In a whirlwind assignment during official photo day at the New York Mets 2009 spring training camp, Jane Shauck tapped the inner boy in all 69 players and coaches in just over 90 minutes. Clear communication with her client and a comprehensive grasp on the project’s mission allowed Shauck to radiate confidence on set and provide effective direction to her subjects, which shines through in the resulting emotive portraits.
Project: Photojournalistic portraits of 69 players and coaches from the 2009 New York Mets for SportsNet NY, all shot in just over 90 minutes.
All images in this article © Jane Shauck
ASMP: How long have you been in business?
JS: Five years.
ASMP: How long have you been an ASMP member?
JS: I was a member as a student for a year, then I just rejoined a few months ago.
ASMP: What are your photographic specialties?
JS: Both photographing people in a photojournalistic style with an emphasis on emotion and shooting documentary projects. In June I documented the making of Michael Jackson’s tour costume for Swarovski, just weeks before he died.
ASMP: What do you consider your most valuable piece of equipment?
JS: I love the Canon 5D Mark II for the color and ability to shoot safely on higher ISOs with less noise.
ASMP: What is unique about your style/approach or what sets you and your work apart from other photographers?
JS: Two things, I think — the ability to quickly gain the trust of people to allow for intimate shots, and photographing in an authentic, clean style with minimal post-processing.
ASMP: Please describe the processes and techniques central to the making of this work.
JS: The key to the project was eliciting emotional portraits in a short timeframe. The supervising producer and I strategized about the shoot and everyone’s roles to ensure all would go smoothly. I used simple lighting: two Profoto strobes and a silver reflector.
ASMP: Tell us about the purpose and scope of the project to photograph the Mets 2009 team and how you got involved with SportsNet NY.
JS: The supervising producer from SportsNet NY (SNY) contacted me after reading an article in a local Connecticut newspaper about my photography business. She wanted to shoot black & white, photojournalistic portraits of the Mets players and then film the images for use on their cable channel.
ASMP: You photographed 69 people in about 90 minutes. Why the extreme time constraint? This timeline requires significant planning. Please describe how the shoot was organized.
JS: It was the official Photo Day at Spring Training — a very busy time. They had a intersquad game later that day and the players had to go through 5-10 photographers from different news agencies up on the field and then come to us in the visiting team’s locker room. With little time, we needed a game plan to make sure the supervising producer and I didn’t step on each other directing-wise. I first took the standard head shot with each player and then wanted them to laugh. The producer asked them to swing, hold the bat or ball, pitch, and so on. It only took a couple of players to get into a quick rhythm that seemed natural and probably the best for pictures.
ASMP: Your final images were in black and white. What artistic guidance, including shooting color or black and white images, were you given by the client?
JS: Besides the feel of the photos, the client wanted them to be printed in black and white to make give them a different feel from what was out there in sports photography. The producer liked a natural light portrait from my Web site and I chose the black background to make the white uniforms pop and create a more intimate photo.
ASMP: What other considerations, including budget, time constraints or expected usage, led to the decision to capture images in black and white, against a black background?
JS: The decision to make them black and white was strictly an artistic one. The initial capture was in color, which worked out great because the Mets asked for color shots after they saw the photos.
ASMP: Describe the logistics for the shoot, including the lighting set-up, your support crew, and hair, make-up, and wardrobe assistance.
JS: Extremely minimal! No hair, make-up or wardrobe. One assistant who held the reflector. I set up the lighting and the producer and I were each other’s support crew. This was really a very simple shoot.
ASMP: With only minutes to shoot each player, what technique did you use to quickly connect with and animate your subjects?
JS: I introduced myself to each player, seated them, and briefed them on what we were looking for. Most of the players were very accommodating, though some of them were reluctant to throw their head back for a deep fake laugh. But when I actually demonstrated this (looking ridiculous) they mostly laughed and followed suit. This playfulness set the tone for the session, making it nice and loose, for better shots.
SNY came up with the idea of having the players swing, pitch and play with the ball, which is a great method for getting people relaxed. And having a line of teammates watching you get your photo taken really brought out the boy in these guys.
ASMP: Were any of your subjects uncooperative or reluctant, and if so, how did you get them to work with you?
JS: See question above.
ASMP: How was your set arranged to facilitate efficient work? Did you use any special equipment to make the shoot move more efficiently?
JS: We shot in the visiting team’s locker room. There was just no room for a tripod or a long lens even, and a tripod would have limited the spontaneity and slowed things too much.
ASMP: Were other portrait subjects present or near the set while the shoot was in process or did others have any influence on the interaction between you and the individual subjects?
JS: A couple of the players had their teammates in the room — you can see David Wright pointing and telling his buddies to get out! I loved it and kept shooting!
ASMP: Please talk about how you determined a fee for this shoot, given the large number of images produced in a short time frame.
JS: It was difficult. I went on an APA forum and solicited advice, and called an ASMP photographer who I had met at a PDN On the Road workshop. I also consulted fotoQuote and priced the job considering both time and value of the end product.
ASMP: What post-shoot image adjustments did you make to enhance the images and prepare them for the client?
JS: I turned them black and white and then kicked up the contrast a bit in Lightroom. I like a real look, so I’m not interested in Photoshopping skin or other enhancements.
ASMP: Have you used the images from this shoot in your promotion and marketing efforts and, if so, how?
JS: We blogged, twittered and put them on our Web site. It’s been amazing how many Mets fans have found us, blogged about us and linked to us! This series of shots was just chosen by PDN for its Faces 2009 Photo Contest. We are also preparing an Adbase campaign and will use the photos for this.
ASMP: Have you received any new assignments or clients as a result of this project? If so please describe the type of client and/or project.
JS: It’s given a lot of credibility to our commercial work. We were recently hired for (of all things) a Department of Homeland Security documentary project.
ASMP: What lessons have you learned from this shoot that can be applied to other projects?
JS: For a fast celebrity shoot like this, bring your self-confidence — you have to be a leader and feel very comfortable running the show. Additionally, work out with the client who is going to lead at what times so that you both look and feel good at the end of the shoot, and then it will truly be a collaboration, not a struggle in front of the subjects. SNY’s supervising producer was awesome to work with and made the shoot seamless.
ASMP: Did this project lead you to any new insights about athletes and their personalities? Or about the art of portraiture?
JS: What I really noticed was their boyishness. They were all very down to earth and many of them seemed incredibly sweet. I had expected much more ego and there wasn’t any. I really appreciated it when players let their guard down especially when guys like Delgado, Wright, Putz and Santana played to the camera — they must have known they were giving me great shots! This type of shoot is truly a team effort between the photographer, the client and the players.