That time I photographed Novak Djokovic

Where does one begin? Let’s start with the phone call. Last year I was contacted by All These Things Agency based out of Cape Town, I had done a lot of work in the past and also current for them. The conversation was, how would you like to photograph some tennis players and fly to Spain?

Obviously, the answer was yes.

At this point, ideas are flying through your head, do I shoot the players in the studio do I shoot outside, where do I get lighting? As the conversation progressed, things becoming more evident. They would needed photographs like the World Cup Rugby Campaign that I photographed. So, in-studio with similar lighting, used in the same manner as the rugby images. But that wasn’t even the best part. I then was informed I would be photographing Alex De Minaur, Julia Goerges, Zhang Shuai, Gael Monfils, Steve Johnson, Patrick Mouratoglou and last but not least, world number one Novak Djokovic! Still to this day, a pretty surreal conversation.

Myself and my assistant jumped at getting our Shengin Visa, which wasn’t an easy task due to Spains holiday season along with the travel agency screwing up half our details. Let’s say our visa came the day before we were to leave! During the week to the build-up to this campaign, we had touched base with a very reputable rental house in Spain, Addict Studios.

After locking down all the lighting equipment, it was time to plan the shoot. The photography brief was to “play the unplayable.” This meant having players looking as if they were actually playing tennis. If you haven’t read my blog post on the Rugby World Cup Campaign, check it out here were I detail and outline all the difficulties of capturing players while they’re moving.

The equipment

The only equipment for this job was the Profoto Pro 10 packs. I had rented four Profoto Pro 10 Packs along with eight Pro heads two v-flats, two parabolic umbrellas, one five-foot octobox along with one broncolor 180 parabolic with Profoto adaptor.

Profoto’s are main go to brand when it comes to photographing sport. Their lighting packs provide speed and consistency. I use these both locally and internationally.

Nikons D850 is their flash ship camera and you would be hard pressed to find another that could beat it. With its 45mega pixels capturing billboard quality images in 9frames per second.

For lenses I use the 60mm macro along with the 70-200 F2.8 This combination allows me to create tack sharp images.

Then all the smaller items but not to be over looked, I use Capture One with tethering cable and manfrotto tripod.

The shoot

We finally touched down in Spain. Waking up the next morning, we headed to Ciudad de la raqueta, where we would start our studio set up and running through the problems. With any photographic shoot, there will inevitably be problems. It is safe to say the way you deal with these problems will put you into another category of professionalism. We were now ready for day one.

On day one we met and photographed Patrick Mouratolglou, Senna Williams head coach this was then followed up by Zhang Shuai. Day two was Alex and Steve.

The main idea behind the shoot, was to capture movement, but most importantly, how the product interacts and helps the players. As tennis is an action sport, most of my work is to capture action images as if the players were playing tennis. Getting them to co-operate is easy to some degree. As they know the sport and play the sport getting them to recreate plays or movements on the court is simple. Its containing these movements and trying to track and capture these movements. I usually mark off areas and try to get them to recreate plays or movements inside a confined marked off area. With all the players playing in both upcoming games they all want to remain injury-free. You need to push them to get you shot, but also need to mindful that by pushing them too hard they could injure themselves. I start off slow and gradually build up their confidence with more dynamic movement.

It’s also worth knowing the player your photographing and what their signature movements or moves are.

Day three was Gael and day four, Julia and Novak. It was an incredibly successful photographic campaign and one that couldn’t have happened without all the people involved. To have met all these players was an astonishing moment in my career. Attached you will find some behind the scenes imagery along with the final product.The campaign went live during the middle of 2019. The most notable places the images used was the New York City Asics flagship store in the USA.All in all, a very successful Campaign!