Team Mug Shots

The first time I went out to shoot a high school team’s mug shots for The Missourian, I took individual photos of each player. That was a chunk of change at five bucks a head. Unfortunately, jBlue balked at paying that much.

“Shoot the whole team in one photo. We’ll crop the individual mugs from it,” he ordered. (Click on any photo to make it larger.)

Chuck Murdoch brokered a compromise

That might have made good sense from The Missourian’s standpoint, but it meant that I had to spend an hour or more driving to the school, setting up the pictures, collecting IDs, plus another hour in the darkroom for the five bucks. The other problem was that each head was significantly smaller than a dime, which was considered the minimum size any face could be to show up clearly in the paper.

Break ’em up into fours and fives

Sports editor Chuck Murdoch, worked out a compromise: I’d break the team into groups of four or five and get paid $3 a shot for mugs. That would give Chuck faces big enough to reproduce and would make me enough money to be worthwhile. (I didn’t know in those days I could tell somebody to take a hike if I didn’t like the price.)

I got better at it

I got better and faster with experience. First off, I learned how to control the situation: I wouldn’t let a coach dictate how I was going to shoot and I wouldn’t take any guff from the players. I’D pick the location to give me the best light to work with. Then, I’d enlist the coach or someone else to help the guys write their names on a sheet of paper and line up. I’d pitch a coin on the ground or floor and say, “Kneel on the coin. I’m going to take two shots. In the first shot, hold the sheet of paper under your chin like a jailhouse booking photo. Then, drop the sheet and give me an expression that’ll make your momma proud.”

It wasn’t art

Once I realized that nobody was looking for meaningful portraits that captured the soul of the player, I could knock off a team in about 30 minutes. All the sports department wanted was a reasonably sharp photo that showed two eyes, a nose, a mouth and two ears (if the player had all those parts) that they could run 1 column by 3 inches to break up the type. (These aren’t examples of when I had my act together, by the way. I was still learning.)

20 Replies to “Team Mug Shots”

    1. I have a bunch of photos of Chuck and think of him every time I go down William past where he used to live. As I recall, I shot a bunch of pix of his kids in PJs for a New Year’s Eve illustration.

      I hesitate to ask, but where is he now?

  1. Unfortunately cancer took my Uncle Chuck’s life but many great memories remain. Trivia about my Uncle Chuck befor he became a sports writter he was a St. Louis Cop.

    1. I am really sorry to hear that. He was a great guy. It’s amazing how many good people worked at The Missourian when I was first getting into the business. I learned a lot from Chuck.

      Somehow or another, the story about his being a St. Louis cop sounds familiar.

  2. Ken, I view your site frequently and recognize some names. I am CHS class of 73. Still live and work in Cape. I have an armload of photos my folks took of us kids as we were growing up. What is your recommendation for transferring them to digital such as a flash drive? I have an HP psc 1315v all in one. What’s your opinion?

    1. Just about any flatbed scanner will do a decent job with prints. I use a program called VueScan instead of the software that comes with any of my flatbed or negative scanners. It’s fairly easy to master and will work with just about any machine, old or new. In fact, Nikon recommends it for use with my Coolscan 8000.

      I scan at the highest resolution the scanner will handle. It’s slower that way, but I want the absolute best quality possible and I’d rather not have to rescan the material in the future.

      I use Adobe Photoshop to edit my photos, but that’s overkill for most folks. Google’s Picasa does some amazing things, and it’s free.

      Finding the photos after you’ve scanned them is the important part. I set up folders for each subject. A typical folder might be 2012-10-28 Tower Rock Quarry.

      Because I want the photos to have some value to future historians, I’ve started filling out the “metadata” that follows every digital image. Google it for more info.

  3. 28# is Jerry O’Connell…a good guy.
    The first Basketball players, Terry Fields, Sly Johnson,Larry Johnson,and Fil Blackiston. ( Yes Fil, his name is Filmore Blackiston)
    The second set is the Guards/forwards…1# Gee I forgot!) then Richard Baker, Mike Scuhette, Brad Horkey. Little know fact, Brad Horky was not tardy or absent a single time in 12 years of school in the Cape system. How is that for a record!

  4. I played football one year with Sylvester Johnson at SEMO (1968). Whatever happened to him? The last I heard it wasn’t good (probably 30-35 years ago). I would appreciate any information.

    Tim Luckett
    SEMO class of 71 and 75

  5. Using mugshots to “break up the type?” Bingo. Design gurus LOVED that, even though I assumed everyone knew what the mayor, president or other bigshot looked like. I got REALLY reluctant to run mugs when someone almost got fired for mistakenly running a photo of a wife beater who had the same name as a politician.

    1. I ran across some frames of Chuck’s kids I shot for a New Year’s Eve illustration. There’s a chance I might have your dad or mother in the files. Throw out their names and I’ll see if I can match them with the photos.

      1. Would you be able to send those photos of Dad(Chuck)?
        I would love to get copies! And, of course, my little sister, Terri and little brother, Roy.
        Any of Mike(big brother)?

  6. Ken, did the Cape Giradeau newspaper fold in the late 60’s? Isn’t that why my dad moved us to Peoria, IL?

    1. The Missourian was sold to a chain that sucked as much out of it as it could without putting anything into it. The chain sold it to Gary Rust, who used it as a right-wing megaphone for a number of years. It still has a conservative viewpoint, but it’s become a much better paper in the last decade. I don’t agree with the editorial page all that much, but they do a better than adequate job of covering the news.

      I’m not sure what the timeline was for those changes.

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