Thursday, August 05, 2004

How to handle "Media Day"

Mark M. Hancock / © The Dallas Morning News

Irving MacArthur defensive tackle Eddie Walton screams during practice with the team at the school in Irving. The senior is one of the defensive stars, who have allowed only seven points in two games.

I see the signs. It's almost the start of football season in Texas. The Sports reporters are working on their pigskin previews. The bands are practicing. Team mascots are learning how not to sneeze inside the head (yuck!). Here come the mugs.

Since football players wear helmets, most people don't know what they look like. Each Saturday, we need some way to show the people behind the weekly stats. Scheduled pre-season mug shots are better than run-and-git-it mugs. Or the ever present, "Do you have a shot without a helmet?"

Since neither coaches, players nor PJs particularly enjoy this annual cattle drive, get it done quick. Here are some tips to make the process less painful to everyone involved. I know PJs aren't into too much advanced planning, but this is one situation to do it.

Supplies needed:
neutral gray seemless paper (cut a 4' x 6' piece)
gaffer's tape
clipboard, clip tab or industrial paper clip
half-page, cut prints of each player's name, number, classification (Fr., So., Jr., Sr.) and position in a large font
spare plain white paper (8.5" x 11")
three heavy black markers

Arrive early and set up a station. Some mug shot days (called "media day") are scheduled to coincide with the team shots. In some areas, there may be up to four newspapers getting mugs in addition to the sometimes insecure portrait photographer the team hired.

Find a place with a large blank wall with constant shade for the players (typically on the north side of a building). This keeps the light even for both strobes and available light shooting. It also opens up the eyes of the players because they aren't squinting at the sun.

Tape the seemless paper to the wall with the gaffer's tape high enough to accommodate all players from the angle of a camera on a tripod. You don't want the gray paper drawing a line (going tangent) through a player's head with the orange wall showing above the ear. If the PJ isn't taller than 6 feet, consider using a chair for the players. Adjust the background accordingly.

Four to five feet in front of the background, dust the ground and place a piece of gaffers tape. This is where the players stand (if sitting put two small marks for the front chair legs). This is far enough away from the background to avoid shadows from the player on the background when using a flash or some strange bounced light.

Place a trash can within reach near the line. It will be used later.

Next, set up a table (or bench if you must) near a different section of the wall. Tape clear, large-font instructions (see below) on the wall as to what the players must do. Football players can read and are really good at following instructions.

Firmly clip the name sheets together so they don't blow away. Place them on the table along with some blank sheets (also clipped together) and the black markers.

Set up your tripod and place your strobe or flash on a camera stand (you only need one, but two looks a bit better). Use a shutter release plunger cord or electronic equivalent. Use a 100mm to 200mm range lens. Make sure everything is working (batteries are new, wireless connections work, reformatted card or plenty of film, etc.).

Ask a manager or one of the other kids to stand on the line and make a test exposure with digital cameras to check the light. Set the focus and switch to manual-mode focus (everyone will stand in the same spot). Set the light adjustments to manual-mode (because skin reflectivity messes with the meter). Test once more.

From here, it's a piece of cake. The players get their half-sheets of paper, check it for accuracy and move to the line. Tell them to hold the paper directly under their chin (so the name appears with their face since you can't see their number). Shoot.

Have them place the paper in the trash can. Shoot again.

Instead of looking through the camera on the second shot, I look at their eyes. If I don't see the reflection of the strobe off their eyes, they probably blinked and I take one extra shot.

Say "thank you" and "next" in a calm voice... shampoo, rinse and repeat...

Most high school kids think it's cool to look tough. There's no talking most of them into smiling and looking pleasant. So, make an example sheet (8.5 x 11) with mug shots of smiling professional athletes. Label this one "Right." Also make an example sheet of unhappy mug shots of police department arrestees. Label this one "Wrong."

Tape both on the wall near the instructions. The players should get the hint and smile when they arrive. Otherwise, just let them all know the photos will run next to their accomplishments on the field and their moms aren't going to be happy with frowny faces.

In a best-case shoot, a prepared PJ can shoot the whole 80-person football team and staff in less than 20 minutes. Shooting order doesn't matter because each person is holding up his/her own name.

Wall instructions:

1) Find a paper with your name and information. If any information below is missing, add it with the black pens provided. If one does not have your name, follow these instructions.

2) Write your first name in CAPITAL BLOCK LETTERS.

3) Below that, write your last name in CAPITAL BLOCK LETTERS.

4) Below that, on the lefthand side of the page, write your position in abbreviated form (WR, DE, RB, QB, etc.).

5) To the right of that, write your classification (Fr., So., Jr., Sr.).

6) If you know your jersey number write a # symbol and the number.

You are responsible for the spelling of your own name. This spelling will be used for the entire year. Make certain it's correct.

If you make a mistake, use a new sheet of paper.

If your name has capital letters in the middle, place three small underlines under the letter to be capitalized other than the first letter.

Refer to the example for any questions.

When completed, step up to the line and place this information under your chin so the photographer can read it.

Enough for now,

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