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|| News Item: Posted 2008-09-04

Stand Ins
Pop Warner team help photographer with Sports Illustrated photo shoot.

By Preston Mack

Photo by Preston Mack

Photo by Preston Mack

The stand ins.
When I was a staff photographer at the South Florida Sun Sentinel, I had the opportunity to shoot the portraits for the annual football preview section. These section covers would feature an athlete from the Miami Dolphins, a Florida NCAA team (UM, FSU or UF) and the local high school powerhouse. Subjects over the years have included Jimmy Johnson, Jevon Kearse, Edgerrin James and Chris Weinke. Although I love to shoot individual portraits, I have always wanted to shoot a bunch of receivers - a group of players making a stylized catch in the frame. When I left the newspaper business in 2000, I just filed away that idea...

During the second week of August, I received a call from George Washington, the football photo editor for Sports Illustrated. He told me that they were working on a story about the "units" of a football team - and that he wanted me to shoot the wide receivers for the Jacksonville Jaguars. I knew exactly what I wanted to shoot. He gave me a list of different scenarios that he thought would work well, which included different groupings and angles. I wanted to make sure that I understood everything he was asking for, so I did a test shoot in my neighborhood with a local Pop Warner team

I took all the footballs I owned, my lighting assistant and shot every possible grouping and angle I could think of. The last test I shot was my "group reception" shot. I thought that the energy was there in the frame, and if I had the chance, I could make the Jaguar receivers get into it.

When I got to Alltel Stadium on the day of the photo shoot, the Florida weather was doing its usual summertime dance. Intermittent cloudiness was being broken up by torrential rainstorms. Since we had been given a fairly small window of time (30 minutes, total) for the photo shoot, there was a chance for a rainout. I had 3 Profoto 7b's, 4 heads and a complicated lighting scheme mapped out. The rain pretty much eliminated my grand light, and I had to settle for two heads running off of one 7B pack.

Photo by Preston Mack

Photo by Preston Mack

The opening spread in the Sports Illustrated NFL preview issue.
I got lucky and the rain did stop long enough for the Jaguar receivers to come out on the field. We quickly ran through all of the photos that George wanted me to get (You always need to make sure that you have the magazine covered, CYA!). The very last thing I asked for was the "group reception" photo. I showed the 6 receivers a print out of the kids, and they all really liked it. They all started to have fun, pose and jump around for me.

In the end, I shot seven different poses, high and low angles and the final picture in 15 minutes. That doesn't sound like much time, but when you deal with professional athletes, you are always under the clock. But, compared to my recent 20-second portrait shoot of Tiger Woods, it was an eternity!

In closing, I need to thank the IOC for awarding the Olympics to China (I tend to get more assignments when the SI staffers are away), George Washington at Sports Illustrated for giving this assignment to me, the Jacksonville Jaguars PR staff, the Jaguar wide receivers (who's energy makes the photo great) and the Avalon Wolves Pop Warner defense who came out to pose for me!

(Preston Mack is a freelance photographer based in Florida. He shoots assignments for magazines such as Sports Illustrated, ESPN The Magazine, The Sporting News, Business Week and Fortune Small Business. His portfolio can be found at

Related Links:
Preston's member page

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