Behind the Scenes Shooting NFL Rookie Portraits with Johnny Vy

Behind the Scenes Shooting NFL Rookie Portraits with Johnny Vy

Los Angeles photographer Johnny Vy was approached by to photograph portraits of the league's incoming at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere; a four-day event where new rookies get to wear their uniforms for the first time, pose for trading card photos, and learn some of the ins and outs of the billion dollar business that is the National Football League. He wrote a detailed blog breaking down the shoot from beginning to end.

Vy wanted to be able to capture several different looks for his photos. He knew he would shoot something clean on a white background so that the NFL could cut players out and use the images in a variety of ways, but he also wanted to do something a bit different.

As I waited in line to order my lunch, I noticed a bread rack behind the counter, which had a single light bulb shining above it. The rack had wooden slats across it, and as the light shone through, it cast shadows against the wall, which I thought looked really cool. I knew then that I wanted to incorporate this type of look into some of my portraits. The idea was to shoot it against a dark backdrop, and have these rays of light shining down, infused with a lot of smoke and fog.

 Since the shoot was scheduled for first thing Saturday morning, Vy and his assistant began setting up on Friday to ensure that everything would be in place for the following day. They were assigned a fairly small tent and were tasked with figuring out how to get two separate looks set up in that space.

Given the small amount of space (10x20) in the tent for two setups, we predicted that I would end up having to stand outside of the tent to shoot, and the direction of opening greatly helped reduce flare, as well as protect our set from wind (the tent with no walls opposite of us had a seamless destroyed by the wind during lunch).  It also provided a sense of privacy, because our setup was not out in the open.  We were one of the few people to set up the day before, and I am really glad that we made that decision.

Vy first set up his white seamless and acrylic boards for his first look, and a black backdrop with an overhead light to create the shadow streaks that inspired him in the bakery.

Copyright 2015 | Image by JOHNNY VY |


Copyright 2015 | Image by JOHNNY VY |

Unfortunately, Johnny didn't test his setup on black with the fog machine until the next morning when he discovered that the machine actually filled up the entire tent with fog.

 Since we would start shooting at 8 am, we got the fog machine going around 7:45.  Before we knew it, our tent was full of fog, and it was absolutely uncontrollable.  Not only did test photos look washed out against our black backdrop, but it was also spilling over to our white set, and washing that out as well.

Copyright 2015 | Image by JOHNNY VY |


I ran over to grab a large industrial fan from another tent, and we began airing out our tent as quickly as possible. Within 20 minutes, most of the fog had dissipated, and I was hoping that we would not get any players in for their pictures until the entire tent was clear. Thankfully, the players were running late for their group photo, and we didn't actually see our first player (Tyler Lockett) until around 8:15 am. By that time, there was no more fog, and we were back in business. So much for that idea! I think if we were in a larger space, and not enclosed in a tent, we may have been able to achieve the look I was going for, but in this case, it was just not meant to be. At least we gave it a shot.

Despite the unexpected fog issue, Johnny was able to recover, adapt, and snap some solid images thanks to good planning and good preparation. Check out some of his photos below and read more about his experience over at his blog. You can also see a full gallery of his photos on

Images used with permission [Via Johnny Vy]

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Andrew is a professional photographer based in Houston, Texas. Texas is better than all other states including Canada.

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