Go-to lenses: 400 2.8, 70-200 2.8, or a 24-70 or 16-35 for in-game
– Shoots between 2,000-2,500 hundred a game with “less than 10% to ever see the light of day”
Hubbard: “I sort of got into photography in high school on a super basic level…Then I went to Penn State and started out doing graphic design. I thought that’s what my career was going to be…I never imagined myself being an artist and selling art, but I thought, ‘well, graphic design combined art with business and I could make a career working for someone doing that,’ so I was doing that. In the meantime I was taking photography courses as electives.
“I didn’t end up getting into the graphic design program, so I latched onto photography and started focusing on that.
“I graduated with a degree in integrative arts, moved back to Baltimore and answered a very misleading ad in the newspaper looking for a photographer — a studio photographer. It ended up being one of those run-of-the-mill youth sports and school-type places.
“Years later, I was starting to shoot freelance stuff, mostly portraits. I wasn’t really sure what I was really going to be devoting most of my time to, but I wanted to get away from that company. I was shooting at M&T stadium in 2007 — youth football championships — and ran into a friend who was now the youth marketing coordinator for the Ravens and he mentioned they were looking for a photographer to shoot special events for the team.”
“At the time I was in my head like, ‘well, the Ravens are never going to hire me because I have no experience, I have no idea what I’m doing,’ but it was also one of those situations where it would be really stupid to pass it up.”
Hubbard began shooting for the Ravens youth-targeted events, cheerleading events, training camps and all the peripherals in the offseason that goes on aside from football games. The only other Ravens team photographer had been there since about 1996, so Hubbard was deemed “the marketing photographer.”
“I kept getting positive feedback and by the time the season rolled around, the organization told me they were interested in me shooting at games. Early onset, though, they were interested in having me shoot the pageantry — the crowd, people outside, cheerleaders, the overall experience. They said ‘if a play goes by, you can shoot it…but we really don’t want you to dwell on that.'”
After a few games, though, Hubbard shot some action.
“They decided they wanted me to just shoot everything and they let the reins go a little bit. And each year my role has increased.”
In addition to what Hubbard shoots for the Ravens, he shoots weddings, portraits and commercial work on the side that allows him to travel.
“I never thought I was going to be a sports photographer…I’m definitely a sports fan, I like when the Ravens win, but I’m not a fanatic and I think that really benefits me and my career.
“As a photographer you are 10% picture taker and 90% problem solver. At the end of the day you do the best you can with the situation you are in…”
From the first time I ever even walked out onto the field — I hadn’t even shot college sports at that point — I was never super star-struck and never got super excited when the players were around, and it allowed me to focus on taking their pictures. I just try to do my job to document the Ravens and the point they’re in in history.
“I was always for whatever reason drawn to the emotion behind the game. It’s definitely something I look for, and most people don’t pick up on that when they’re watching their game. There are good and bad things about being behind the curtain, so-to-speak. Once you see how the magic trick is done, you look at things differently. I’m just as bummed if I don’t have a good feature image from a game than an action shot. The game happens and I get what I get, but I love those times when I can be creative.
“When I first started shooting, I had to get the perfect picture of every play, and if I didn’t, I took it very personally. There are so many factors that want to prevent you from doing that: The play has to be in a part of the field you can reach with your camera, the other players have to not be in front of you, the referee can’t be in front of you.
“The game happens and you’re lucky if you get the shot in-frame, hopefully it’s sharp, then maybe it might be composed well. I have hundreds of action shot where I’ve captured the play that I’ll never show anyone because I don’t think they’re composed well or there’s nothing special about them.
“Over the years I’ve realized I can either be frustrated all the time, or I can just not take it personally. We have two photographers. As long as one of us gets the shot, at this point, I’m happy. I just sort of realized there are some things out of my control and do the best of my ability and try not to actually screw up the shot myself.
Ray Lewis / Credit: Shawn Hubbard
“I finally decided to stop being a baby and enter some photo contests. The first one I entered was Photo District News (PDN) and won in the sports contest “The Shot” with a photo of Justin Tucker, then I got second place in the NFL Hall of Fame photo contest.
“During halftime of a back-and-forth game against the Bengals, everybody has these big black jackets on, and I see Ray, sitting there, noone sitting next to him, and he’s just got this look in his eye. I tried to stealthily side-step over there and knelt down quietly and started snapping away. It’s one of those images that while you’re taking it you think something’s good about it but it happens so quickly…and then you go back and you can really see the depth and emotion and expression.