The sideline’s rising star

By Megan Mesikapp

Scrolling through a Lane-affiliated sports account on Instagram, it is very likely to see a photograph or video with a watermarked SWS on the bottom right corner. 

Lane junior Sam Balkansky first picked up a camera in November and started photographing basketball games for Lane Tech and later for Kenwood as well. On Dec. 20, 2022 he began an Instagram account dedicated to his photography. Four months later, his freelance photography account has grown to over 700 followers.

The content created from the account has been used by a variety of Lane’s teams, ranging from basketball and baseball to girls soccer.

Balkansky, who runs the “Shot With Sam” account alone, wanted to be involved with sports and was inspired by a friend who also did photography. 

“I just wanted to be involved in sports somehow and I had a friend that did photography, and I saw it and thought ‘why not try,’” Balkansky said. 

When Balkansky began photographing, he would borrow a camera from Lane. Now, his equipment collection has expanded. 

“Now I have my own stuff, so I have two lenses, a base, lens filters, batteries, memory cards, it’s a lot of stuff,” Balkansky said. 

Photographing a variety of different games each week has also allowed Balkansky to learn new photography skills. 

“I’ve learned angles, editing, lighting, where to put yourself and then also what’s happening in the game,” Balkansky said. “It’s not always the action shots, but also players talking to coaches, and emotional things like screaming.”

After each game, there are tasks for Balkansky to tackle in regards to editing. Despite it being time consuming, he said it’s his favorite part.

“When you’re going through pictures, and you see one picture and you know ‘that’s the one,’” Balkasnky said. 

Still, he goes through thousands of pictures after every game. 

“After each game most of the time I will have three thousand to four thousand pictures, so I’ll go through all of those,” Balkansky said. “Then I’ll pick my favorites and it’s usually like one hundred to two hundred. My favorites are the ones that I picked out and then I’ll go through and edit those one by one.”

These selected photos are then posted on the Shotwithsam Instagram account, and then are reposted by various Lane sports teams. The account has gained a large following and recognition from many Lane students. 

“I was just doing it for fun, for myself. I wasn’t really expecting all of this type of stuff. But it makes me have even more drive to do it,” Balkansky said. 

The IHSA Boys Basketball State Championship, hosted at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, was Balkansky’s favorite event to photograph this school year. Looking into next year, he is eager to begin photographing basketball once more amongst other sports. 

“I’m just looking forward to next season for Lane basketball, and then more Lane sports trying to get more diverse spread with it,” Balkansky said. 

As the school year comes to a close, freelance photography has turned into more than just a hobby over the past few months for Balkansky, and he said he plans on pursuing it in the future.

“Hopefully whatever college I go to I end up doing journalism and being a sports photographer for that college’s basketball team, football team, something like that.”