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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