In our latest Industry Insider, we’re heading to the US as we chat to Matthew Dingle about life working as a photographer in the world of US soccer.
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
My name is Matthew Dingle, I’m 20 and I’m a university student and professional photographer. Currently, my full time role is director of photography (DOP) for a third division men’s soccer club in the US, as well as a freelance photographer for both Adidas, MLS, and publications like COPA90.
What do you do in your current role?
When it comes to my freelance work, I take on clients and capture their needs, whatever they may be. Currently my work for Adidas covers product shoots like the 22’ World Cup match ball. For clients like MLS and pro athletes, I cover match photography and private training sessions. As DOP for Georgia Storm, my main duties include covering the matchday photography for the men’s senior team, as well as covering the youth programs as needed. I upload and edit the club’s photography for social media use, as well as promoting the players within the club online.
“Normal” isn’t a thing in sport so what does an “average” week look like for you?
To no one’s surprise, my work weeks fluctuate greatly as a freelancer. During the “standard” work days I’m lining up any freelance shoots, and come the weekend my most consistent work begins. Most soccer matches are played on the weekend, so a standard two day weekend for me is jam packed. I generally edit and take care of post production the same day, so my turnaround window is very small as well. To put it in layman’s terms, my work week is the opposite of everyone else’s!
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
My journey to where I am now is one that I feel is crucial to the creative industry. I started taking photos of my high school football team, and from there my love for the sports photography experience grew- despite not realizing that I could take it on as my career. I attended my dream art school after graduating, only to drop out and transfer to my backup school after quickly realizing I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to pursue. During this time in my life, I was still consistently shooting whatever I could. A lot of my personal projects as a photographer came about at this time, and when these personal works started to gain a solid following on my social media, I started to look at photography as a more serious option. From there, the hard work is what got me to where I am now. I say all of this to champion the idea to others my age that it’s entirely okay to feel lost, and that sometimes the perfect fit for your career is found in what you’re already doing for fun.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
When it comes to my mindset while working, I try to stay as creatively focused as I am in my free time. As a creative in the industry, I spend a lot of my down time brainstorming and getting inspired by the great work I see around me. If I can translate that mindset into my work when I’m on the pitch, or in the studio for a product shoot, then I would consider that a job very well done.
Can you tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from it?
My failures came very early as a photographer. I jumped into the deep end of the professional world with little experience (processes like getting press credentials, sending emails, networking) and quickly found myself in situations where I looked unprepared, inexperienced, and lost on a technical level overall. I had to take a step back and become very self aware, realizing that photography is only half of the job. Being a self sustaining business as a photographer and a people person is just as important and I cannot stress that enough to up and coming creatives alike!
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
The opportunity! It feels as if the doors for younger creatives in this industry are only opening wider, and as someone who has benefited from these circumstances I cannot stress how important that is. The more opportunities, the more diverse perspective the sports world has- and that is crucial going forwards.
If you could change one thing about your Industry, what would you change?
I would change the amount of gatekeeping. It’s definitely getting better, however there are still a large portion of people in the creative world that would rather keep the doors locked and the opportunities to themselves. As I said before, an expanding industry is a beneficial one for both companies and workers alike, and the creative sports world is no exception.
Sport is a hectic industry, what do you do to switch off?
For me, my biggest decompressor is music. I always include music in my creative process and I feel lost without it. Similarly, music helps me shut everything out as well. It lets me focus on one thing only and most times helps me get new ideas that I would not have had I been staring at a screen all day, like I do a majority of the time!
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
Keep an open mind! I often refer to the idea of having a bucket list of experiences you want to have in sports as opposed to a set goal. This industry is one of the least predictable in the world, and you will fail if you keep your eyes on one target only. take whatever opportunities come your way and always remember to be the most approachable person you can be- it will help you in ways you don’t yet realize. In addition, don’t focus on social media too much. Too much emphasis is put on the social/material aspect of this industry, and not the real human aspect. Don’t funnel your work through the amount of likes you get, rather focus on promoting the best work you can. Then the following will organically grow.
How to connect with Matthew Dingle…
Shameless plug incoming…
Thanks for reading our chat with Matthew Dingle! If you want to read more from our Industry Insider series, you can do so by clicking here.