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Blog » Tips

Tim Tadder Shares Tips for Photographing Famous Athletes

Posted by Workbook on 12/12/2013 — Filed under:  FeaturesHeadlinePhotography
By Heather Elder



Tim Tadder has a style like none other, and his professional athlete collection is top notch. Whether your talent is a celebrity, an athlete, or just an everyday person, capturing a powerful portrait is not easy. We asked Tim to share some insights he has learned over the years while photographing some of the most talented athletes in their sports.


Athletes are just normal people; they put their pants on the same way everyone else does.


The biggest thing I have learned over the last 10 years of shooting the world's most famous athletes is that they are just normal people and want to be treated like normal people. For the most part (with exception of only a handful of super divas), the more naturally I handle a subject the better the result. Athletes can sense nerves so best to leave those at home. Prepare, plan, and practice. When the shoot happens you will be ready. There is no need to be nervous; its just another subject, go make a kick ass photo.


Structure is essential.


An athlete’s life is based on schedules, routines, and following coaching. They live in a very structured time managed world. If you can share your shoot structure and expectations, you will put your subject into a familiar space. Then you can coach the athlete into what you want to happen. Taking your subjects to their familiar places will allow the athletes to feel more comfortable and be more likely to deliver a great result.


While recently photographing a NFL player, the client told us that the previous year the player heard the photographer say one more, and after that, one more, and one more again. The player walked off set thinking he was done. We all know one more means 10 more minutes, but to the athlete, one more means one more. Knowing this, I walked my talent through the shots list and shoot plan, which helped set the correct expectations.  At least with me, he knew up front that one more didn’t not really mean one more.


If you can get athletes to talk about themselves, you are set.


Legendary boxer, Larry Holmes, said it best  ”I love me some me.”  Try to find a way for the subjects to recant awesome plays, moments, or triumphs in a storied career. After a little prompting, soon they will be very much into the process. It’s amazing how quickly the shoot will begin to flow. The energy will loosen, and you’ll be surprised with what you might get.


While shooting a Hall of Fame baseball player, I started probing him about his best years' hitting. He had so much to say, including sharing his World Series experience and his MVP season. Before I knew it he was doing everything I wanted while he was spinning tales about himself.


Know the sport, the strength and weakness of your subject, but only shoot the strength.


You might have a pre-visualized image, but the day’s subject could not be the right fit. I recently shot an NBA player, and the creatives wanted a shot of the player flying through the air mid dunk. The problem, the athlete was known NOT to be a person who dunks but rather a layup guy. The subject saw the comps and said, “I don’t dunk.” After an awkward moment I quickly said, “Layups are super graceful; that will be cool.” And then I tried to move the conversation forward as fast as possible. Problem solved, but it took some work to gain back trust from the subject.


Share the image captures with the subject to make them part of the process.


Last year we photographed one of the NFL’s best QBs. Everyone warned me about his diva status. We were going to have 15 minutes tops. So, I wanted to make sure that the takes we got were going to be good. After the first pass, I pulled the subject in and said, “This is cool, but I would really like to see more turn and lean into the move. It will make the image feel more powerful.” He got it right away, did exactly what I asked for, and then came right back to the computer to check his adjustments. It was better; he saw it and right away saw another way he could improve the image with his body language. The 15 minutes turned in 45 and we got a bunch of extra imagery because he was so into the process.


To see more of Tim’s athlete imagery, please link to his Sports Portfolio




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Looking for a Rep? Consider these tips first. You never know, they might just work

Posted by Workbook on 05/02/2011 — Filed under:  FeaturesHeadlineMarketing Intelligence
By Heather Elder

Image by Ron Berg

Last year, I wrote a very short blog post for The Workbook about a phone call I received from a photographer. In light of a flurry of recent calls, I thought it was a good time to resurrect the post and expand on it.

We receive calls and emails from emerging photographers looking for representation all the time. I am always amazed at how many of them start off the conversation, “ Hi, my name is Joe Smith and I am looking for a rep. Are you adding talent to your roster?” If we are not adding talent at the time of the call, I immediately say no. It is an easy conversation and over quickly.

I always think it is unfortunate that he didn’t say something like, “Hi. I am Joe. I am looking for someone I can share my work with. I thought of you because I like the photographers you represent. Do you ever review photographer’s work that you don’t represent?” Indeed my answer would have varied based on how busy I was. But, at the very least I would have suggested to him to send his website. Who knows, I may have liked it and started to look out for his name and his work.

If you want to get our attention, we are sorry to say, it is long before the phone call. Here are a few tips on how to reach out to a rep and get noticed.

First and foremost, before an agent can seriously consider you for their roster, there is one criteria that is a given. Without it, a commercial photography agency will not be able to partner with you to increase your business.

The criteria is this: Your work must be marketable.

This is the most important step to getting through the door. We are commercial photography agents that show your work to top creative agencies, photo editors and designers. It is important that your work be creatively relevant. The majority of the time nude photos of your girlfriend are not commercially relevant. An image that a client can easily recognize their product or brand in is an image that will get our attention.

Now, assuming that your work is commercially relevant, the following tips (in no particular order) will help you to begin a relationship with a rep and ultimately partner with one.

#1) You need to be your own rep first.

There are 3 reasons that this is important:

The first is so that you understand what is required of a rep. You need to know how hard it is to get an appointment or to get someone to check out your website. And, you need to struggle a bit with the awkwardness of sales so that you can appreciate the effort required to build strong relationships.

The second reason is so that you hear first hand what people think about your work. You need to recognize that if you ask 10 people about your work you will get 12 different answers. Having these conversations on your own will help you to define what the common thread of your work is, see what isn’t working and ultimately develop a brand identity for your business.

The third reason is that it is no longer ok to think once you have a rep, you can cross marketing off of your to do list. Nowadays we require all of our photographers – no matter how successful they are – to get out there themselves to share what they have been up to lately. No rep can replace the power of the photographer connection.

#2) You need to be able to support yourself

We appreciate the photographer that comes to our group already working. This not only shows that clients trust them but it gives us some breathing room. It takes a long time to get a new photographer up and running. We like to set expectations and say that from the date your images are first up on our website, it takes a full year to get your work around the country. A photographer that already has some clients will be more patient with this process.

It is important to note that this source of work does not need to be commercial projects. We have represented photographers that have connections in the retail, editorial, stock, retouching and fine art worlds that have kept them going while their commercial careers got started.

#3) You need to have money to spend.

Any good rep will require you to market your work. Marketing your work will cost money. Source books, websites, portfolio renovations, direct mail and emailers all cost money. If you cannot afford to market yourself on a high end level than it may still be time to market yourself.

#4) You need to do your homework

Please do not send us a basic email asking us to represent you. The web makes it very easy now to get to know an agent, see how they market, learn the type of work that appeals to them. When you contact us, please show us that you did your homework and explain why we should look at your work and why you would be a good fit for us. We cant expect someone to hire one of our photographers just because I sent them an email blast. That would be nice but it rarely happens. We need to do the necessary leg work for them to get to know our photographers first.

#5) You need to be patient.

It will take time to find a rep that is the right fit for you. Timing is everything so spend your time wisely. Know that any time invested in getting to know a rep and having a rep get to know you will pay off in dividends later. Maybe they will represent you, maybe they will refer you to another rep. Regardless of the outcome, if you are able to connect with a rep my guess is there will be advice, friendship and partnership that will help you all along the way.

It is rare when we make changes in our group but when we do, the first people we consider are the ones we have had a relationship with over the years.

#6) Be creative

We still have promos from photographers that we thought were well done and stood out amongst the others. While we are not representing them, we have referred them for a job or two. When a solicitation stands out to us, we feel compelled to connect. We try our hardest to respond to those promos that are well thought out, relevant and creative. If someone spent the time to get to know us and target us specifically, we want to make sure they know they were heard.

#7) Be a good person

This really should be #1 or even up there with the Marketing Relevancy criteria. And, it really should go without saying. Be nice, be respectful and be a good person. And, we hope you would expect the same from us.

#8) You need to tailor your marketing to reps

We are neither art buyers nor an art directors. We are neither clients nor photo editors. We are a agents. For us it is not about just about the image or even the story behind the image. For us, it is all about the above points. If you are going to reach out to us, please take into account all that we will take into account when considering you and your work. Address all of our questions up front and sell us on why we should consider you. Recognize that we may have a need in our group and offer a way to fill it.

We recently received a promo from a photographer that included a bullet point note that outlined everything he was doing for his marketing, who his current clients were and which clients he would like to work for some day. This letter showed us that he had a handle on how we worked. His work conflicted with another one of our photographers and we are not currently looking BUT we still reached out and let him know we were impressed. We now know his name and will keep an eye open for his work. You just never know.

Heather Elder Represents

Heather Elder's Blog


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