iPhone or DSLR? One of baseball’s best pro photographers is a switch hitter

mangin instagrams brad manginFor many kids who grow up living and breathing baseball, they probably dream of someday becoming an MVP or franchise owner. While Brad Mangin is neither of these, he has been living his dream job for more than 20 years: A lifelong baseball fan from San Francisco’s East Bay region, Mangin spends much of his time as a sports photographer shooting the local teams – the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics – for the likes of Sports Illustrated and Major League Baseball.

Over the course of his career, Mangin, who is currently a freelance photographer, has served as a staffer for the Contra Costa Times in Northern California, a stringer for The Associated Press, and a trading card photographer for The Upper Deck Company. His lenses have captured everything from the Olympic Games to World Series Championships, including his hometown favorite – the Giants – and their 2010 and 2012 wins. He regularly speaks about his passion in workshops and lectures, and in 2011 he published his first book — a 128-page hardcover coffee table book on the Giants’ 2010 World Series win called Worth the Wait.

Brad Mangin's latest book, Never. Say. Die.: The San Francisco Giants – 2012 World Series Champions.
Brad Mangin’s latest book, Never. Say. Die.: The San Francisco Giants – 2012 World Series Champions.

But of all the baseball moments he has photographed, and for all the seasons he has been in the stands to watch his favorite sport, 2013 may mark the biggest season yet for Mangin. While he has already been hard at work at spring training, gearing up for another grueling schedule filled with 12-hour work days, Mangin is also preparing to release two new books with publisher Cameron + Company. Both due to be released on April 23, Never. Say. Die.: The San Francisco Giants – 2012 World Series Champions captures the team’s winning season, while Instant Baseball: The Baseball Instagrams of Brad Mangin features iPhone photography Mangin took throughout the 2012 season, from spring training to the World Series. 

We chatted with Mangin about his career as a sports photographer, his continued love for baseball, and why new apps like Instagram can be a great outlet for a professional photographer.

When did you know you wanted to be a sports photographer? What sparked that interest?

There’s no way I started to be a sports photographer. I just started with photography in high school and wanted to be a newspaper guy. I studied photojournalism in junior college and at San Jose State in the [1980s].

So what led you to this path after you got started in the world of photojournalism?

Well, when you work for a newspaper, you do everything, including sports – lots of Little League and high school stuff. I was a sports fan. I love sports. I love baseball. When you work at a newspaper, you do a little bit of everything, but the sports is what I liked the best. Eventually I was able to thrust over to that direction and started freelancing 20 years ago, just doing sports, and I’ve been doing it ever since.

When you got further along in your career and got a chance to focus on sports, why did you decide on baseball, in particular?

I just love baseball. I grew up a Giants fan here in the Bay Area. It was always my favorite sport. We’re lucky here – just like New York, Chicago, and L.A., it’s a two-team market, so we’ve got both leagues coming through here. There’s a game every day for six months, and so there’s a chance to get a lot of work because there’s always a game. It’s something I just really went after, because I love doing it. It’s a very hard sport to do, because it’s a lot of sitting around and waiting for something to happen. But I know the game, I love the game, and I enjoy the challenge. Over the years, I’ve learned to become better at it. From the first pitch of spring training to the final out of the World Series, I’ll shoot at least 90 games a year, sometimes 100. It’s a lot of fun. I love it.

Does the job take you on the road?

Yeah, I mean, no one has any money anymore. I used to in the 90s. This day and age, I do spring training in Arizona. I was there for a couple of weeks for Sports Illustrated. I just finished doing the World Baseball Classic here in San Francisco. During the season, mostly I’m home. If the Mariners are ever good again, I’ll go up to Seattle. I used to go up to Seattle a lot. Sometimes I’ll go down to L.A. But because there are always games here and both leagues come through, during the season it’s mostly local. And then I do the World Series every year, no matter where it is, for Major League Baseball. I’ve done the last 13 World Series for them.

Do you enjoy working in the Giants’ and Athletics’ ballparks?

Our two parks in the Bay Area are great parks to work in. I’ve been around a long time, so I know all the security people, the PR people, and I’m able to do a lot of things here that you can’t do on the East Coast, where the people are uptight and there’s a lot more rules. It’s a lot more relaxed out here in California.

Do you get to know the players on a personal level?

A little bit. I don’t do portraits, so I don’t do a lot of one-on-one time. I talk to some guys, but they’ve got enough bullshit to deal with and are busy dealing with writers and stuff that are covering the beat. I don’t need to waste players’ time. You talk to some, but you’re not hanging out with them.

What is a game day like for you? Can you walk us through your schedule?

A regular day – a game starts at 1 p.m. I’m usually there by 10 or 10:30 a.m. for batting practice. I shoot batting practice, have a quick lunch in the press room, and then game starts at 1. And depending on who I’m working for, I have three hours of computer work to download, edit, and caption my pictures. So I’ll leave my house at 9 in the morning and I’ll finish work at 9 at night, usually, depending on the game.

What does it take to score an incredible baseball photo?

It’s hard. I look for great light, great backgrounds, great faces, great moments. You can have a great moment but a shitty background or bad light. It’s rare that you can get everything where it all comes together. I have very high standards for myself. I shoot a lot of games, and I might get five pictures over a season that I think are really, really special. I take a lot of good pictures, but I’m a hardass. Pictures have got to be really, really good to make me happy. They’ve got to be perfect. That’s my goal – to get something really special.

After doing this for so many years, are you still able to enjoy baseball as a spectator?

Love it! I’m a Giants season ticket holder with a bunch of friends. We just had our draft last week. I go to a bunch of night games when I’m not shooting. 

So what does it feel like right now, on the verge of a new season?

It’s exciting. It’s fun. It’s neat to have done spring training, and I need spring training after not shooting over the winter. I’m very excited. It’s a fun time of the year. I get to see my friends at the ballpark, get to be outside in great weather, and enjoy baseball games.

You’ve had a prominent Instagram presence and even have a book coming out dedicated to that work. Why is Instagram something that’s so important to you?

It gives me something different to do. It’s a fun, creative outlet. When you’re a freelance photographer, you rarely get published. The whole social networking aspect of it –sharing your pictures – is a lot of fun for me. It’s been fun going to ballparks and just looking for things that would make a good square picture, deciding if I’m going to make it black and white, or color. I’ve just been having a blast.

My book comes out next month. I’ve been shooting like crazy this week at the [World Baseball Classic]. I was getting guys to pose for portraits with my phone. I’ve been doing regular sports photography for years. People always say, “Well, you have that expensive camera and big lens.” When I do my stuff with my iPhone, I’m using the same thing everyone else is. It’s been a fun challenge for me to show people it’s not necessarily the camera; it’s the photographer – that you can make really great pictures, even with a phone. I have a lot of people that don’t believe me. They send me emails that say, “There’s no way. You’re using your real camera and importing your pictures into Instagram.” No. These are all with my phone. I’ll show you the files.

It’s just fun – photography is supposed to be fun. I’m 48 years old. I’ve been doing this a long time, but it’s been a blast. It’s the immediacy. I mean, all three games the last three nights, I’ve been shooting on assignment for Sports Illustrated, but I’m also Instagramming, sharing on the S.I. Instagram feed, which has 130,000 followers. It’s like, “This is happening right now in the Dominican dugout. This is Carlos Santana posing for a photo during batting practice right now in the Dominican dugout. This is one of the Puerto Rican players right now. This is going on right now.” People really get a kick out of that, and I think it’s fun.

Despite being involved in something that’s inherently digital and immediate, is it still important to you to be taking those photos and putting them in print, in a decidedly more permanent format?

Yeah, ’cause I’m old-school. I love print. [But] there will be an e-book version of the Instagram book available on the iTunes Store that will have bonus content. It will have all of my spring training and World Baseball Classic stuff from this year. The hard copy book closed in November, but the e-book version will have all this bonus material, which will be fun. [But] the hard copy is pretty special to be able to hold in your hands.

(Copyright images via Brad Mangin)

Photography

Golf ball-sized Lume Cube Air is a pocketable LED for photos and video

Off-camera lighting for smartphones and GoPros just got even smaller. Meet the Lume Cube Air, a smaller portable LED light designed for photos and videos that weighs only about two ounces.
Digital Trends Live

Comedian Craig Conant discusses sobriety, comedy, and throwing fireworks at cops

From throwing firecrackers at mounted police to doing stand-up gigs in Los Angeles' biggest clubs, Craig Conant has lived an interesting life. He talked to DT Daily host Greg Nibler about all that and more.
Movies & TV

Winter coming in spring? HBO reveals 'Game of Thrones' season 8 premiere date

With the eighth and final season looming, Game of Thrones fever has officially become a pandemic. Our list of all the relevant news and rumors will help make the wait more bearable, if you don't mind spoilers.
Gaming

Feeling nostalgic? Here are the 25 best Sega Genesis games

Although the company has since fallen into obscurity, Sega was an indisputable titan throughout the '90s. That said, here are 25 best Sega Genesis games that helped define its fabled decade.
Mobile

These 100 best iPhone apps will turn your phone into a jack-of-all-trades

The iPhone is the most popular smartphone in the world, and we want to bring out the best in yours. Behold our comprehensive list of the best iPhone apps, from time-saving productivity tools to fun apps you won’t be able to put down.
Photography

Edit portraits with A.I. and adjust focus in the new ON1 Photo RAW 2019 editor

ON1 Photo RAW 2019 now has a dedicated tab for portraits that automatically recognizes faces to help with retouching. The update also brings a new focus stacking tool, enhancements to layers, and improvements to local adjustments.
Mobile

Taking shots in the dark with Night Sight, the Pixel’s newest photo feature

The Google Pixel range has always been the home of some of the mobile world's best phone cameras. That performance is now getting even better with the introduction of the low-light Night Sight mode.
Photography

Alpha Female: Sony awards five women grants to support artisan diversity

Women can face several challenges in launching a photography career -- Sony's latest initiative aims to help propel women in the industry forward. Sony recently announced the winners of the Alpha Female program.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Product Review

Fewer pixels, better camera? The Nikon Z6 shows the beauty of restraint

The Nikon Z6 is the sibling to the new mirrorless Z7 -- but for some photographers, the cheaper Z6 may be the better option. Read where the $2,000 camera beats the $3,400 one (and where it doesn’t) in our Nikon Z6 review.
Social Media

Build a wish list and shop videos with Instagram’s latest shopping update

Eyeing a product on Instagram? Now there are more ways to shop from the social network. Instagram just rolled out options to save products in a collection as users can also now shop from videos.
Photography

See the National Forests like never before in these awe-inspiring drone videos

What's the difference between a National Park and a National Forest? Drones. With no ban on drones in National Forests -- at least, not yet -- filmmakers have a way to capture the immensity of these locations with stunning results.
Product Review

With outstanding image quality, the ‘basic’ Sony A7 III excels in every way

Replacing the four-year-old A7 II as the new entry-level model in Sony's full-frame line, the A7 III is an impressively capable camera that gives more expensive models a run for their money.
Social Media

Addicted to Instagram? Its new ‘activity dashboard’ is here to help

Ever get that nagging feeling you're spending too much time on Instagram? Well, a new "activity dashboard" has a bunch of features designed to help you better control how you use the addictive photo-sharing app.