May Featured Photo Shoot - Adidas Nations

Photo By Kelly Kline
Nolan Narain - 6'9" power forward, class of 2016 from Ontario Canada (Photo by Kelly Kline/Adidas)     

ATLANTA, GA - MAY 1-3, 2015 - This month my featured shoot is an assignment from Adidas to photograph an event called Adidas Nations. This is a prestigious invitation-only basketball event for the top high school basketball players in the country. And by top players, I mean players who are being recruited by the top colleges in the country, the "one-and-done" type of prospects, guys with true NBA potential. This type of player attracts a lot of media and social media attention, which is why good imagery of them is so important to Adidas. Part of my assignment was to create portrait and lifestyle imagery of the players for media, social media and web usage.

I have one word for this shoot - TEXTURE!!! OOOHHH Yeah, great texture can take a shoot from zero to hero!

The best thing I did was scout the location... cause believe me, shooting in a hotel ballroom on a seamless is not that fun. Instead, I found this weathered and rusty area of the parking garage at the JW Marriott in Buckhead... I take some personal pride in finding the ugliest most abandoned area of a 5-star hotel and making it look amazing!   

Photo By Kelly Kline
Dennis Smith Jr. - 6'1" point guard, class of 2016 from Fayetteville, North Carolina. (photo by Kelly Kline/Adidas)

To make this location work, I literally had to sweep up several years of accumulated cigarette butts and trash... then, with the help of 2 assistants, we ran over 400 feet of extension cords to get power to that area of the parking deck.  Once we were all wired up, we had four packs and five heads running, a digital tech station, a clothing rack and steamer as well as an assortment of snacks and refreshments.

The lighting was pretty simple - All Dynalite 40/40 heads with Dynalite 1600 Studio Packs -  2 edge lights with 30-degree grids at medium height on the left and right of the subject... a medium octabank for fill on right side of camera and as the key light a  40/40 head with a 40 degree grid just off my left shoulder. 

Photo by Kelly Kline
Lamar Peters - 6'0" point guard, class of 2016 from New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Emilee Ramsier)

Just around the corner from this area, was a long stairway to the next level of the parking deck that had been blocked off from the public for several years.  They were dirty and weathered and in the late afternoon there was a beautiful stream of light that passed through the area which was made some amazing available light images possible. It's pretty rare that I get to use available light on these kinds of shoots.  So I was very happy to have this ray of light even if it only lasted for a short spell.  

Photo by Kelly Kline
James Banks - 6'11" center, class of 2016 from Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kelly Kline/Adidas)

When photographing athletes, I always like to take some portraits that include movement and motion.  Getting guys to jump, dribble or pass the ball makes the image much more interesting.  It also takes good communication with the subject, finding movements that are natural feeling for them and also looking strong in camera is a joint creative process.  I often shoot to a laptop and will show guys frames as we are shooting so they can make adjustments.

Photo by Kelly Kline
Rawle Alkins - 6'4" Small Forward, class of 2016 from Brooklyn, New York. (Photo by Kelly Kline/Adidas)

SIDEBAR -- I've been working with Adidas for about five years now, they are a fantastic client with great internal structure and value photography very highly. They approach the use of visual assets with purpose, creativity and well executed pre-production. Over time, how and what I shoot for them has evolved. This evolution is due mostly to the rapid growth of social media. 

When I was first hired by Adidas, it was mainly to provide imagery that would be sourced to the media for news coverage of Adidas athletes, products or events. Adidas has carefully cultivated their media relationships, as media has traditionally been a way increase brand visibility and overall sales. While media is still in the drivers seat for most marketing departments, it is my experience that social media is now the co-pilot and coverage on social media is warranting extra budgets for photography and in many cases additional photographers. For example, during NBA All-Star weekend this year, Adidas had 5 photographers dedicated JUST to Instagram! I had an additional staff of 5 photographers that were dedicated to traditional media coverage... and even our media distribution had a social media element.  This is more than double the amount of photographers we had for All-Star last year. So it's fair to say, social media is just as important to major brands as traditional media.