By ProGrade Digital | March 23, 2024

In the dynamic world of sports photography, the challenge is not just about capturing the critical moment but also about infusing personal style and handling the heat of the game. Today, we sit across from two seasoned sports photographers, Ben Green, Team Photographer for the Buffalo Bills, and Ben Ludeman, Team Photographer for the Buffalo Sabres and Buffalo Bandits, to understand their unique journeys, creative philosophies, and their takes on the adrenaline-fueled realm of capturing sports moments.

Green’s experience spans across ice hockey and football with teams like the Buffalo Bills, Buffalo Sabres, and Kansas City Chiefs, while Ludeman brings insights from his time shooting with the Buffalo Sabres, Buffalo Bandits, Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins, and more.

Here’s what these photographers had to share about the same set of questions.

From Snapshots to Sidelines: Intro to Photography

Interviewer: To start, could each of you briefly share how you first got into photography? Ben Green, perhaps you could also touch on how your educational background influenced you, and Ben Ludeman, how you made the leap from a business major to photography.

Ben Ludeman: In college, I was a business major because I had no idea what I wanted to do. I wanted to stay in sports, but I had no clue what I could do or what I was good at, so it all clicked when I picked up a camera.

Ben Green: No pun intended.

Ben Ludeman: It just felt natural, and I was terrible, but I enjoyed it and it was a great way to get the best seats in the house — a way to be involved with sports after finishing my college career. Being a business major when I was a freelancer helped as I was running my own business, but there wasn’t much of a leap because I never knew what I was doing in business. It was easy to decide I was going to do photography.

Ben Green: So, what was your first exposure to photography as a job?

Ben Ludeman: The summer going into my senior year of college, I was a marketing intern for the Chesapeake Bayhawks and they had me shoot an event at a bar. Apparently, it went well enough because they had me shoot corporate signage at the first game. When I finished, they had me stay and shoot action on the field, while most of the other interns were stuck up in the box. I knew that this was what I wanted to do. How’d you get your start?

Ben Green: I always say I’m a 3rd generation photographer, but it implies an alternate reality to what I experienced. My grandpa owned a camera store and worked for the Boston Globe. My dad grew up in the store and freelanced for years but eventually left for a career in software. By the time I was born, my grandpa had passed, and my dad hadn’t picked up a camera for work in decades. Cameras were always around so they were always a part of my legacy but not a part of my life. In college, I wanted to pursue history. I ended up adding classes in psychology and journalism to expand my studies. Through some of those classes, I was encouraged to put together a portfolio, which I did, and sent it off to a friend who worked at the student newspaper. A few weeks later found myself on the field for the University of Oregon spring football game, with a camera in my hand and no clue what I was doing. I pretty much thought that newspapers were the only career in sports photography until I met you (Ben Ludeman) during my senior year and learned about the whole team side of this job. You gave me a list of 50 team sports photographers to follow on Instagram and that became the starting point of my career.

Mentorship and Influential Figures:

Interviewer: It sounds like mentorship has played a significant role for both of you. Could you share a bit about your key mentors and how they’ve shaped your approach? Feel free to comment on each other’s experiences or add your thoughts.

Ludeman: I think finding mentors, especially early in your career, is super, super important. I think having a variety of mentors with diversified experience, if you can, is beneficial because everyone approaches things differently. Different workflows, different experience, different priorities that they’re bringing to the table. Trying to aggregate all of their advice, and experience is helpful.

When I was fresh out of college, I was able to assist Nat Butler at NBA Entertainment in New York and I learned a hell of a lot from him. You know, helping break down his remotes, run ethernet lines, all that sort of stuff. Just being able to watch how he approached a game was an awesome experience for me in terms of development.

Then, as an intern with the Minnesota Twins, Brace Hemmelgarn was a big mentor. And then, as an extension, Brad Rempel with the University of Minnesota as well because those two are good friends. I still pick their brains all the time.

I think early in my career, before I had a full-time job in photography, those were a few of the biggest mentors for me and they helped shape how I approach not just the game, but also the back-end administrative parts of the job. Also, not stressing yourself out or overthinking and falling into the paralysis by analysis trap during stressful movements. They helped teach me to stay grounded, throwing me in the deep end when I needed it and it helped me realize that I can swim. It’s okay, it’s alright. It’s scary, but I can do it. It shaped me because there are plenty of times I go shoot something and feel like, ‘I’ve never done this before’ but I can pull in other experiences and figure it out as I go.

Green: Yeah, I think you touched on something that’s very in line with where my heart is about this industry. This is a highly specialized role requiring us to be a jack of all trades, with regard to photography genres. I know I say this way too much, but it truly takes a village to raise a professional photographer. Villages require several people who are extremely good at what they do to make it run, to allow everyone to strive and thrive. Everyone can’t have the same role, otherwise, you’ll end up with too much food and no water, no medicine, etc. That same principle applies to photography, surround yourself with more than just your genre of photographers. Find mentors in portrait, food, wedding, or architectural photography – build your village and allow yourself to grow.

Ludeman: Yeah. I mean, especially someone like Nat who was doing this when they were shooting on Hasselblads while Jordan was playing has also evolved with the times and drastic industry changes such as the expected turnaround time of photos for social and wires.

So being able to pick his brain in terms of how things have been done, how things have changed, what you can pull in from the old ways that are still applicable — which is a context that someone who started out when you and I did, would not have without a mentor like Nat.

Especially with how much technology has changed this industry, like you’re saying, talking to people with a variety of experience and specialties will only make you more well-rounded and you can pull stuff from one genre and apply it to another.

Green: Another influence when you’re operating in the team space, is that we have our own teams of freelancers, editors, part-timers, full-timers, and interns. Being able to bounce things off and work for people who are your mentor, like for me working for Steve Sanders in Kansas City, or working for Brandon Magnus as a freelancer when we were with the Sharks, and seeing the different ways in which people manage those teams, and the instruction that they’re giving to their photographers, and the expectations that they’re setting.

The emphasis that they place on one area, or another helps you learn how to document moments when you’re dealing with more than one camera operator, and how to do it effectively and humanely so that you’re not stretching people too thin or overworking or over-pressurizing them.

Ludeman: To that point too, so much of this job is not shooting the game. It is making sure you have stuff for corporate sponsors, making sure that you have ballpark shots for graphic design, and making sure that every facet of a team is covered.

Green: Exactly, only 10% of our job is actually taking the photo, what fills the other 90% is so incredibly important.

Ludeman: Right. Even the photos that you are taking, it’s not all about, “I got that touchdown. I got that goal.” There’s so much more that you need to cover throughout the course of a game and season for various stakeholders that learning that from, Brace and Brad was incredibly helpful. It is eye-opening when you first get into the team side, for example, how much needs to get captured that is not Byron Buxton celebrating a home run!

Diverse Roles and Responsibilities: Game Day Rhythms

Interviewer: You both have unique roles, with Ben Green focusing on the Bills and Ben Ludeman covering a range of sports and events. How do these roles differ in terms of challenges and approaches? What’s a typical game day like for each of you?

Ludeman: One of the biggest ways that our roles differ is the number of games that we’re covering. Because of that, there are a lot more chances to swing and miss in hockey which allows me to try something like setting a 35mm dasher camera and if I get 2 photos out of it then it’s great!

Contrast that to football and if you try something like that and it doesn’t work out then you miss a 1/16th of the season trying something different. There’s a lot more give in terms of being able to attempt creative looks. On the flip side, the biggest challenge with a sport like hockey is the sheer amount of games and trying to stay creatively engaged in it.

It was very tough in a sport like baseball with a 10-game home stand. There are games where you’re on autopilot, you cover what’s in front of you and you just don’t have the creative energy to go above and beyond. It’s a lot easier in hockey with fewer games but more opportunities to be creative.

Green: So how do you view the word challenge in this context?

Ludeman: I think “challenge” often gets a negative connotation and that’s unfair. I like a challenge in photography, and I think the challenge of “okay, what am I going to do differently this time” is one of the biggest challenges of hockey but also my favorite part about it. You get so many games to stay creatively engaged, so I decide on some nights I’m going to set a 35mm dasher, on others I’ll put an overhead remote here, I’ll do different things. So the more games and opportunities you have, it allows you to move around and get creative with it.

Green: I agree with that. The number of games you have in a season changes; I don’t want to say importance because I feel like it places the wrong connotation on this but it places rather a different level of pressure. When I used to work in your role I felt the same way, the more games I had equated to the number of opportunities I could try different techniques.

When it came to focusing on the guaranteed 17 games we get in football, I was operating where I had to plan out the things I wanted to try. But mainly focusing on those games and what’s occurring in them.

Ludeman: So what you’re saying is that each game just means so much more because there are fewer of them?

Green: Exactly. There’s so much fun in photography, but when it comes to our jobs, it’s always going to clash with the reality of having to accomplish the task at hand. As much creativity and artistry as there is in our jobs, there is still the reality that for me I get 17 regular season games. For you, 41 home games and however many you travel for. So much of the beginning of the season is getting the stock, documenting every player, nailing every play, getting your feet back underneath you, your sea legs. You’re making sure that you’re quick and that you’re getting those moments but that you’re also expressing your creativity.

By the time you get to the playoffs, you want to be in that rhythm where you can operate at the highest level but also get a little bit creative. When you’re in that situation, the reality is that you just have to get what you need. If you’re not locked in, then you’re going to miss things.

So it’s not to say that we don’t get creative with every image we make, because everything from the framing to the lighting is an expression of creativity. Rather, the over-the-top creative expressions such as hanging lights in the tunnel sometimes have to get scrapped to make sure all of our gameday responsibilities are achieved and that we don’t distract ourselves from the tasks at hand.

Developing a Unique Style in a Competitive Field:

Interviewer: Sports photography is highly competitive. How have each of you developed your unique style? Ben Ludeman, how has covering a variety of sports influenced your approach, and Ben Green, how do you capture the essence of football uniquely?

Ludeman: Even if you’re not shooting a ton of street photography, fashion, or portrait, it’s important to study those genres because you can bring elements of them into your approach to covering a game.

To an extent, it’s similar to mentoring, it’ll make you a much more well-rounded photographer. More specifically, within sports photography, covering a lot of sports has helped me with my approach to each one.  At Globe Life Field we had a catwalk and I’ve always loved overhead angles in indoor sports, so it became important for me to go up that catwalk as much as I could to bring that perspective to what is traditionally an outdoor sport. Also, we were one of the few teams who had a catwalk so it’s one of the more obvious ways to take advantage of your unique setting that you’re covering games in.

I’ve always loved the hockey photos with a strobe on one side to create shadows on the ice and so, approaching it with that kind of hockey or basketball overhead mindset to another sport is a very specific example of how covering a variety of sports in my past has helped me in whatever sport I’m working on at the time. Covering as much baseball as I did has helped me look for the quiet moments a little bit better because there are a lot of those moments in baseball.

Now I’m able to bring that focus to fast-paced contact sports and find the quiet moments when you wouldn’t traditionally think they exist, pulling that experience in from baseball. Also being able to work in the photo wells with amazing photographers helped me learn a lot that I’ve taken with me. In 2022, I watched Cooper Neill set a 135mm remote, wide open on the batter’s box for Aaron Judge’s record-setting 62nd home run with autofocus on. Cameras these days have such insane AF that they’ll track a subject through the frame, wide open, and nail it. Immediately I thought to myself that I needed to steal that idea and use it somewhere, somehow, and that was the impetus for the natural light, autofocus on wide open primes dasher remote. It came from watching him be a madman and set one for a very high-pressure moment. But the shots he got from it were incredible. So that is very directly watching someone else work and applying something from another sport to whatever sport you’re covering.

Green: I mean, I’m going to keep just obsessing over [Ben Ludeman’s] work, but you see that in the photos that you take. Specifically your catwalk photos, but any time you get that Ben Ludeman on the ground you’re going to see something different than you’d ever expect to see in that sport!

Ludeman: I have developed an obsession with the connection between geometry and sports and I think overhead is one of the easiest and most fun ways to play with that.

Green: I recall the photos from the Portland Winterhawks, the major junior hockey team that you covered for a while, from when they used to open up the windows at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. They would get this window effect because it was a rectangular building and you’d get this amazing sunset photo, and it was just so beautiful. When you think sports photography, you think two guys and a ball, two guys and a puck, but you’ve taken it so much further than that.

Ludeman: Going back to shooting a variety of sports, I honestly didn’t grow up a baseball guy and when I would go to a baseball game, it was a social thing. It was not like, “I gotta go watch Nelson Cruz hit!” It was like, I want to go hang out with people, sit in the sun, drink a beer, and watch a game. That was my approach to shooting baseball. It’s a sport, but it’s also what surrounds the sport. So, I think covering a sport like that has informed how I’m covering other things like the Bills fans tailgating this season.

Green: Something that Steve Sanders always said to me in Kansas City is that “sports are more than a game, and to cover them effectively, you have to treat it like an event, that a game just happens to be occurring in.”

What you’re talking about — the fan coverage, going elevated, and incorporating all these other styles, that is our job. Whether it’s football, whether it’s hockey, whether it’s lacrosse, you can’t just show up to a game, set up your cameras, step foot on the field, or sit down next to ice and just cover that action because if you do that you’re not telling the story. Rather, you’re telling the story of the game. You’re not telling a story of everything that happened.

You could consider us historians, artists, or visual storytellers. I come from the same mindset as you. Our love for photo books, whether it’s black and white photography, street, food, or the books I have of skiing, you’ve got books of Portraits Across America. We are always studying different styles because when we show up on game day, we’re not just there to cover the action. We’re there to make pictures that bolster the action to tell the entire story. And I think you can’t do that unless you’ve been informed about other styles of photography.

Ludeman: Speaking of quotes, one has always stuck out to me and I’m going to butcher it because it’s paraphrasing, but it goes, “The best photo you’ll take of sport X is when that sport looks like sport Y.” So, you know, the best baseball photo you’ll take is when it looks like football. You know Nolan Ryan punching Robin Ventura for example does not look like a baseball photo, but it’s an iconic baseball photo.

That’s an oversimplification and not applicable all the time but that’s always been an interesting thought experiment for me. So, having a variety of sports in your background will only help you see and focus on elements of that.

Green: I love that quote. When you think of an amazing baseball photo, we’re not necessarily talking about the pitcher doing the same wind-up he’s done for the past 25 years of his life. We’re talking about a runner sliding into home plate, colliding with the catcher, and the ball flying out and it looks like a football tackle. We’re talking about football images where they look like they’re professional ballerinas dancing through the air or like they’re in Cirque Du Soleil.

The Role of Equipment in Capturing the Moment:

Interviewer: Let’s talk about gear. How important is your equipment in achieving your vision, and why do you choose ProGrade Digital Products? Feel free to discuss any specific gear that’s crucial to your work.

Ludeman: I mean, one of the most important things for me is the reliability of equipment. When I was in Texas, I was in the catwalk shooting a game and there was a walk off home run. At the time I was using a different brand of card and those cards corrupted and failed during that walk off homerun celebration. That was the most depressing climb down from the catwalk I ever had. That’s part of why I use ProGrade Digital now, because they have been very reliable, and I don’t have that worry in the back of my mind during big moments.

Green: I think the answer that everybody expects is that gear doesn’t matter because that’s the one that we always hear. But I think that’s a very generalist sort of term.

Ludeman: And I think it’s not true.

Green: I think it’s true to an extent though. I want to hear why you don’t think it’s true.

Ludeman: I think it’s way too broad of a generalization. If you hired Neil Leifer but if you only gave him a 15mm fisheye, he wouldn’t be able to holistically cover the game, which is not a reflection on him as a photographer, he is a legend. He’d still make amazing images but would be limited by the gear. It is purely to illustrate that — especially with sports — gear plays an important role.

Gear won’t make a photographer, but gear does play a role in allowing a photographer to be the best they can be.

Green: I agree with that. If I’m going on a trip to Costa Rica, the best camera is the one that’s in my hands because I’m trying to document my moments, whether it’s my iPhone, whether it’s my Sony A1, whether it’s a film camera, a medium format, a large format, whatever. The camera in my hand is the best camera. But that is when we’re talking specifically just about the art of it. However, it also ignores the fact that not every moment is the same, as you said.

If I’m in Costa Rica on that trip and I only have one type of camera and one type of lens with me then that’s what I’m limited to. So, if I want to capture something differently, I can’t. That’s when gear becomes important, especially in sports. Like you said, when we have to do this on the highest level, gear is of the highest importance.

If I’m sitting outside in subzero temperatures for 10 hours during the day, I want to know that my cards are going to be reliable. And that’s something that I ran into this season. So, different from you with the corrupt cards, I ran into an issue where it was so cold on the sidelines this season and I was using some older cards from a different brand that two of my cameras quite literally could not read them. Thankfully my main camera body could read cards because it was using ProGrade Cards.

When we talk about the speed that these cards have — I’m trying to send something instantly where I must run to my computer and upload those images as quickly as possible. I have a ProGrade card reader and it’s two, three, or four times as fast as the other brands. That allows me to do my job better than people who are using the competition. And that’s where gear matters.

Navigating Challenges and Embracing Rewards:

Interviewer: What are some of the biggest challenges you face in sports photography, and conversely, what do you find most rewarding? How do you handle high-pressure moments during a game?

Green: I think staying creative is always one of the biggest challenges because, as much as I love photography, when you do this every single day for a job, it often blends in your brain to just being a job. Even if you enjoy it, you’re passionate about it, you live and breathe for it, and you’ve worked at it for years, I think staying creative is one of the biggest challenges in this industry.

For me, it has always been so rewarding, when I feel that way, to pull myself out of that rut. Whether it’s slowing myself down, as I learned from listening to Alex Soth, shooting on film, taking a step back, going to art museums, or reading photo books. It’s always been very rewarding when I do take in all that information and then apply it and show myself that it’s not just a job and this is something I am passionate about.

Ludeman: I agree. I would say that that is also not specific to any organization or honestly any sport and not even to sports photography. I think it’s photography as a whole. You can’t always be at your best. You can’t always be your most creative, so try to stay as creative as you can but every single photographer will have ended up in a creative rut. Learning how to get out of those and work through them is important.

Something that helps me the most is to study a completely different genre of photography and bring that into the next game. Like at the Bills last game I was like, “Okay, I’m just going to approach this like it’s street photography, Highmark Stadium just happens to be the venue.” But there are a bunch of different ways you could approach that. You could approach it like it is a study in architecture photography, a study in street photography, a study in documentary photography of workers clearing out snow from the stadium before the game. I think changing your approach and getting out of your comfort zone. One example could be limiting yourself like, today I’m just shooting with a 50mm and a 400mm, nothing else.

Obviously, stay within the confines of your job. But getting out of your comfort zone, be it with the gear you’re working with, or the type of photography you’re looking at. Instagram is great, but my feed for years was sports, sports, sports, sports, sports. And it felt like it clicked something for me when I got out of just the sports world and started to look at other things, I felt like I got out of that creative rut a lot quicker and a lot easier.

Green: You’ve gotta create.

Ludeman: Sports like hockey or baseball, give you more opportunities to do that because there are so many more opportunities and you can try and if you fail, it’s okay. So, staying creative is one of the biggest challenges. But it’s also the most rewarding part. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve texted you, “Dude, I just thought of something. Call me right now, I need to talk through this right now” and we flesh out a nugget of an idea into something feasible. I think that’s the most rewarding part — seeing something and being like, that’s really cool, someone did this. Let me tweak it, put my own spin on it, and fold it into the world of sports.

Green: So for the high-pressure moments, how do you handle those?

Ludeman: I think, I mean, the more high-pressure moments you’re in, the easier they get. But just take a deep breath and ultimately, it’s a play. It’s a play just like the other ones that have been run. Be aware of historical significance and let that guide you in your planning for it. But at the end of the day, it’s just a play.

I think one of the first high-pressure moments that comes to mind for me was covering the first pitch in the history of Globe Life Field. It was during COVID, so no field-level access for me, and no fans, but it was the first pitch in the history of the stadium, the first home run, and the first hit. So, trying to tell that story, in a single frame felt super high pressure to me. But I thought through it logically before, had a rough idea of what I wanted to do. Then I got to my position, realized I had a better idea I could do with a small tweak, and rolled with it.

Early in my career, I don’t think I would’ve allowed myself the flexibility to adjust like that, especially in a high-pressure moment and it hindered me. Paralysis by analysis would get the best of me a lot early on but breathing, taking a step back, and having the confidence that I’ll get something is generally what I lean on.

Also, I started to realize that high-pressure moments are some of the best times for storytelling. So instead of focusing on trying to get the bat on the ball, you give yourself a bit more wiggle room by shooting a bit wider, getting the crowd’s reaction, and player’s reaction, and telling the story of the moment instead of just trying to focus purely on tightly shot peak action. High-pressure moments inherently will elicit emotion from players and the crowd.

Green: I was not born with ice in my veins. There’s no question about that. But I agree with a lot of what you said, the more you are in these situations, the more comfortable and confident you are to operate and react.

I remember my first Super Bowl and the mistakes I made were 100% anxiety and nerve-driven. The same with my first NFL game. But the reason that I never spiraled gets back to a point you touched on, but something that my dad instilled in me when I grew up playing goalie in hockey — the moment you focus on the goal that you just let in, you’re going to let another and another and another. If we focus on the mistakes that we’re making in the moment and the things that negatively affect us in those moments, then we take ourselves out of the game. I think it applies to us a lot as photographers. As sports photographers we’re there to react, we’re not there to impact, if that makes sense.

Advice for Aspiring Sports Photographers:

Interviewer: What advice would you give to aspiring sports photographers, especially those without formal education in photography? How important is networking and building connections in this field?

Ludeman: You absolutely do not need formal education in this field, especially for the world of sports.

Green: You do not need a college degree.

Ludeman: Nope. One of the best assets for beginning photographers is YouTube. You could learn a hell of a lot from YouTube. That was where I first figured out a lot about photography because when you first pick up a camera, you might be embarrassed to ask, like, “Hey, what’s aperture? What does that mean?” And so YouTube will teach you a lot. BYU Photo has great educational You Tube channel.

I was sending messages back and forth with Brace and Brad the other day, about a video they made on flash duration. It’s not just for beginners, you can keep learning no matter where you are in your career. Especially in the internet age, go find education online. It’s a lot cheaper than trying to get a Masters in photography or something.

Green: What about networking?

Ludeman: Networking and building connections are so important. Like you were saying earlier, building your village is critical. What do you think?

Green: When people ask me about my career, I always say two things — “I worked extremely hard to get to where I am, but I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am now without networking and building connections.” Because networking not only informs your practice, but it also helps you have opportunities in this career. I owe quite literally everything to the people that have helped me. But, that wouldn’t have happened without the hard work to be ready and experienced enough for the next opportunity. I think those two things go hand-in-hand.

Ludeman: In terms of other advice — study everything. Study outside of the field or avenue of photography you want to work in. Look at art outside of photography too. Apply that to whatever you’re shooting. Just go make yourself well-rounded by looking at things that you like. Finding what you think is cool will help you figure out your style and vision as a photographer.

Green: The first piece of advice that came to my mind was if you’re an aspiring sports photographer, was that you should focus on learning the exposure triangle, how everything intersects, learning how to adjust the white balance, and making sure that you can walk into a room and walk outside that can be cloudy, it can be raining it could be snowing, you could be on halogens or fluorescents, and you’re getting as close to a perfect exposure as possible.

But after listening to your piece of advice and remembering my early career, I think that would’ve hurt my growth because I would have focused so much on the image, it would have taken me away from the art. I think that’s such a big part of an early career photographer, it’s taking in all the information and being well-rounded as early on as you can because you’ve got to think of it as like a child’s brain development. You develop your artistic brain and the more information you can feed that, the less regimented it is, the more it’ll grow and expand.

Ludeman: I’d argue that your advice is significantly more practical. The other piece of advice from me is everyone should ask photographers they respect to do a portfolio review. It will be scary, it will hurt. It is the most vulnerable you will feel as a photographer. But having someone shred your work will make you significantly better.

The other piece of advice is to learn metadata. You will kick yourself down the line if you put it off. I have years of stuff that isn’t searchable in my archive because photomechanics and metadata were scary things and they weren’t the “fun” part of the job. But they are so important and are necessary to at least have a basic understanding of for most careers in photography.

Looking Ahead: Future Goals and Projects:

Interviewer: What are you both looking forward to in your careers? Are there any specific sports, events, or projects that excite you?

Green: Look, I think big events are always fun. But, you know, we hear this all the time, we say it ourselves — it doesn’t matter what event you’re shooting, what matters is the images you are making.

What excites me right now is where I see my career starting to go, which is a lot more into the portrait and studio space. I’m not saying that I’m leaving the field or action sports, but more so expanding what I’m focusing my energy on. I’ve been enjoying that so far and I hope to continue learning and growing in that area, working on studio photography and headshots, media days, and everything that goes into that ultra-creative process. It’s very different than a lot of the other work we do. As a sports photographer on the field, we’re adapting to a situation. I think when you’re in the studio, you’re creating the situation. Having both of those in my life at the same time gives me creative balance.

Ludeman: I’m excited to get back to hockey and lacrosse, two sports that were something I was involved in more early in my career. Being back in it and being able to throw myself at hockey and lacrosse, in a new city for me is exciting. In Buffalo, sports mean so much here, in a different way anywhere else I’ve lived. So being able to immerse myself into that and bring my storytelling to these teams is something that excites me.

Reflections on Each Other’s Work and the Industry:

Interviewer: Having worked in the same field but in different capacities, what do you admire about each other’s work? Also, where do you see sports photography heading in the future?

Ludeman: You were one of the first sports photographers I saw who was willing to try the “weird” and bring stuff in from other parts of photography and just try things. You were thinking of, trying, and successfully executing photos that wouldn’t even occur to me when met. When we became friends, I was still stuck in the sports-centric approach.

Green: I’ve never felt like that showed in my work. It’s always something I have tried to do. I never felt like I had succeeded in it, so that surprises me a lot. It’s always been a pursuit and it will hopefully always remain a pursuit of mine. But I just I don’t think I’ve ever succeeded at so that means a lot.

Ludeman: Buddy, that APSC lens that you put on the full-frame camera that created that crazy looking 60mm that kind of mimicked the look of the Neil Leifer huddle fisheye is the first thing that pops into my head.

That’s the stuff I’m talking about. It’s like you were learning the rules and then deciding which ones will look the coolest to break when most of us are stuck operating within the rules, not even realizing we can break them.

I think it’s why I am so inclined to bounce weird or dumb ideas off of you because usually you’ll be like, “Go do it, go try it” and we figure out the most feasible way to do it logistically. I think that’s what I admire the most — you try the weird, but you don’t sacrifice getting what you need to purely get the weird. You manage to do both.

Green: Thanks, man. For me, I’ve always looked to your work as my inspiration. You shoot so cleanly, but with so much emotion and artistry that I never look at your photos and feel like I’m not in the moment with them. There’s never an over-edit. There’s never anything that would be to the contrary of putting the viewer in that moment, and that’s what I’ve always tried to emulate from your work. It gives that feeling of being there.

We look at so many photos between the two of us every week, whether it’s our own or other people’s, and the one thing that remains consistent is making somebody feel something with a photo is a very difficult thing to do. I think you’re able to do that not just once in a while, but on a very consistent basis and a lot of that is a testament to your eye.

It’s also a testament to the things that you’re willing to try, like throwing a prime 85mm lens in a dasher remote camera. That’s not something that people are doing and you’re doing that. It brings somebody to a space that somebody who’s never played hockey before has been. They’ve only ever watched it on TV or in the nosebleeds. And now they’re not close, they’re on ice level from an angle that they’ve never experienced before, that makes somebody feel something. I admire how you do that with intention, for every single photo you take.

What about where you see the sports photography industry going?

Ludeman: One of the primary things that’s happening is autofocus is getting so good, you’re getting so many frames per second at this point that the floor of what sports photography is going to be is going to come up. Even if you’re someone with less experience, you don’t have to be able to pull focus on a deep ball coming at you with a 600 if you’re shooting football anymore. Autofocus can do that insanely well. Getting a bat-on-the-ball photo in baseball is way easier now since the A9 III can shoot 120 frames per second. My first top-of-the-line camera shot 10 frames per second. Some of the skill-based aspects of photography don’t require nearly as much skill. Instead of fighting that and saying “back in my day” in a grouchy way (which I understand that sentiment), I think we need to lean in and explore the possibilities this opens for us.

Fast AF and high FPS can help, but technology alone cannot make someone a good visual storyteller. It can’t make their composition interesting. The technical aspect is being aided by the advances in technology, but it is not changing the art side of anything and that’s where we will see people stand out.

Green: I think we’re going to see two things go on with sports photography over the next 5 to 10 years. First, I think lighting is becoming more accessible than it ever has been before. There’s a lot less thinking you have to do and less pressure than in the film days. There aren’t the financial constraints you had with film. Pair that with companies releasing more affordably priced lights, and it makes it more accessible for early-career photographers. So I think we’re going to see a lot more lighting come into sports photography than has been there before.

And second, we’re around 15 years since the first full-time sports photographers joined teams, and I think we’re starting to hit an age in which those photo teams are starting to become well-oiled because people have learned from those first full-timers. We’re building this very strong network and community and we’re learning from each other and building efficient systems. I believe we’re going to see that grow a lot over the next ten years.

Closing Thoughts and Key Takeaways:

Interviewer: To wrap up, could each of you share a key takeaway or philosophy that has guided your career in photography? It could be about workflow, adaptability, or anything else that you find important.

Ludeman: Don’t ever think you know everything and don’t stop learning. Reevaluate your workflow often because you’ll learn new things. You’ll be able to apply new knowledge, for example, adding hotcodes into our workflow this year. That was something I brought in from an offseason deep dive while I was at the Rangers, looking for ways to improve efficiency and eliminate as much potential for human error as possible. Always study. Don’t ever think you’re too good for something and just keep learning everything you can like. Every offseason I want to dive into something. Last year was hotcodes, this year I want to dive into color theory in the offseason. You can always make yourself better and more well-rounded.

Green: I fully agree with that. I think a little bit of information is good, but it can also be very dangerous. Use the information that you have, analyze the information that you have, use it to grow, use it to learn, but don’t use it as a point to stand on because there’s always more information out there that you can take in and learn from.

Especially for photographers who are starting out — social media doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter who likes your photo. It doesn’t matter who views your reel. None of that matters. The amount of anxiety and stress that you’re going to put yourself through trying to keep up with that is never going to benefit you because those things just don’t matter.

Build your community, talk to people, use social media to post the work that makes you happy, not the work that you think will make other people like you, and use it to connect with people. I think it’s a great place to post your work, talk about it, and get to know other creatives. This industry is highly competitive, but it’s not a popularity contest. Use the people that are here, because almost all of us are willing to help. But the engagement numbers on a post are not what matters.

Ludeman: In that same vein, social media is not a portfolio. It doesn’t matter if you’re using a free portfolio site or have a website. Free is fine. But if you apply for a job, do not send your Instagram as your portfolio.


In conclusion, this insightful dialogue between Ben Ludeman and Ben Green illustrates how diverse backgrounds and experiences in the sports photography arena shape individual approaches and philosophies. Ludeman’s focus on continuous learning and innovation in workflow reflects an adaptive mindset critical for staying relevant in a rapidly evolving field. Green, with an emphasis on community building and creativity, reminds us of the importance of authenticity and personal satisfaction in one’s work. Their shared insights offer a valuable perspective for both emerging and seasoned photographers, highlighting that while technology advances, it’s the photographer’s unique vision and relentless pursuit of knowledge that truly define the art of sports photography. As the industry looks ahead, the fusion of technical skill, creative storytelling, and the human element will continue to be the cornerstone of impactful visual narratives in sports.