15 February 2013

The Football Attic Guide To... Team Photos

Ever since the day when 22 men first walked onto a field to kick about an inflated pig's bladder, the practice of taking a team photograph has been a mainstay in the football world. With the constant need to worship the sporting heroes put before us, we, the fans, have demanded the imagery that maintains and strengthens the love we have for our teams. To see a picture of the team we support is to reaffirm our pride and dedication.

Yet the act of capturing the physical and spiritual attributes of a given team is nothing if not a fine art. Merely snapping a picture of a group of men standing next to each other in the same outfit is only the beginning. There are many other things to consider if you want to create a truly epic team photo, so to illustrate that point we’ve put together a special Football Attic Guide for anyone needing to know how to do it right.

Right: Manchester United
Wrong: Notts County
1. Personnel 

To begin with, choose your subjects well. Obviously you’ll need at least 11 players, but you may wish to assemble a full squad, in which case a sense of strength and superiority can be implied through association with massed army ranks.

It’s also worth considering whether or not to include the manager, trainers, coaches and other hangers-on as too many people can make the shot look overcrowded. Let’s face it: who wants to see the club secretary?

An additional point: Make sure your team are smart, properly washed and groomed to create a positive image. Persuading your long-haired loons to take a haircut isn't compulsory, but in some cases it can make the overall picture look much tidier. Or to put it another way, if an Arsenal-era Charlie George makes his way in front of the camera, tell him to take the afternoon off.

Attic Tip: If your team wears stripes, an abundance of players in your picture can induce vomiting and nausea. Proceed only after seeking medical advice from your GP.



Right: Blackburn Rovers, Bristol City
Wrong: Southport, Sunderland.
2. Formation and composition

The traditional approach is, of course, to have two or three rows of players, each one ascending in height to create a pleasing image. This has become the de facto way to present your team picture over many decades, but with a little creativity and originality, new life can be breathed into the old format.

Take the camera angle, for instance. Instead of positioning the camera centrally in front of your subjects, put it to the left or right and arrange your players to stand in a line. The sense of perspective will draw the viewer’s eye towards a non-existent imaginary point in the distance, thereby creating depth.

Similarly, elevating the camera to look down on your team, if arranged correctly can be a welcome change from the traditional seated-and-standing approach. Here, sensible experimentation is encouraged.

Attic Tip: Under no circumstances be tempted to arrange your team like a set of ten-pin bowling skittles. It’s not clever and it’s not funny.

Right: Everton, Ipswich Town.
Wrong: Seattle Sounders, Houston Hurricane
3. Location

It was Clement Attlee’s Labour government of 1945 that passed a law stating that all football team photographs had to be taken in a footballing environment, be it “a stadium, a training pitch or, if no alternative exists, an indoor training facility.” Apparently. That’s why most team photos look the same.

And why not - it’s where your team look at its most natural, its most jovial and its most believable. It’s for that reason why - and we’re sorry to say this - experimentation must never be considered.

The moment you take the team away from the pitch, you take away its sense of meaning - its raison d'être, if you will. Shipping your players to a strange and inappropriate venue only causes confusion and anxiety for the people looking at your photo. It may seem harsh to be so strict about these things, but believe us, it’s worth it in the long run.

Attic Tip: Putting your team on an airport runway or in a verdant sub-tropical scenario is something you’ll regret for the rest of your days as a team photographer. Please don’t.

Right: Walsall
Wrong: AFC Bournemouth
4. Wardrobe

If you’re going to mark the occasion with a commemorative photograph, tell your team to make the effort and put their brand new kit on. It’ll show up lovely in the final prints, it really will. Failing that, last season’s jaded old kit will do, but looking smart is the key and there’s no excuses for scruffiness.

Having said all that, wearing a new kit for the team pic can backfire on you. If it happens to be lary, flash or in any way extravagant, it’ll be immortalised for years to come on football nostalgia blogsites where it’ll be made fun of in a cruel and relentless way. Possibly.

Due care must therefore be taken in deciding exactly which kit to wear on the big day and if anyone suggests wearing suits instead of playing kit, kindly tell them where to go. This is a place for tracksuits at best - not an off-the-peg number from Next.

Attic Tip: If your kit looks like it doesn't belong to any particular era you can think of or has been chosen as the winner of a Blue Peter ‘Design a Football Kit’ competition, it’s probably best to leave it in the changing room.

Right: Manchester City.
Wrong: Wolverhampton Wanderers
5. Success

Finally, if you've got the location right, the outfits right, the people right and the composition right, all you need do is consider the final cherry on the cake that can make or break a picture.

In a word, trophies. To give the impression that your team is successful (even if it’s not), do yourself a favour and find as many trophies as you can. They don’t even have to be related to football - just find something that you can put on the ground in front of the team to show they’re really going places.

Nothing impresses like success but though it’s great to be able to show off a European Cup or a Premier League trophy, not everyone can do so. That’s why it’s good to take a walk down to your local pub and ask them to borrow that tarnished old cup you won for winning the darts tournament six years ago or that wooden shield with the shiny engraved name plates all over it. No-one will ever know the difference and you might just attract the attention of an interested foreign investor to your club.

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