Behind-the-Scenes with UNC’s Sports Photographer

Sports photography is often one of the more daunting types of photojournalism. It is fast-paced, requires an intense focus, demands long hours and a lot of expensive gear. There is built in drama, energy and action.

At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, we take pride in our athletics. People all over the world recognize UNC athletes, rejoice with them when they win and mourn with them when they lose. But all of the university’s official photos of these iconic athletes, the packed basketball arena and the passionate fans had to come from somewhere.

Who’s behind the camera for those shots?

Since 2005, it’s been Jeffrey A. Camarati.

For this project, I interviewed Jeff and asked him to talk about how he ended up as the Director of Photography for UNC Athletics, as well as share bit about what he actually does as a professional sports photographer in general. I then shadowed him at a women’s basketball game in Carmichael Arena to document his process.

The goal here is to give viewers a behind-the-scenes perspective on – and promote awareness of – all that it takes to be a director of sports photography. Watch the video below to meet Jeff and hear his story.

Explore the infographic below, too, for a run down of what life is like for sports photographers, the kind of gear they use, the sports they shoot and where to find them at the next game you attend.



Video Transcript

*Background conversation*

*UNC band at a basketball game can be heard playing in background*

I’m Jeffrey Camarati. I was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Grew up in Parma, Ohio. Been in North Carolina since 1999.

I begin my career in newspapers. Then I took a sabbatical, lived in the Dominican Republic for a little while. When I move back to the states I needed a new job, and I happened to get a job at Duke. They hired me specifically to work with the sports information department. And so that’s kind of where I started, where I was a sports photographer. After I left there, I did freelance, was back into editorial. But when I landed a position at UNC, it was specifically with sports information.

I was able to talk UNC into having one photographer. Prior to me, they just had a stable of freelancers. So, I convinced them that one person was better than six because there’d be consistency and whatnot. And then they created a position for me and I joined the staff in January of 2005.

*Women’s basketball playing in a game against Providence. Students cheering in background*

Things become easier as you do them more often. As far as the day to day “easy,” it’s hard. Everything’s hard because you’re dealing with people all the time. Eight-hundred student athletes, we have 21 head coaches, very different personalities, different expectations.

*Women’s basketball team playing. Students cheering*

I get to meet a lot of good people. A lot of them I’ve become friends with, and I’ve stayed friends with. Students that I worked with in 2004, you know, we’re still in contact.

Sports photography is no different than other photography. You need to do research, you need to know what’s happening, who’s, you know, the important people in the story, what is the storyline.

It is different in that people are running around with sticks and balls, but it’s still storytelling. It’s still journalism, just a different subject.

*Game buzzer goes off and whistle blows as screen goes dark*

Other Work

MEJO 121 Interview Assignment

MEJO 121 Sequence Assignment

This page is the culmination of my final project for MEJO 121: Introduction to Digital Storytelling, Fall 2017. I chose to follow Jeffrey A. Camarati, Director of Photography for UNC-Chapel Hill’s Athletics.