Every time I step onto a golf course for a photo shoot, my goal is to capture a set of images that represent that golf course in its best light. Literally. Because light is the most crucial element in a great golf course photograph. Whether the light I'm working with is a blazing dawn sun breaking the horizon, or soft filtered light streaming through the trees onto a late day fairway or green, the light is the key to a great photo. Light illuminates color, it defines contrast and it reveals detail.
Good "Bones" Matter
Golf courses are unique landscapes. They're collaborations between nature and designers, joining to provide an experience beyond the simple act of hitting a golf ball enough times to get it into the hole. There are courses with spectacular "bones", and those courses are a joy to shoot. But beyond those truly great properties, the vast majority of golf courses offer a good photographer multiple opportunities for great images. The biggest challenge I generally have to overcome is cleanup. Tee boxes usually require significant cleanup. Fairways are seldom flawless, so I often spend time nudging them in that direction. And greens are sometimes less than perfect, especially for photos taken with ultra-high resolution cameras positioned very close. So a little work in these areas is not unusual.
Interesting skies can enhance a good image, turning it into a great image, so I'm always looking for relationships between the elements of the hole I'm shooting and the skies. Many folks feel like a blue sky is ideal for golf, and I agree. For playing golf. Not for photographing a golf course. Great skies introduce a whole new creative tool set to the process and allow a photographer to elevate a picture of a golf hole to a good... or even a great... photograph of a golf hole. And that's always my goal.
First Impressions and Final Thoughts
Today, most images a professional photographer creates will be seen almost exclusively on the internet. But when editing a photograph, I think in terms of very large prints because I want my images to stand out in a very competitive marketplace. Beyond the initial impression of color, light and form, I want the most obscure details to be crystal clear, no matter how closely one examines them. Publishers want great photographs when writing about a golf course, and I want my clients' courses featured prominently in golf publications. Golfers in search of a place to play or a club to join have many options in today's golf market, and I want my clients' courses to capture their attention. To me, it's crucial to ensure that my clients' properties are presented at their very best, whether it's in an article in Golf Digest or in a tiny thumbnail image on Golf Now. First impressions only happen once.