Aspire to work in sport photography? Well this one is for you. We had the pleasure of chatting with the talented Matt McNulty about his career so far.
He spent five years working for Premier League champions Manchester City before making the leap into freelance earlier this year…
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
I’m Matt McNulty and I’m 33 years old, born in Manchester where I’ve lived my whole life.
My photography began as a hobby when I was around 15/16 years of age, when I purchased my first DSLR, a Canon 350D and regularly photographed amateur sporting events, music concerts and helped out at weddings to develop my skills.
My actual career in the industry didn’t begin until I was in my mid 20’s, after a whole range of different jobs in offices, airport worker, fashion studios and picture editing.
My first paid sport gigs came with an opportunity at Rochdale AFC where I would cover their home and away matches when their regular club photographer wasn’t available, this allowed me to build up my portfolio as well as contacts with the industry.
In 2013 I covered my first Premier League match for an agency called Media Image, the Manchester Derby of all matches which ended 4-1 to City at the Etihad Stadium. From there I went on to work for JMP, a great agency down in Bristol and SportImage where I learned and developed lots under the guidance of my friend and colleague Simon Bellis.
In 2018 I took what I thought would be a risk at the time with my photography work progressing, by applying for a Picture Editors position at Manchester City to work alongside Victoria Haydn and Tom Flathers in the photography team. I was successful in my interview and spent a full year there working as a contractor in the office.
During this year, I worked a lot of hours by continuing my freelance sports work in the evenings and weekends on top of my 9-5 job at Man City and was lucky enough for my position at the club to be made permanent and promoted to an Assistant Club Photographer.
I spent a further four incredibly surreal years working as a photographer at the Etihad Campus, covering training sessions, matches, new signings, pre-season tours, commercial shoots and trophy lifts. The club won four Premier League titles in the five years I was there and I feel blessed to have been able to capture this amount of success in the clubs history during my time there.
I recently left my role at Man City to continue progressing with my freelance work in the sports, entertainment, commercial and hospitality industry with Getty Images, where I hope to achieve and develop even more as a photographer. Getty is a company I’ve always admired and feel privileged now to have the opportunity to work alongside some of the very best photographers, a huge learning curve in my career.
What do you do in your current role?
My role at Manchester City varied between shooting, editing, organising the photography team rota and schedule, arranging and briefing freelancers, dealing with finance requests/budgets and planning/prepping upcoming shoots. After leaving the club back in February, I’ve been excited to start working with Getty Images where I’ve learned huge amounts in the short space of time so far, working alongside the best and most talented sports photographers in the business whilst covering different types of jobs up and down the country.
“Normal” isn’t a thing in sport so what does an “average” week look like for you?
An average week for a club photographer working at Manchester City usually consisted of training sessions and home/away matches across Men’s, Women’s and Youth teams, press conferences, regular team meetings, BTS shoots on video sets, on and off-site portraits sessions and dealing with many internal requests from within the club. Since my recent career change into the freelance world, my time is now more focussed on researching and developing new skills, networking with potential clients and working on jobs up and down the country with Getty Images.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
I’d say a lot of hard work, learning new skills, pushing boundaries and a small slice of luck played a part in reaching where I am today in my career.
I’ve always loved sport from a very young age before I even touched a camera, so when my photography hobby began to develop into what could work as a career, sport was my number one focus and I put most of my eggs into this basket and feel privileged to do something I love as a job.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
My number one focus is to look for new and unique techniques and ideas which stand out from the crowd and to provide a high standard of photography whilst maintaining an excellent relationship with my clients.
I feel the second you stand still in this industry, you can quickly be overtaken by others so it’s important to stay ahead of the curve and always be looking for new ideas.
With the experience I have now, I feel it’s also important to focus on enjoying the job and making a good atmosphere for colleagues and clients to work in, this always helps to bring out the best in people and their work.
Can you tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from it?
The most obvious example that springs to mind was when I covered a Carabao Cup final at Wembley back in 2018. I decided to take a position at the side of the pitch rather than behind the goal, in the hope I could get something a little different to the other bigger agencies who usually dominate the sales.
By full time, I’d been blocked for a handful of goals and all the big celebrations went the opposite way. Feeling incredibly guilty that my choice of position had meant I missed some of the biggest moments in the match, I learned from this that there are many more things to focus on at a football match then the goals and celebrations.
Due to my experience that day, I’ve focused on and improved my stock photography, made an effort to capture more fans and colour inside and outside stadiums, tried to be more creative and look for things away from the ball and tell the story of the match, focus on news incidents around the event and use a wide-angle lens more to capture any artistic general views during play.
Sport is a hectic industry, what do you do to switch off?
Working in sport often means working a lot of unsociable hours but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I’m a big tennis fan so in my spare time I like to play a lot of tennis, socially and competitively in summer and winter leagues at my club. I also love walking, travelling, spending time with family and friends.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
I think networking is really important in the sports photography industry and putting your best work out there in your portfolio and on social media.
It took me a while when I first started out to be noticed and get my name out there so networking I feel is super important in progressing in the industry.
How to connect with Matt McNulty…