Amanda J. Cain (@amandajcain) is a professional photographer originally from the Metro Detroit area who currently works in San Jose, CA. Her career path has varied across types of photography – from newspaper work, to university photography, to freelancing – she has become a multi-dimensional pro photographer who has the skills and adaptability to create high-impact imagery in any situation. She currently works as the manager of photography for the San Jose Sharks and is the National Hockey League’s first Black female photographer. We connected with Cain to learn more about her history in the industry and what continues to drive her, the gear she uses to fulfill her creative vision, and what she’s thinking about moving forward.
Photo by Amanda Cain. Sony Alpha 1. Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master II. 1/1000-sec., f/2.8, ISO 2000
We sat down with the NHL’s first Black female photographer Amanda Cain to learn about her career and why she made the switch to Sony.
Originally from Detroit, Cain went to school at Santa Monica University. After trying out a few different subjects, Cain reflected back on her favorite subject from grade school: art. She ended up becoming a graphic designer, but she always had a deep love of photography. In post-grad life, she started pursuing photography outside of work as a hobby. She eventually began working as a photojournalist for newspapers, where she was thrown into photographing a wide variety of subjects. “The journalist jobs were a great start to me learning how to shoot everything.”
She eventually became the university photographer at Eastern Kentucky University, where she worked for 2.5 years. “That was the first time that I felt like someone was hiring me because of my creativity. I got to shoot it all, it was kind of like a dream.” Eventually, Cain was in search of a new creative challenge and ended up at Perdue University. During the pandemic, she started working with a fitness group, supplying their workout imagery. And in 2021 she was hired by the San Jose Sharks as the photography manager. Cain is thrilled to combine her love of sports with her love of photography.
Photo by Amanda Cain. Sony Alpha 1. Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master. 1/160-sec., f/2.8, ISO 6400
As a Black woman, Cain has dealt with adversity. She spoke with us about her experiences being treated as the token and about times where she was clearly not hired for her work or photographic style but was expected to shoot in a preset style. She became hyper-aware of this as she interviewed to work with new organizations and has had nothing but a positive experience with the Sharks. “One of the things that John Becker, our team president, organizational president, is trying to do is to infiltrate diversity and inclusion and hiring people outside of hockey and basically from all walks of life.”
Cain is thrilled she gets to build a photography team on the Sharks and hopes other NHL teams will see the value in that as well. “Why can't other teams realize there is value? I'm not saying that you want the POC to be the token, but just actually look at their work for the work.” As Cain has continued her career, it is amazing to see the growth in her imagery and her unique creative style.
Photo by Amanda Cain. Sony Alpha 9 II. Sony 20mm f/1.8 G. 1/640-sec., f/2.8, ISO 2500
“It had been on my list to switch to Sony for a number of years,” Cain told us as she explained her switch to the system. She loves the feel of the Sony Alpha 7 IV in her hands. “I love the variety of lenses Sony has, I just got the Sony 20mm f/1.8 G and I’ve never used a 20mm in my life. But there are all these different lenses I never thought I would use.” And of course, you can tell with the image quality as well. The images are not only sharper, but there’s also just a different feel and look that I love.”
Cain also does not shy away from cropping, “I crop like crazy, especially with sports,” she says with a laugh. She also mentions that she’s sure the Shark’s graphics team has noticed a change in the file size of the images. Cain uses this to her advantage when cropping and in post-processing her images.
Photo by Amanda Cain. Sony Alpha 1. Sony 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G. 1/640-sec., f/6.3, ISO 4000
“And you can definitely tell the difference with autofocus,” she adds. “Compared to the Sony, the other autofocus systems just can’t keep up.” Between the Sony Alpha 7 IV and the Sony Alpha 1, Cain has the perfect kit – not just for her sports imagery but for all different styles of photography.
Cain is excited to see what the next season of hockey will bring. As she looks forward in her career, she hopes to tell the story of individual athletes. “I like the process and the journey and getting inside of the athlete's head. You know what I mean? And telling that story through images, through portraits and whatnot.”
She also has a personal project she would like to work on touching on her experience as a sports fan - what those emotions are like, the rush of adrenaline in the peak action moments and the connection fans have to their teams.
Photo by Amanda Cain. Sony Alpha 1. Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 G Master. 1/500-sec., f/5.6, ISO 1250
With seemingly llimitless possibilities, Cain’s journey is going to be one to follow. As a sports photographer and a visual storyteller, she’s continuing to make an impact with her images and her drive. Follow her on Instagram (@amandajcain) to stay up to date with her work.