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Life Before Photoshop: Prince Tennis Racquet Campaign

Look ma, no Photoshop.

Look ma, no Photoshop.

I continue my quest to bring to those of you that discovered photography in the digital era, an idea of what it was like way back when. I’m talking about a time when Adobe was a style of house found in the Southwest part of our fifty states. A time when my producer had to drive around to find a phone booth to call me, a person on our crew, a client, a location scout, etc. A time when you had to create images all by your lonesome, and “in the camera”.

Sound scary? Well it was, as I think back about it!!! However, I didn’t know any difference. It was just something you did, and everyone was on the same playing field. Yes, “those were the days my friend, oh yes those were the days.” When I teach my online class with the PPSOP, and I take my “Stretching Your Frame of mind” workshop around the planet, Photoshop is put on hold. We work on getting photos “in the camera”. I don’t mean to suggest that I never use Photoshop because I do. I just love the ‘content aware’ tool!!!

The challenge for me and one I ask of all my students is to be able to get as much as you can without the use of Photoshop. If there’s one thing I’m sure of in this “crazy mixed up world”, is that it will make you a better photographer, and that’s my goal. I’m not interested in my classes becoming better computer artists, just better shooters.

I was shooting a campaign and a series of posters for Prince, the makers of tennis equipment, and the campaign was called, “Let the games begin”. It was about what people will go through to become better players; aside from using Prince’s equipment. The photo above was taken in Santa Barbara, California, and I had scouted several locations with my Sunpath chart and my Morin 2000 hand bearing compass. I knew from those readings that the sun would hit this location at sunset. I stood where I was going to place the tennis player, took a reading with my compass, and determined that he would get perfect late light.

Since most of the work comes in the pre-production stage of a photo-shoot, I was feeling pretty good about the prospects of coming away with a “keeper”. Now, all I had to do was set up the tennis balls, put the model in the right spot, put the Prince blue bag as far away as I could, and still make the client happy, then wait for the light.

Well, here came Murphy’s Law. You know the one, that pesky law that says, “if anything can go wrong, it will. If there’s a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong.”

So, you’re asking yourself what could have gone wrong? Well imagine everything set up perfect, the late sun shining low and bright, and a Santa Anna wind coming up from nowhere and blowing every tennis ball off the court. Can you imagine? Well, I can tell you that it was just about the last thing that was on my mind, but that’s exactly what happened.

What did I do back then without the help of Photoshop? I did what I had to to make it work. I had everyone grab some Duct tape, tear off several thin strips and secure every ball to the court. So every ball you see has two pieces of very strong sticky tape under it.

This is what people look like when they’re taping tennis balls to the court.

“Oh yes, those were the days!!!

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com and watch for my 2013 workshop schedule I’ll post at the top of this blog. Come shoot with me sometime and listen to a million stories just like this one.

Don’t forget to send me a photo and a question to: AskJoeB@gmail.com.


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    { 8 comments… add one }
    • Thilo November 12, 2012, 2:54 am

      …and how would you fix this with photoshop?
      I mean, if you had a successful shot of the balls in the court, just before the good light happened, then what? put a layer of the player in the correct light and a layer of the balls lighted differently? would that look believable?
      and: would you plan ahead to make a shot of the balls just “because you can” or would photoshop help you anticipate the wind which you didn’t, way back then?
      in a nutshell: isn’t gaffer tape still the solution in 2012?

      • Joe November 12, 2012, 11:34 am


        It’s very hard to anticipate Mother Nature!!!! It came up out of nowhere and the balls were gone in a few seconds.

        If I had Photoshop back then, here’s what I would have done:

        I would have just taped a few balls down. a couple in the foreground, a few in the middle ground, and a couple in the background. Maybe a couple on each side in case of any distortion from the wide angle lens. Then, I would have cloned those balls. The reason being that they would all have the same size in each layer, making it easier to just clone them without worrying about the different sizes from the balls in front to the back.

        I would placed the balls so that I was able to clone the direction of the light on them as well.


    • Gary Thursby November 12, 2012, 9:17 pm

      Lol those Santa Ana winds are a pain, I know I live in southern CA! I like the message of this photo a lot. The man in anguish on the net. The balls, sports bag, racquet, and country club type background. As a great photographer once said “it’s all in the details”!

      • Joe November 13, 2012, 9:46 am

        Thanks for the comment Gary. It’s fun to look back on it, but it was crazy when it was happening!!!


    • Valeriano November 14, 2012, 11:57 am

      I’d say it’s hard to make happen what we figure in our minds, rather than blame it on nature: she’s the way she is; like it or not just get used to her.

      BTW I tried to use the tape trick for a different shot in your class and it didn’t work for me; perhaps cause I wasn’t sticking something on the ground but on a fence: gravity… Talking about nature, always brings us back with our feet on the ground.

      The higher you fly, the hardest the impact when getting back down… 😉 

      The photo is simple but fabulous. There’s a lot to read in there. It can also be despair for failure even having trained yourself a lot, or despair cause of a zillion of missed shots/chances… Or, on the funny side —I am sorry Joe— “I’m looking for my balls, have you seen ’em somewhere?”

      • Joe November 14, 2012, 12:22 pm


        I would suggest looking for them where they’ve always been first before you look anywhere else.

        You might try using what I use to use if tape wasn’t a good choice. It’s called ‘sticky Wax’, and it’s been around forever. Here’s the link to it:



    • Valeriano November 16, 2012, 2:18 am

      it depends… When they’ve been tore apart so much, we end up looking for every piece of them! 😉

      Thanks for the link to the product. I’ll give it a try!

      PS I’ve recently broke your “rule” of the fisheye lens, are we still friends? 😉

      • Joe November 16, 2012, 9:38 am


        “To each his own”!!!

        The only thing I have to say is that you’re just too good a photographer to rely on tricks to create pictures. Unless you’ve just run out of ideas!!!


        Still…amico mio!!!

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