Thursday, February 4, 2021

Interview with photographer Don Smith

 Don Smith was a professional sports photographer for almost 30 years, and is now a full-time landscape photographer. During his sports career he worked for Score, Upper Deck and Fleer. He kindly answered my questions about baseball cards.

"My career as a baseball card photographer was primarily back in the late-80’s to 2005  and I’ve been away from it for so long (I was a 14-year staffer with Fleer and was let go when the company folded in 2005) that I cannot really recall single cards. I started out working with Score, then spent a season shooting the NFL for Upper Deck, then went onto a long career with Fleer photographing MLB and NFL. Back then, I was probably working 250+ days per year.

Probably the most memorable moment was photographing San Francisco Giant’s pitcher Dave Dravecky’s comeback game in Candlestick Park on August 10th of 1989 (I was working for Score at the time). I don’t recall specific images but the emotion in the park that day was palpable. Dave was such an inspirational person and went on to do amazing work in the fight against cancer with numerous public speaking engagements. I’m not sure that there was a dry eye in the park that day.

More than anything. I considered myself a good action photographer and I prided myself on being able to capture key action moments and understandably, those are the cards that the players loved the most. It was cool when a player would come up to me and thank me for capturing a particular action moment. Upper Deck was built around this philosophy of capturing great sports action and fortunately Fleer encouraged it. So in essence, I had a free rein in creating images the way I wanted to.

I am so far distanced from the world of baseball card photography now that I don’t collect nor ever really think about it much. I shifted my photography completely into landscape photography (something I would do as a relaxing hobby when I traveled the country photographing games) and now lead workshops all around the world. My sports photography career ended two years ago when I left the San Jose Sharks as co-team photographer (after 28 seasons) to work full-time with my workshops.

Baseball and card photography was a fun time in my career but like all artists, I have moved on to different genres and challenges."



  1. Great post! Definitely different from most blog posts and I love the insight from a card insider. Kudos to you for sharing this with us.

  2. Good stuff.

    It's always interesting to see people so immersed in the game and then getting outside of it and looking at it as "just a phase in life."

  3. Inspirational indeed. Dravecky is very popular among fans in the Bay Area. As for Mr. Smith... that's cool that he spent so many years with the Sharks. I wonder if a bunch of his photos are on their trading cards.

  4. Sounds like he has REALLY moved on from his days in the sports world.