What Sports Photography Taught Me about Point of View (POV)

by Beth K. Vogt @bethvogt

My teen daughter plays volleyball year-round, which means I spend a lot of time at volleyball tournaments. My husband and I are also the photographers for both her high school and club teams. This happened by accident – meaning, when no one else volunteered to take photos, we did. At first, we took lousy photos. Now, we’ve invested in a more expensive camera and lens and after lots of trial and error, we’re getting better and better at this whole unexpected sports photography gig.
When I’m photographing a volleyball game, I spend the entire time watching the action through my camera lens. Everything I see is limited by the very small viewfinder at the top of my camera. There are three front row and three back row players on the court at all time during a volleyball game – on both sides of the net. If I’m focused on my daughter, who is a middle blocker, I have no idea what’s happened anywhere else on the court. If I focus on the three back row players so their parents can download some photos of their daughters, I have no idea what the three front row players are doing.

I can’t tell you how many times during a game I finish photographing a specific player – the setter or the outside hitter, for example – and I turn to my husband and ask, “What happened?” I don’t know who scored the point, much less what the score is, or who’s serving next.

Which brings me to the topic of Point of View (POV).

So often we writers like to use the example of peering through a camera lens to help each other understand the concept of (POV). We hold an imaginary camera up to our eyes for just a moment and say, “Remember, you can only see and experience through the eyes of the POV character.”

Spend a day photographing a sporting event – volleyball, basketball, baseball, football, hockey – and you’ll discover just how limited your character’s POV is. It’s not just a matter of what your POV character can see. You also need to be just as aware of what they can’t see and experience.


Perhaps some writers head-hop because they find one character’s POV too confining and so, after a few paragraphs, they hop over to another character to expand the experience and let their readers see what’s going on from another POV. The challenge? To stay grounded in your original character’s POV and bring the scene alive. How can you you write a strong scene from one POV?

  1. Be willing to rewrite. My husband and I take thousands of photographs during a single day of play – and then we delete, delete, delete. One recent day of competition, we took over 2000 photos. I posted just under 500 of them to the team’s photo site. 
  2. Go deep into your character’s emotion. When I’m photographing a game, sometimes I go wide for a team shot, but often I focus on a particular player. These kinds of pictures show emotion and intense action. You are writing from one POV – don’t waste it. Determine what is your POV character’s main emotion and then show it through their actions and their words. 
  3. Look for symbolism and metaphor. If nothing else, photography has taught me to always be looking – for the next amazing block, for the fun interaction between the girls, for the next unexpected volley. As you write, look for hidden symbols in your scene. A powerful question is “What is this like?” Compare the moment to something else. Doing so can pull up a metaphor or simile or a moment from your character’s past that you can weave into the scene. 

Is staying in one POV a struggle? Pick up your camera and spend some time taking photographs to help bring your writing into focus.


What Sports Photography Taught Me about Point of View (POV) by Beth Vogt (Click to Tweet)

Stay focused and don’t move the camera.~ Beth Vogt (Click to Tweet)

3 Tips to Write A Strong Scene from One POV by Beth Vogt (Click to Tweet)

Beth K. Vogt is a non-fiction author and editor who said she’d never write fiction. She’s the wife of an Air Force family physician (now in solo practice) who said she’d never marry a doctor—or anyone in the military. She’s a mom of four who said she’d never have kids. Now Beth believes God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” As a contemporary romance novelist, Beth is a 2016 Christy Award winner and 2016 Carol Award winner for her novel Crazy Little Thing Called Love. She was also a 2015 RITA® Finalist for her novel Somebody Like You, which was one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Books of 2014. In 2015, Beth introduced her destination wedding series with both an e-novella, Can’t Buy Me Love, and a novel, Crazy Little Thing Called Love. She continued the series in 2016 with the e-novella You Can’t Hurry Love (May) and the novel Almost Like Being in Love (June). Her novella A November Bride was part of the Year of Wedding Series by Zondervan. Beth enjoys writing contemporary romance because she believes there’s more to happily-ever-after than the fairy tales tell us. Find out more about her books at bethvogt.com. An established magazine writer and former editor of Connections, the leadership magazine for MOPS International, Beth is also part of the leadership team for My Book Therapy, the writing community founded by best-selling author Susan May Warren. She lives in Colorado with her husband Rob, who has adjusted to discussing the lives of imaginary people, and their youngest daughter, Christa, who loves to play volleyball and enjoys writing her own stories.