Ted's Cameras Learning Centre


AFL Team Photos - Michael Willson

11 January 2018 9:41:42 AM AEDT

Footy season may be some months away, but Ted's Master Michael Willson is flat out!
Find out what it takes to photograph all 26 AFL & AFLW teams around the country, in just a couple of months...

 

One of my key responsibilities during the pre-season is to take all the AFL and AFLW team photos. With 18 mens and 8 women’s teams now, December to February is a busy time. Team photos involve a lot of preparation, organisation and travel!
 
Generally, we have two photographers assigned to each team photo. Armed with all our camera and lighting gear, we will arrive at the club at least 90 minutes before to set up. We generally set up three stations. The team photo station, the head and full-length station and the creative station:
 
The required shots on team photo day
The required shots on team photo day
Having so many set-ups requires A LOT of gear. We carry 6 x Elinchrom ELC Pro HD flash units, accompanying stands and soft-boxes, snoots and umbrellas. Coupled with 4 x Canon 1DXMKII bodies and associated lenses, you’re looking at nearly 80kg of photo gear. This can be a challenge when travelling for interstate team photos, but our friends at Virgin Australia make the process as smooth as possible.
 
We are generally given an hour with the players to get everything we need. It is up to the clubs as to how the day is structured but usually, we shoot all the head and full-length shots and creative portraits first, and then shoot the team photo at the end. 
 
Shooting the 2017 Collingwood team photo
Shooting the 2017 Collingwood team photo
As you can imagine, trying to keep the attention of 45 players for more than an hour can be a challenge at times. This is where organisation and preparation is key. Little things like having allocated positions for players in the team photo can make the process that much smoother.
 
Organisation is key... Little things like having allocated positions for players can make all the difference in getting a great result
Organisation is key... Little things like having allocated positions for players can make all the difference in getting a great result
The creative station is my favourite to shoot. Generally, we are given creative freedom with these pictures, so the possibilities are endless. But as always we are also limited with time. We may have 1-2 minutes with each player so you need to work quickly.
 
The creative station offers an opportunity to explore and push the boundaries with portraits
The creative station offers an opportunity to explore and push the boundaries with portraits
Coming up with ideas for portraits can sometimes be a challenge as well. You want each teams to look different and also different to the year before. And when you have team photo shoots day after day or even sometimes two in one day, it can really test your creative energy. It's also important to communicate to the players what you're trying to achieve with the portrait.
 
Talking through a creative portrait with Collingwood's Ben Reid
Talking through a creative portrait with Collingwood's Ben Reid
The headshot/full-length station kind of works like a conveyor belt! The player stands there and alternates 6 different positions before exiting and the next player poses.
 
The head and full length station is no frills. Get the player in and out as quickly as possible and get the next player up
The head and full length station is no frills. Get the player in and out as quickly as possible and get the next player up
The photos we take on team photo days have a multitude of applications. They are used on AFL.com.au and club websites, social channels and mobile apps, as well as the AFL Record and newspapers. TV stations use all of our head shots for their broadcasts, and AFL corporate partners also utilise a number of pictures taken on team photo days.
 
The AFL Record applications of creative portraits and head shots
The AFL Record applications of creative portraits and head shots
Examples of headshots used by broadcasters and web and mobile applications
Examples of headshots used by broadcasters and web and mobile applications
Team photo days are intense and exhausting, they take a lot of preparation and are physically taxing, but they can also be great fun. And it is worth all the effort when you get the results you after and begin seeing the finished products out there being used.
 
Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than a perfectly symmetrical team photo!
Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than a perfectly symmetrical team photo!

Ted's Master Michael Willson

If you'd like to see more of Michael's work, check out his galleries and website in the links below!


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