Onur Çam

A group of silhouetted cyclists crest a hill.

Canon Ambassador Onur Çam prefers to take his time with his sports photography. "Sometimes I see photographers rush and try to catch everything; I am not like that," he says. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X (now succeeded by the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III) with a Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM lens (now succeeded by the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM) at 1/1250 sec, f/5 and ISO100. © Onur Çam

Having shot thousands of images across a range of different sports, Canon Ambassador Onur Çam has built a solid reputation as one of the most prominent sports photographers in Turkey. He's also travelled the world throughout his illustrious career, which spans more than two decades.

"I just love sport. You must always be prepared and ready for everything," he says. "Sometimes when I'm shooting, my heart is hammering. I can feel the energy."

Growing up in Istanbul, Onur first picked up a camera as a teenager after being inspired by the Hollywood movie Under Fire, which tells the tale of American war correspondents. "It was fascinating; I thought in the future, I want to be like the photographers in the movie. It definitely shaped the path of my life," says Onur. "The sound of the shutter – that click, click, click – was like a harmony for me."

After studying engineering at university and graduating in 1997, Onur began taking pictures for a tourism company. "While studying, I was always shooting, listening to seminars, following famous photographers and reading many books. I was testing my cameras and practising lots," he explains. "In my heart I dreamed of sports photography. My sister is an athlete, and her husband is a volleyball player; our family is a sports family. I grew up with it."

It was while out horse riding that Onur decided to focus his talents on sports photography, and he landed his first job covering a horse jumping competition in Turkey. Since then, he has travelled the world photographing some of the biggest sports stars on the planet, including Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. "I love covering tennis, triathlons, windsurfing, cycling…" he says. "To photograph the best people in the sport is very exciting."

Canon Ambassador Onur Çam with his Canon camera and lens.
Location:Istanbul, Turkey

Specialist areas:Sports

Favourite kit:

Canon EOS-1D X (now succeeded by the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III)

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM (now succeeded by the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM)
A capsized boat at sea, with the sail flat against the water and the crew trying to right it.

Sailors run into trouble during a competition in Turkey. "This actually happened once the boat had crossed the finish line. I never stop shooting once a competition ends; I'm always still following the athletes. Many photographers stop at the finish to look at their images, but I never do. If I looked at my pictures, I wouldn't catch images like this," says Onur. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with a Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM lens at 1/2000 sec, f/3.2 and ISO250. © Onur Çam

The Canon Ambassador went on to set up his own company,, in 2012, helping to shine a spotlight on amateur sportspeople. "This is like my child," he says. "We have covered many national and international events, and I'm very proud of what we have achieved."

Today, Onur continues to fire the shutter at some of the world's biggest sporting events, and he has worked with a number of international sports brands, including Adidas and Garmin. As for his favourite sport to photograph? Perhaps one of the toughest out there – the ultra-marathon. "The trail runners face extreme conditions, and you get the chance to shoot day and night, which is rare, so you need to be prepared with all the equipment," says Onur. "I've covered a competition which started in blazing sun, and then it went into very high altitude and a huge rainstorm. We were climbing a mountain and then it was snowing! It was very difficult, but I loved it."

An ultra-marathon runner in a baseball cap races across a rocky landscape, with a small fire in the foreground.

"This was an ultra-marathon in Turkey. During the route, the runners pass by a flame. I thought it would be cool to use my fisheye lens to create this image. This picture was featured in magazines across Europe, which made me very proud," says Onur. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with a Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens at 15mm, 1/125 sec, f/4 and ISO1000. © Onur Çam

On his secrets for success in the industry, Onur has some sound advice – always know the sport you're shooting. "You must know the sport inside out. You have to know the rules," he says. "You must know about the sportspeople too – who is top of the game, who is amateur. I generally work outdoors, and it's important to know the conditions you'll be shooting in. How is the light? How is the weather? Where is the best location to position yourself? If you miss a shot, the event won't be re-run for you. There are no second chances. You can't shout, stop, I didn't catch you! Please can you go back to the start line?"

As for the future, there is still one event Onur is keen to add to his impressive portfolio – the Olympic Games. "That's my absolute dream," he says. "Just one time in my life, I want to be there so much.

"But I feel very lucky to be photographing something I love. When I visit my family home, I see my pictures on my parents' walls. That makes me feel so proud of what I have achieved and how far I've come. My heart feels so full when I see that."

How would you describe your photography style?

"I like cinematic images. When someone looks at my images, I want them to be reminded of a movie frame. I don't want my images to be fiction; they must be real and show the reality. I like to show some small mistakes sometimes; life isn't perfect, so to have a mistake shows the reality of sport. If a picture is 100% right, for me that is fiction."

What are the biggest challenges you face with sports photography?

"You have to always be ready for all kinds of weather and various conditions. I can't control the light in the forest during an ultra-marathon and it's not easy to always catch the runners in the dark. A few years ago, when I was worn out and shooting in Turkey, I suddenly slipped and fell 100m on the ice with my equipment. I wasn't injured, but it can be very dangerous. I must always be ready and fit; sometimes we are climbing mountains, walking for miles, and carrying all of our equipment, so it's very important to be fit."

What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?

"You must always be reading and learning. Know everything you can about sport and remember to put your ego in the garbage! If you want to be a good photographer, you must forget your ego. Learn and always try your best. Never forget to try different things, and never be afraid to try in the first place."

Does the type of sport make a difference to how you shoot?

"Yes, absolutely. I always use the same camera, but the lenses are always changing. Sometimes you need the wide angle to get close to the action; you always need to adapt depending on the sport you're shooting. This is why it's so important to know the sport and know your equipment. I carry three cameras with different lenses, so I am always ready for everything. I don't want to be going home crying, why didn't I change my lens? Why wasn't I ready?"

In such a competitive industry, how do you ensure your work stands out?

"The day before an event, I learn everything about the athletes, the weather, the location, and then I check my equipment. Social media has meant that people can now take an image on their phone and post it immediately, so you have to be very fast. That is key. Before digital photography, it was a very different process. I use my Wi-Fi transmitter so I can send pictures to my company straight away, where they are then sent all over the world. If my customers are happy, I am happy too. I am always trying my best for them."

One thing I know

Onur Çam

"You must always have ethics and values. Every photographer must understand this. You must respect the athletes, and never forget why you are shooting. Also, you must always have two eyes open; one focusing on the athlete and the other to check your position and what is going on around you."

Instagram: @camonur


Onur Çam's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Onur Çam's kitbag containing Canon cameras, lenses and accessories.


Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

The successor to the EOS-1D X that Onur favours is the ultimate creative toolkit, with superb low-light performance, deep learning AF and 5.5K RAW video. "The EOS-1D X Mark III is so fast, and it's such a strong camera," says Onur. "I mainly shoot outdoors, and sometimes I'm shooting in rain and dust, or I'm running around everywhere, so it gets put through a lot and it never fails me."


Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM

Favoured by many, the new version of the classic wide zoom that Onur uses offers stunning sharpness throughout the zoom range. "This is my wide-angle lens," says Onur. "It's absolutely brilliant. You can capture everything with this; it's so fast and very sharp. It's my favourite lens. If you are a sports photographer, you have to have this in your bag."

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

A professional-quality standard zoom that offers outstanding image quality and a fast f/2.8 aperture throughout its zoom range. "This is a must," says Onus. "If you don't have this lens, you're not a sports photographer!"


Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT

The latest version of the 600EX that Onur uses enables you to take complete control even in the most demanding situations. "The 600EX is the best of the best when it comes to flashes," says Onur.

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