Sports Photographer Pete Saloutos Stays Ahead of the Pack
For veteran stock photographer Pete Saloutos, sports is more
than just a game, it's a metaphor for life. At least that's how he
and the long list of advertisers who can't get enough of Saloutos'
eye-catching sports images, look at it.
"Whenever I'm shooting sports, I always think about the big picture, about what the image means or how an advertiser can use it to express a concept or an idea," Saloutos said.
For his impressive clientele, said to include every one of the current Fortune 500, Saloutos creates stock images that are a far cry from "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat" of traditional sports photojournalism. What he's after — and what many of his clients crave for their corporate brochures or print advertising campaigns — are images that suggest something decidedly more lofty and abstract than "no pain, no gain."
"Teamwork has become a really dominant theme in advertising these days. Companies are always trying to show how they can work together as a team," Saloutos said, while noting that "performance" and "integrity" are also popular commercial themes of late.
How one goes about putting these abstract notions into concrete form is what being a stock photographer is all about. For those who do it well, like Saloutos, stock photography has become an art form — a very profitable art form. Without a trace of arrogance, Saloutos, 53, noted that he sells an average of 300 stock images a month through his representative, The Stock Market, with his clients ranging from Johnson & Johnson to Nike to just about everyone in between.
"Pretty much everyone in the Fortune 500 has bought stock from me," he said.
While Saloutos' portfolio of images is diverse — including everything from scenics to nudes to medical composites — sports is the primary subject matter. He's quick to point out, however, that what he does when crafting the perfect stock sports image and what a newspaper photographer does when shooting a New York Yankees game, are worlds apart.
"I'm not shooting sports as a sporting event. I'm shooting it as a metaphor for something else, so everything I do is staged," Saloutos said. "I love sports. I love the beauty and motion of it, but I've never been interested in going to a football game and photographing it."
What interests Saloutos is creating elaborate sport scenes where he has complete control over every aspect of the shoot, down to the color of the water in the pool. By not leaving anything to chance — aside from the weather when he's shooting sports outdoors — Saloutos is able to transform the metaphors he has swimming around in his head into images.
A photo of a sprinter breaking the tape with a look of achievement on his face might symbolize "integrity," for example, or an image of a muscular, well-oiled hurdler frozen in mid-air could convey "performance."
"Part of the thrill is thinking about the images and figuring out how they're going to work. I like to have complete control and shooting stock allows me to do exactly what I want."
EVERYONE INTO THE POOL
In the case of a recent shoot involving five female swimmers diving off blocks into an indoor pool, Saloutos spent four hours setting up the scene and just two on the shot itself, a ratio that's fairly typical for him. Most of the time was spent on the lighting, with particular attention paid to how the water would be lit from above.
To get the luminescent effect he wanted, Saloutos clamped four Norman strobes to motion picture-style C-stands and carefully arranged them around the pool, with a blue gel placed over each light. He focused two strobes on each of the swimmers then wired all the lights into the same pack so everything would fire at once.