Michael Wilson is a man who loves the game of football. And over the years, Wilson has captured some truly amazing shots for the Australian Football League. But he doesn’t just love the game of football, he knows it, in and out. He lives and breathes football, and that very passion has brought him amazing success in his career as an AFL Sports Photographer.

Early Beginnings as a VFL Sports Photographer

Before he found his career with the Australian Football League, he spent years photographing VFL (Victorian Football League) games as a hobby.

“A lot of people probably wouldn’t know, but I actually used to be a graphic designer,” Wilson says. “Just sort of started shooting VFL games, built a portfolio, got to know other photographers, and yeah, eventually doors started to open.”

It just goes to show that if you work towards your passion, then amazing things can and will happen. What’s that old saying? You do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life? Well, Michael might disagree a bit.

“The biggest misconception about being an AFL photographer is you just work Friday, Saturday, Sunday,” Wilson says. “You sit on the boundary, you get the best seats in the house, and it’s the easiest job in the world. People don’t realize the physical strain there is. You’re lugging heavy equipment around all the time. And there’s pressure there. There’s pressure to file as you’re going, you know, to clubs, and the AFL News Desk. They’re relying on your pictures from the night to feed their social channels.”

Being a sports photographer for an AFL match is something that requires incredibly intense concentration for at least two hours. If you let your attention drift away for just a second, you run the risk of losing the perfect shot.

Bag Basics

During the game, Michael says, “Bag basics for a sports photographer are telephoto, (70-200mm), and a wide angle, so right from the start, you’ll probably want to have those essential items.” When the game is finally over, it’s “Time to get out there. Get pictures of the celebration. Put on that wide angle and a flash and we’re good to go.”

Michael will shoot everything from the mascots to the coin toss, the coaches to the huddles. He says, “The bigger the game, the better the photos get. The better the moments, the more excited the players get as well, I think.”

One essential item he always carries on him is a radio. If he’s getting shots of the audience, it helps to have someone in his ear alerting him to injuries, big moments, and great plays.

On the field and in between shots, he’ll even break out his laptop, open up Adobe Photoshop, crop, edit, and send straight to the AFL home page while still sitting on the sidelines.

AFL Sports Photography | Michael Wilson

All in all, Michael Wilson has had a pretty amazing career in sports photography so far, and he’s showing no signs of stopping.

“People ask me, you know, what other photographers inspire me. I actually don’t want to sort of look at other people’s work too much. I don’t want a preconceived notion on how to shoot something. So that’s kind of a bit of a philosophy I have, I don’t want to be sort of boxed in by any ideas on how something should be shot.”

To check out more of Michael’s incredible work, take a look at his website or follow him on Instagram.

“With most things in life, you kind of speak to people with experience and you just learn from them. Hopefully, I can pass a few of those tips on to other photographers now.”

~ Michael Wilson

*Shared with Permission from the AFL