“There’s a growing number of women working in football. It’s great to see” – Reuters’ photographer Molly Darlington Calendar

24 Sep 2020

Molly Darlington is one of the youngest sports photographers in the country – covering football for international news organisation Reuters.

We speak to the 22-year-old about how she broke into the industry, her love of the game and the challenges of covering top-flight football during a pandemic.

How did you get into football photography?

I’ve studied photography from GCSE through to degree level. While at college there was an advertisement for a student to photograph at a local football club called 1874 Northwich. I enquired and ended up photographing the non-league club home and away for four seasons.

Was that always a dream of yours?

I’ve always loved football and always loved photography, but I only brought it together in college. From then on, I knew it was my dream job.

How difficult is it to break into the industry? Is it male-dominated?

From my experience, I have been extremely lucky breaking into the industry. I walked out of university to a job at the world’s largest multimedia news provider.

Prior to that, I worked AMA Sports Photo alongside my university studies. At AMA I covered the 2019 Women’s World Cup spending a month in France with one of my best mates.

Below is a photo of me at the World Cup shooting the England team (picture: Kunjan Malde).

I went to university with no idea how I could make it in such an industry, and even asking me now I’m still not sure I can tell you exactly how I’ve done it!

The industry is male-dominated.  However, it is becoming more of an even playing field. Even in the last couple of years, I’ve noticed a growing number of women working in football and it’s great to see.

Molly’s image of Julie Ertz of USA scoring against Chile at the 2019 WWC. Molly Darlington / AMA Sports Photo.

What is it like working for Reuters?

I love it. When I started I was so nervous about how it would work and whether I was ready or good enough. I have an amazing support system from my colleagues, and help or advice is just a text message away.

Seeing your photos published in newspaper print and online is always a great feeling. We have a brilliant team of editors who we wouldn’t be able to do without.

You have been covering matches behind closed doors – what has that been like?

It’s strange.

From set positions to pooling photos between agencies it’s definitely something no one is used to.

I personally find it harder to follow the game. Usually you would be able to listen to the crowd noise to help you gage what’s happening during a match, especially when you’re self-editing on your laptop. This is certainly a lot different.

What is the best photo you have ever taken?

I wouldn’t say I have a best photo. Hopefully I’m yet to take it.

I think sometimes a backstory of how you come to take a photo can make it a more memorable one; it’s not always about the subject matter.

For example, not so long ago, when Leeds United won the Championship I hopped in the car to photograph fans outside the stadium after the winning title game.

Leeds United fans celebrate promotion to the Premier League outside Elland Road. Reuters/Molly Darlington

Coincidently, my dad, step-dad and brother are all Leeds fans, so as I was going anyway, I piled them all in the car and drove up to Leeds!

I went running round with a camera and they all enjoyed the promotion celebrations. The photo above reminds me of this story.

What advice would you give to people wanting to work in football?

Just keep working, producing work, practicing and building a portfolio. It doesn’t matter what level of football it is. People are always watching social media and looking for new talent.

It’s important to show what you can do with limited equipment, bad lighting and low league football – it can teach you a lot.

With enough determination you’ll get there and I now wouldn’t change it for the world.

Liverpool fans celebrating their first title in 30 years. City Action Images via Reuters/Molly Darlington.