As part of our Behind the Lens series, we spoke to Aitor Bouzo, the lead club photographer for Saski Baskonia, a European basketball team. Behind the Lens is meant to showcase the incredible individuals that put in the tireless hours to produce the content fans crave to experience engagement with their team. ScorePlay is just a tool trying to help these artists do what they do best: create.
Aitor started as a sports photographer in 2008, (or perhaps the 2007/08 season - the line between seasons and years gets blurred when you work in sports), when he was living in Murcia in south-eastern Spain. At 23 years old, he bought his first professional camera, as he was working for an online basketball journal (enCancha.com), covering the Spanish basketball game, from game reports to chronicles, with no real objective in mind - just ‘para disfrutar’, or ‘to enjoy life’. His goal was to learn more about the world of photography, and learn everything he could about his dream profession. A trait he still carries to this day.
As a childhood basketball fan, and a follower of the NBA since age the early 2000s, his immediate passion was of course basketball photography, but with often times just 1 game a week, he dived into other interests, expanding his horizons into other sports and realms. His team? The one and only Baskonia, ever since he had moved to Vitoria-Gasteiz when he was 11 in 1996, and attended a European Cup final against Greek side PAOK de Salonica, where Baskonia won at home. Starstruck by his idol Pedrag Stojakovic, the moment stuck with Aitor.
Slowly but surely however, he began to realise he had a future in the sport, and kept receiving nudges that he could ultimately succeed as a sports photographer, notably when in 2009 the ACB contacted him to buy some of his photos to complete a Panini set. Moments such as working with FIBA in 2014 changed his mentality, growing as a person and a photographer, becoming more objective, more professional, and being able to dedicate his life to photography. He spoke more of a process in realising that sports photography was his path, rather than one opportune or key moment. Returning to the Basque Country in 2016 gave him the opportunity to follow his childhood dream and become the club photographer for Baskonia.
We reviewed the 2022 calendar year, and Aitor chose his 5 favourite moments in photographs - not necessarily the ones he was most proud of technically but those that elicited strong emotional connections and memories. As all art should.
The opening game of the season at the Fernando Buesa arena showcased the beauty of sport returning after a break. From post-game performances by Juan Magán and Ana Mena, a sold-out crowd, ecstatic returning fans and a great win against Unicaja - this was the perfect day after a disappointing 2021/22 season.
This photograph shows Markus Howard celebrating a 3-pointer in the last seconds of a game against Partizan Belgrade to take the game to overtime. With the ecstatic fans, the perfect framing of the timer and the referee, this picture captures all the emotion of the night. Baskonia went on to win.
Taken from a remote camera, this photograph captures the last play of a game against Real Madrid, as Baskonia ran out winners. One of the best team in the last 10 years, Real Madrid and their historic captain Sergio Llull. This is one of the biggest rivalries for Baskonia in the Liga ACB.
Baskonia’s new coach Joan Peñarroya new manager for the season, celebrates an emotional win in Turkey against Efes Istanbul, double European champion over the past 2 seasons. This is also Aitor’s favourite photo of the season for obvious reasons - the pure emotion and the incredible project that has begun under his tutelage.
This is a team photo after winning again against Real Madrid, this time in the Euroleague. An amazing result to close out 2022 in December.
In 2021/22, with a slightly disappointing season, Aitor favourite moment was not one on the court or in the gym. It was the opportunity to take some time and visit what the local culture in the basque country had to offer with a winery visit. As fans sometimes we forget the importance of team bonding off the pitch, court or field, and these moments give another dimension to our idols.
In the 2022/23 season, Baskonia’s trip to Turkey was the highlight, with the chance to play Efes, the current double Euroleague champion, as well as Fenerbahçe, one of the yearly favourites and champions in 2017, and to come away with two wins on top of it.
This shot caught Baskonia’s Rokas Giedraitis, who decided the game with 3-pointer, as he half-fell, with a decent slice of luck in the last minute. His joy juxtaposed with the disappointment of the opposition fans is incredibly portrayed with the use of clair-obscure.
Another crazy moment showcasing the anger of Fenerbahçe fans dismayed at a Baskonia player as they ran out winners in the Turkish capital.
When it came to the worst moment of 2022, Aitor had no hesitation in explaining the importance of the Copa del Rey, and the disappointment as a fan and photographer to see Baskonia fail to qualify last season. He goes to explain how it is his favourite tournament because of how special it is - a true celebration of the sport with the top 8 teams congregating in one city with all their fans, and every match being a knockout adding extra spice and excitement for all.
As Aitor looked back on a year that started disappointing and ended positively, he reflected on what he wanted to improve on in the next. One was expanding his horizons and adding more pictures outside of the usual game side - which shows how photographers are so much more than just those shots you see on game-day, and how their passion surpasses what we see on Instagram. On the merchandising side, Aitor wants to take more shots for merchandising, modelling and such, to showcase the Baskonia brand, and aid in that aspect. From studio media days, to illuminations and textures, he sees these as opportunities to learn more about his trade and is constantly looking to improve on his output.
To Aitor, this type of photography is just as important as the match photos - to grow the Baskonia brand. Aitor wants to contribute to a global brand, from game photos to the merchandise and the fashion brand, so that it is recognisable and attractive to all fans, and even those who are not even familiar with Baskonia or even basketball as a clothing line people want to wear.
Aitor uses a Nikon D6 or D4 to shoot most of his shots. His 70-200mm lens, allows him to capture 90% of his shots, and uses his D4 for the remote camera on the sidelines. Meanwhile, he uses 300 or 400mm lenses for portraits and closes shots to showcase the emotions of players or coach, to offer a variety of content to the comms team - more than just action shots.
Aitor shared his top 5 tips for photographers starting out.
1. Constantly look at photos wherever you can. If you love food photography, then look at those. If you love sports photography, consume it every day. See what you like, don’t like, what catches the eye. See how a viewer interacts with the photography - you are that person. You have to see what others do to also figure out your own style.
2. Be super exigent in every job you do. Whether its pro-bono or taking pictures for a friend, treat it like an actual job and build your portfolio. It is fundamental to maintain this professionalism if you want to improve.
3. Don’t just focus on one sport or topic - you can learn from every other type of photography. If you’re within sports, don’t concentrate on one, learn from others, whether food photography or landscapes, you can apply what you learn from those in a different way. Landscape lighting can teach you things about portraits outside, or studio photos can teach you something else for a media day. It also leaves your career options open.
4. Constantly learn and innovate. Photography evolves so quickly, new innovations, vertiginous advancements, you need to learn and adapt, offer new aspects to your clients. That is your responsibility.
5. Be constant, and patient with your work. It’s a complicated job and under-valued by many, so it can be very frustrating if opportunities don’t come, and you can’t make a living off of it. But always be there cause you never know when the opportunity is going to come.
After only a year of working with ScorePlay, Aitor has felt the difference in automating so many tasks, from FTP to tagging. It means he can seamlessly collaborate with the comms and marketing team, and all his photos can be fed directly into the platform. It’s why we built the platform specifically for sports, by sports. Toulouse’s photographer was the first, but photographers like Aitor are there to test and improve our product daily. We save him hours of time, so he can focus on what he does best - capturing the emotion, excitement and wonder of basketball to engage Baskonia’s fans.