How to Rake it in Big with Poker Photography

Some tips to turn a steady hand into a winning hand


Poker as a game is incredibly exciting to play but it unfortunately does not lend itself well to spectators, both live and broadcasted. This makes it particularly difficult for photographers to distill the essence of the game without resorting to a hundred and one shots of stony-faced players hidden behind sunglasses, hats, and scarves. In addition, poker games come with their own fair share of problems so preparation is key if any amateur photographer wants to come out a winner.

Here are some things to take into account before going into their first poker gig.

1) Lighting – Depending on the size and scale of the tournament, lighting is going to be one of the biggest hurdles. Even official tournaments hosted in Vegas won’t necessarily have TV grade lighting and since many tournaments prohibit flash photography, this automatically rules out one way that a photographer can work around this. Unless the venue provides ample lighting to accommodate people taking photos or video, it’s going to be a veritable nightmare getting pictures that aren’t underexposed. Prepare for the worst by coming in with lenses with apertures below 2.8 and be ready to work with higher ISO to compensate. (All these shots were at ISO 1600 – 3200, for instance, and most at f/2.8)

Poker chips

2) Know Where You Stand – Depending on whether a photographer is hired officially or if they’re just there as an enthusiastic fan, making sure that they never get in the way of the action is critical. While the pursuit of high quality pictures should be every photographer’s goal, it shouldn’t be reason for trouble with tournament staff, players, and other viewers. A good zoom lens will work wonders here.

Poker chips and cards

3) Understand The Game – Understanding the subject is perhaps the most important part of photographing anything, ever. While experts can and will argue about the benefits of using a Canon over a Nikon and vice versa, everyone’s guaranteed to stress the value of knowing what it is they’re being tasked to photograph.

Outside of understanding the varying hands, poker is a game that incorporates a lot of mental training as players calculate the risk/reward of each scenario. Poker isn’t always about big bluffs and high action bets, and this can bore a photographer who doesn’t understand what’s going on. Playing a couple of tournaments with small buy-ins, such as Sit & Go Tournaments, prior to the event can provide a wealth of information that reading simply can’t provide. Betfair Poker’s Sit & Go Tournaments are ranked 10/10 by and is a good place to start learning the ins and outs of the game.

Throwing playing card towards camera

Like any sort of subject, it’s important to arrive prepared. Don’t let bad lighting conditions prevent you from capturing the essence of the game.

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