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“The pandemic will be part of our photographic content” | Uefa and Getty plan for Euro 2020

Ahead of Euro 2020, Paul Murphy, Uefa digital image expert, and Paul Gilham, Getty Images senior director, describe the relationship between the governing body and its official photographic agency, and how this year’s event will set new benchmarks in the speed of image delivery

Wembley Stadium. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images).

What services is Getty delivering for this year’s tournament?

PM: Getty Images are providing Uefa with photographic services as the official photographers for the tournament. This service allows Uefa to capture the full aspect of the tournament, from editorial to commercial to operational content. The Uefa photographers will be at the heart of the action to capture every aspect of Uefa Euro 2020 as it takes place in 11 cities across Europe. This service allows Uefa to provide still image content to its member associations and other stakeholders. Getty Images are also sending photographers for Uefa to squad ‘access days’ where Uefa will gather content of every player ahead of the tournament.

PG: As the official photographic partner to Uefa (a position we’ve held for 18 years), our focus is to work with Uefa to develop their visual strategy and deliver against their goal of the Euros being a fan-led tournament. This includes consulting with them on creating differentiated content which will drive engagement among their diverse fanbase (such as the player portrait series we are developing), as well as being able to deliver a flexible operational framework which ensures comprehensive stand-out coverage – not only of the action on the pitch, but of the team trainings, behind the scenes content and of course of the fans and local activity outside the stadiums. Our priority is to deliver distribution at speed, so we have an editing team spread across Europe who will be working around the clock to ensure the visuals are pushed out through our global distribution platform, with priority images sent out in real time.

How has the pandemic changed Uefa’s photographic requirements?

PM: The most noticeable impact of the pandemic concerns logistics and what it takes to stage matches. However, when the whistle blows it’s all about football on the field and for this there is no change in photographic requirements. We have adapted our protocols onsite and do not have photographers travelling internationally from venue to venue. With all that considered, the actual requirements are the same as they would have been before the pandemic.

Would it be accurate to say Uefa will need more photographic content for digital activations (designed to mitigate the loss of live activations)?

PM: Not necessarily as Uefa would always endeavour to capture digital content of live activations for our stakeholders involved.

Will crowd limits make it difficult to position the Euros as a fan-led tournament?

PM: Uefa Euro 2020 is welcoming fans back to the stadiums. What we always see loyal and dedicated fans dressed in their national colours at Uefa Euro tournaments. These always make for very strong images and really capture the emotion and atmosphere of the tournament. Every fan is a participant in this tournament and, together with Getty Images, we will capture countless images of fans enjoying the month of football they have been waiting such a long time for.

Would it be accurate to say most sponsors have an interest in fan-led photography (i.e putting themselves at the heart of fan passion)?

PM: Sponsors have a wide variety of requirements and like most stakeholders they want to showcase the full extent of the tournament. The fans are a very important factor in football and of course sponsors would like to have access to images that showcase this.

Will Uefa seek to minimise references to the pandemic in the photography, or is important to have a historical record of the fact the tournament took place under these conditions?

PM: It is important to us to showcase how the tournament took place. Every detail is important. We will capture behind the scenes content of the protocols that have been put in place. It is important content, not only for historic or archive purposes, but for live storytelling to show how Uefa together with the host cities and each LOS put on this major tournament given the challenges everyone has faced during the pandemic. The pandemic is part of our current everyday life and therefore will also be part of our photographic content.

PG: Along with our dedicated Uefa photographers, we will also have a number of our editorial photographers covering the matches and telling the story of the European Football Championships. Our aim is always to remain objective and to cover the action as it happens, so the images we capture will provide an accurate historical record for us to look back on in years to come.

How difficult is it to coordinate a photographic operation across 11 different host cities?

PG: It’s definitely a challenge, but one we are accustomed too since over the last 25 years we regularly provide large-scale photographic operations for our partners – including Summer and Winter Olympic Games and Fifa World Cups. What is more challenging is doing this during the pandemic. Luckily, we have a network of talented photographers based across Europe, which makes co-ordinating the logistics a lot easier. In some cases, such as in Germany, our photographers are able to drive over to the stadiums. In other cases, we have followed the local country guidelines carefully to ensure our photographers can safely fly over and isolate where necessary.

Of course, it’s not only ensuring we have the right photographers in place but also having the necessary technical set-up. Back in 2018, we shifted to editing remotely, so we already had the infrastructure in place. Our servers are set-up so that our editors, spread across England, Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands and Germany, can edit the photos in real time and ensure they are fed through our global distribution platform – with the priority images photographed, edited and sent out in real time. Having this remote set-up in place helps massively when it comes to organising the operations during the pandemic, as it ensures we can seamlessly deliver the same standard of service while limiting the need for travel and additional people on the ground.

PM: We are fortunate at Uefa to work every season with matches and events across 55 National Associations. So, we have much experience in delivering photographic operations across Europe. We have the benefit of working with a global organisation like Getty Images which is helping us achieve our goals in this area. Unlike the most recent Euro final tournaments we do not have photographers travelling to multiple venues, so this has in fact simplified our approach to Euro 2020. We have more photographers involved but individually they are shooting less games than they would have in 2016, or 2012 for example.

How are player portraits used?

PM: The player portraits are a gold standard series of content. The teams allow us to come to them before the start of the tournament to capture a multitude of content. This photography is what Uefa uses throughout the entire tournament to help tell the story of the Euros. It is a huge body of content, which means that we do not need to ever send photographers to team basecamps during the tournament, which is something I’m sure the teams themselves appreciate. The portraits will be used as standard headshots on Uefa’s native and social platforms, the teams and players and our broadcast partners will also use them. Keep an eye on matches in the official Uefa Euro 2020 app and you will see some of this content take over your screen as goals are scored. Portraits are also used as part of match graphics when goals are scored. The images are available to media via the Uefa collection on Getty Images.

PG: Together with Uefa, we were keen to create portraits that differ from the standard portraiture you see at tournaments and drive greater engagement among their diverse fanbase. We realised that we could create a lot of content for Uefa in a short amount of time if we were strategic in how we planned the player portrait sessions.

We are tapping into our talented network of photographers based around Europe to capture the different team’s portraits. This involves intricate planning to ensure the images delivered all have a consistent look and feel. We’ve drawn up floor plans, specified exact colour gels and will have our photographer project manager (Michael Regan) online during each shoot to provide live feedback and ensure quality control. Although it’s been quite a logistical feat, we know this type of content drives incredible engagement for Uefa, especially on social.

Why is it important to emphasise the cultural heritage of players in this photography?

PM: We have taken a creative approach to our portrait sessions with each team. We are shooting on two backdrops: one is consistent across all 24 photoshoots and is a backdrop with official Uefa Euro 2020 graphic details. This set of images is Uefa Euro 2020-specific and homogenises the content across all shoots so taken as a set it’s clear to see each team and player was shot as part of the same series. The second set of images is specific to the cultural heritage of the country. The project leader from Getty Images Michael Regan proposed designs to Uefa which were not only visually stunning backdrops but also something specific to each team. These images resonate so much more, the players interact well with it. It is specific to them and their team and their national identity. These players are representing their nation at Uefa Euro 2020, they have been selected from their entire population to represent their country and for this we found it important that we made a series of specific images which really mark their heritage, where they are from and the people they are representing.

What other sorts of differentiated content can we expect for this year’s tournament and how is technology helping to deliver this? 

PM: At Uefa Euro 2016, the photography team of Uefa together with the incredible team of professionals at Getty Images were able to get photography from the moment it happened to fans’ screens as fast as 29 seconds. That season’s Champions League images were averaging around 15 minutes. This set the tone for things to come. At Uefa Euro 2020 this ‘fast path’ of images will also take center stage in live match content on Uefa’s native and social platforms. Integrating this fully with our digital asset management (DAM) and other tools will allow us to get this fast stream of images to other stakeholders, such as the teams and in some cases players, in record breaking times. This means fans all over the world will get truly live still image coverage of Uefa Euro 2020. The greatest advances in technology will sit in the background for 2020, while in 2016 we had seen great advances in cloud platforms to help deliver fast path and camera technologies to deliver quick 360 images, in 2021 the advances will be used by the back-end teams delivering all the photography from various office and work from home conditions. Getty Images’ internal platforms and Uefa’s DAM platform will make all of this content flow quicker than ever.

PG: For each match, we will be sending around three photographers (more for the finals) to ensure we capture the action from every angle. For the semi-final and final matches, our photographers have installed remote cameras and net cams which they’ll be operating, alongside photographing with their hand-held cameras, to enable a variety of perspectives.

As the official photography partner to Uefa, we are the only photographers allowed behind the scenes, which gives us the opportunity to capture the stories happening off-pitch as well, such as the tunnel line-ups. We are also the official team photographers for England and Italy, which means we are embedded with the teams capturing exclusive in-camp photography, such as trainings, behind the scenes content and match action.

Of course, covering the events happening outside the stadium will be equally important, especially in delivering against Uefa’s aim of the Euros being a fan-led tournament, and so our network of photographers and videographers across Europe will be closely documenting the fan celebrations and local activities.

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