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|| News Item: Posted 2011-06-14

Familiarity, experience and professionalism make Tebow shoot truly cool

By Preston Mack

Photo by

In 2006, Freshman QB Tim Tebow stiff arms Preston Mack after their first photo shoot together!
I was on a corporate photo assignment when an elderly gentleman looked over the two cameras I had slung over my shoulders and asked me “What is your favorite photo that you have taken and can you tell me about it?” I have been asked variations of that questions many, many times but I never really have a clear way of explaining that I do not have a favorite. The joy I receive from this profession is from the actual process, not the finished product. My next photo shoot was the perfect example of this...

I got a call from USA TODAY to photograph college football great and current Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow as he worked out near his Jacksonville home. The NFL owners locked out the players, so many of them are coordinating practices on their own. The access was worked out through his agent, not the team.

In my almost 20 year career, I have shot over 350 NFL and NCAA "Division 1" football games and practices. I was interested to see what an NFL event with no PR handlers would be like.

Of course, I had two factors in my favor. Tim is probably one of the nicest professional athletes that you could ever deal with and I have photographed him five times previously, putting him on four Sporting News covers.

In each of those earlier photo shoots, it was vital to be as professional as possible. I would always arrive early with my assistant, set up the lights quickly, have an efficient plan and end early. When you schedule these high profile athletes, you will always have a set amount of time that the athlete will pose for you. It is a good goal to surprise them and finish before the subject wants to go. That will endear you in the eyes of the team and the player. I also made sure to bring 8x10 prints from each of the previous photo shoots so that he could give to friends and family.

When Tim pulled into the parking lot next to the grass field near his home, he quickly exited the car and gave me a warm welcome. Joining him were three Denver Bronco receivers who flew into town to run routes for him. Tim was first to have his shoes on and was ready to go as his receivers were still sitting on the ground, spike-less.

I said “Tim, throw me the ball”. I backed up to about 20 yards and threw the football with him. Normally, I am not one to be star struck, but throwing a football with an NFL QB is very cool - definitely a moment to remember.

Now, judging by my friend's comments on my Facebook post regarding this, I will answer the most common questions: 1) Yes, Tim has fixed his throwing motion. There is no more hitch. 2) Yes, he throws the ball very hard. (He is an NFL QB) 3) Yes, I threw tight spirals right back at him. 4) Yes, it is weird catching a ball thrown by a lefty (it spins the wrong way) 5) No, it was not as cool as catching Roger Clemens but only because baseball was my favorite sport growing up. 6) Yes, I did manage to drop a few balls, but I refer you to #2.

Over the next hour or so, I shot Tim throwing curls, digs, slants and go patterns to his receivers. It was weird to be able to walk up next to them as they discussed the routes and then shoot the action with a 15mm lens.

As someone who was annoyed with the media handling during games and practices, this was a once of a lifetime experience. I tried to deliver photos that were normally impossible to get. I doubt I will ever be able to feel the speed of the receivers running around or feel the quickness of the QB’s drop again.

At the end of the day, you should always remember that shooting good photos is not all about photography skill. Much of the work is cultivating and developing a relationship with the photo subjects. You always strive to make a positive, lasting impression that you can build on for the next shoot.

Preston Mack is a photographer based in Orlando, FL. He has shot photos from the Pace car at Daytona, caught Roger Clemens (while he was still juicing), played paintball with a Bee Gee, rode a roller coaster with Justin Bieber, hit fungo to Cal Ripken Jr, got punched by Sugar Ray Leonard and got a golf lesson from Tom Watson. (I am currently looking for an NBA superstar to play me one on one...) His online portfolio can be found at His blog can be found at .

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