MLB photo day; the glorious day where players and coaches have their headshots and portraits taken to be used by every and anyone through out the season and I had the chance to be present for two of them. I had the opportunity to be present for the MLB photo day for both the New York Mets and the Washington Nationals. Two different teams and two completely different experiences for their photo day.
Spring Training was a blur with the lockout ending and players reporting quickly after. Within the first 5 days of Spring Training I was assigned to help out with the MLB photo day for both the Mets and Nationals. I was there to assist the photographers MLB hired to take portraits of all the players and coaches. I was there for to shoot the behind the scenes action of a photo day.
New York Mets
The New York Mets photo day has had to be one of the most chaotic photo days I’ve ever been to. Imagine everything that could go wrong and then add more on top of that.
I was there to help out Mark Brown, who I know well from shooting numerous games here in South Florida. I figured since we knew each other that the day was going to be a breeze. Wrong.
I show up at the Mets Spring Training facility around 5 in the morning and a nearly two hour drive. I walk into this giant tent where the photo day would be occurring. I walk in and it’s complete darkness; the power hadn’t been turned on yet. I run into the Mets team photographer and he tells me where Mark is setting up. I’m using my phone’s flashlight to navigate the darkness as the entire inside of the tent was painted black with black curtains put up everywhere. I found Mark and saw that the area he was assigned was so tight that he would basically be getting literal headshots only.
We ended up getting relocated to another area by the Mets’ team photographer. Granted the power still hasn’t been turned on yet and we’re trying to set up backdrops, lighting etc. and the entire time we’re doing this, the Mets PR team is asking us over and over to move our cars from the player’s parking lot; which is were the tent was located. Frustration is starting to grow as we’re being rushed and I just ended up moving Mark’s car outside the lot. As I head back in I see the coaches walking up and the call time was for 6:30 and it’s a few minutes past 6.
I get back in and the photo stations where pretty much set up ready to go. The Mets had a makeshift bodega setup out in the front and also had their headshot setup right after that. JC Carey had the next setup followed by two other photographers who I didn’t get a chance to properly meet and then it was us.
The way it would flow would be that the players and coaches would get to the Mets’ stations first, then go to JC, followed by the other two photographers and then us. Team reps and PR people were there to help guide players along and basically try to keep up on schedule.
As Mark begun to shoot his strobes were just going off randomly and we couldn’t figure out why. We then heard the other photographer on the other side of the curtain trying to figure out why his strobes were just going off randomly as well. Turn out they both had the same strobes on the same channel and they were each triggering each other’s strobes. They kept going back and forth trying to change their settings to get straightened out and the line for the players and coaches started to stagnate.
Mark began to knock out the coaches and I’m in the back area by JC getting some photos/video of some players. I felt a finger jab in my side and it was Buck Showalter. He had asked me where the other photographer was and I told him I didn’t know. He paced for a few seconds, untucked his jersey and walked out. Basically stormed off and walked out through the entrance. I went over to Mark and asked if he got Buck and he said no and asked why. I told him Buck just walked out and I don’t think he was coming back.
Mark’s facial expression said it all. We kept shooting and the Mets photographer came by and we told him what happened. He reached out to PR and other team officials trying to get Buck to come back and we were told point blank that Buck was done and he wasn’t coming back.
But wait, it gets better. All of a sudden there was a power surge throughout the tent and it blew out the power box for Mark’s strobes as well as the Mets’ headshot station. Only one light was working. Luckily for us the Mets video guy was there and he gave us these lighting tubes they use for their video work. We used gaffers tape to attach them to the light stands and set the temperature to match what Mark had set in his previous setup.
As much drama as we had the players were pretty easy to work with. There were some who hated their photos being taken and only took 3 photos and just walked off. Others were more accommodating and were willing to try different poses and setups.
Being traumatized by all the drama from the Mets photo day I had to go to the Nationals’ photo day the next morning. I was looking forward to this one since Adam Glanzman was the photographer I was going to be working with. I’ve known and really admire his work and I was excited to see how he photographs portraits because Adam has a unique style to his work and you can tell it’s one of his photos by the lighting and overall use of color in his photos.
I drive up the Nationals facility and run into their PR guy who walks me through a maze of hallways to get to Adam. Unlike the Mets where all the photographers were in close proximity, we were in a room at the end of a hallway all by ourselves. Other photographers were located I assume in other hallways. We were in a room which I assumed was for some sort of medical purposes as the entire wall was filled with different types of contact lenses. Just drawers and drawers of contact lenses.
I introduce myself to Adam and we’re having small talk as I help him setup back drops and be his test dummy. Find out he is from a city 10 minutes away from where I was from in Massachusetts so we talked about Boston, the Red-Sox etc.
When I say the Nationals MLB photo day was like night and day compared to the Mets. There were no issues and we shot all the players and coaches in just over an hour. It was so smooth; I couldn’t believe how smooth the day went. I told Adam of the horror story the Mets day was and how I wish every photo day was this easy.
There are two things I took away from my experiences from photo day. 1) Every photo day is different and I have to adjust accordingly to the moment. And 2) I’m better behind the camera than in front of it. I saw some of my test images and it’s not flattering at all.