Behind the Lens: Cheer Dad Photography
Cheer Dad Photography – Interview with the Legend
I accidentally stumbled on the Cheer Dad Photography page a couple years ago while searching Facebook for something else. I remember perusing through some of the photos and thinking, “Wow! This guy really captures the moment!” Of course I gave the page a LIKE. Since then, I have been treated to some fantastic work. Looking at these photos, it is very clear that this man has so much love and passion for the sport.
There was one special day where I was scrolling through some of his photos and I came across my daughter’s team at a recent competition where they placed wholesale photography backdrops in the background. I was so surprised and happy to see such amazing images of her team. There was one photo in particular of my daughter soaring through the air that, to this day, still fills me with joy.
Since then, like countless others, I would watch the Cheer Dad Photography page after every competition, hoping that he was there, and would post more pictures of our team. It is always a rush when you see the message, “Cheer Dad Photography has added xxx photos.” It was on one of those special days that I found a picture of some of our girls, just seconds after finishing their routine. I stared at the photograph for a long time with tears in my eyes, as he perfectly captured such a special moment. I am so grateful for this, as it easily allows me to relive that moment forever.
Recently the news broke that this would be the last season for Cheer Dad Photography, as he was going to sneak off into retirement (actually, it was because it was his daughter’s last season). My first thought was, “Nooooooo!!!!!” This would definitely leave a huge void in the sport. So with high hopes, I reached out to get some words of wisdom from the man himself. Ladies and gentlemen, I am happy to introduce you to Shayne Jack, a man whose work has touched thousands of people each year.
First I want to ask the basic HOW you got started and WHY you chose to do this. I’m sure you started out with your daughter and her team/gym…then you started photographing others as well. What prompted you to do this?
Shayne: Thank you for the opportunity! I started this crazy adventure back in September of 2010. My wife works retail and was unable to attend my step-daughter’s first high school football game where she was a J.V. cheerleader. I grabbed her camera and proceeded on a journey that has been unbelievable at best. That first picture was of Ryan in her uniform in our backyard, followed up but a few completely random ‘snapshots’ at the game of Ryan and her best friend, Kelsey. The second game I took more pictures of the two of them and had a mom ask if I could take a few of her daughter since she forgot to charge her camera battery. Not seeing it as a problem, I did and gave them to her via Facebook. After a few more games I noticed that I actually was taking some pretty decent shots, so I approached the coach and introduced myself, and asked if it was ok for me to take pictures for the rest of the squad as well. I created a Facebook page for their team and followed the squad the rest of the season, and even went so far as to tag along to their competitions. Now my best friend from High School was a cheerleader, and I knew she always had practice, but to see firsthand how much these girls practiced was unbelievable! I come from a soccer/baseball background and we would practice 2-3 times a week at best. Not with cheerleading! 5 days a week, rain or snow, weekends, vacations, sick or not.
Ryan’s sophomore year introduced our family to All Stars. It really didn’t make a lot of sense to me at first, competitive cheerleading that was not associated with schools or sports, but as a ‘cheer dad’ I was more than happy to support what ever activity Ryan was interested in. It was during our second year with all stars that I created a Facebook page, Sneaky Ninja Productions. It was here that I was able to share all my pictures that I had taken, cheerleading or not, with the public. Ryan’s all star team was posted here, right next to a few car shows that I had attended. The early days were funny. One day I would post pictures of my dogs, the next week there were cheerleaders on my page. One of Ryan’s friends from all stars had started college in Riverside and invited Ryan and I down to watch him cheer at a football game. He mentioned to the squad that I was taking pictures, and with the permission of the coach, I took a few and posted them a few days later. Once all star competitions began I realized that I had far too many cheerleading pictures on Sneaky Ninja, and decided I really needed to have a separation between the two. I think we were eating meatloaf when I came up with “Cheer Dad Photography”. Within a few months I had a couple hundred followers and then it happened… that fateful September afternoon. I had received a message asking if I could take pictures of an all star team from Las Vegas that was coming to Palm Springs to compete. After getting permissions, I shot the California All Stars Roulettes. From Ryan’s initial all star gym we also had athletes that went to other gyms and that weekend I shot Pacific Coast Magic Believe and California All Stars Sparkle. The rest, as you say, is history.
I’m sure it took quite a long time to be able to capture images like you do today. What can you share about that? (technique, equipment…that sort of thing)
Shayne: It’s funny, that’s one of the most common questions I get. “How do you get such great shots?” My comp day routine consists of 1-2 venti caramel frappes from Starbucks. The shaking actually helps when capturing fast moving athletes…
I’m kidding. The secret to my success is the same process that turns a level 1 cheerleader into a level 5. PRACTICE. LEARN NEW SKILLS. PRACTICE. And then, when you think you’re ready, PRACTICE SOME MORE!!! In addition to shooting cheerleading, I’ve shot skydivers jumping out of planes (12,500 feet straight up), motocross, and airshows. Shooting fast moving objects helps you to determine a sense of tracking. You’re able to have the camera pointing slightly ahead of the subject, so that by the time you fire a shot you’ve got them centered.
What have you learned along the way?
Shayne: First off, I’ve learned cheerleading is a lot more than just pom poms and chants! I came into this sport knowing very little, and now you’ll find me stage-side shooting elites and double-ups like I’ve known them my whole life! As far as photography, I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how much you spend on a camera, or even if you use your phone, that the best pictures are the ones that really touch someone. Technically, I’ve learned a lot. Still learning. I am completely fascinated by photography. It’s not uncommon for me to wake up pre-dawn and drive into the mountains to catch a sunrise, or full moon. I see the world as a picture now.
I’m sure you take thousands of pics, but only post the good ones. To us viewers, everything you do is magical. Is it true that, for every good picture, there are hundreds of bad ones?
Shayne: In the beginning yes! One of the first football games I remember taking 400 pictures and only found 3 that were good enough to post! I felt defeated. I spent so much time thinking I had gotten it right only to find I didn’t. The next time I would try a different setting. There is a process called “spray and pray” in photography that is defined as simply taking a large quantity of pictures in hopes of getting a few good ones. I’ve moved away from that since then and usually post about 50% of the shots I take. So nowadays for every good picture I take there’s maybe 1 or 2 that aren’t.
Any helpful advice to those that wish to follow in your footsteps? Be it for themselves, for their gym, or for everybody?
Shayne: Start small! You do NOT need to world’s most expensive advanced camera and lenses to take great shots! Buy used, don’t believe that the latest greatest equipment is a MUST HAVE! I am still shooting with the same 16 megapixel camera that I’ve had for the past 4 years. READ! Buy an extensive manual on your camera, learn everything about it. And most importantly, PRACTICE!!!
Let’s say I want to take pics of CA All stars. Should I reach out to them and ask for permission first?
Shayne: No. Starting out if cheerleading photography is what you are looking to get involved with, start with your gym. Talk to the coaches, owners, parents. Let them know what you are doing, and SHARE your pics. I shoot strictly by permission of gyms that have contacted me, unless I’ve been invited personally by an event producer, at which point I shoot on their behalf and accept that they may use my pictures for their marketing purposes. I would highly recommend against shooting teams that are not familiar with you.
Once your children are done with the sport…are you looking forward to it? (Personally, cheer has run my life for so long, it would be a serious adjustment) Or…may we still see you at competitions from time to time?
Shayne: Who knows really when this crazy adventure will end. I thought I was done in 2014 after Ryan competed at World’s (8th in All Girl Large!) but only a month later I found out she would be coaching 2014-15. As for next season, Ryan has committed to coaching again and their talks of competing… it never ends.
Going back to the photographs themselves, are we seeing them in their raw form, or are they enhanced? If enhanced, what tricks can you share?
Shayne: Editing is a painful lengthy process and one I prefer to avoid at all costs. I review each and every picture and spend 2-3 seconds on ones I find worthy to post, maybe 10 seconds on one that I find needs some adjustments. I figure I can get through about 1000 pictures an hour. I do not sit down and spend hours upon hours looking at pictures; this is a hobby. I spend available time on them, but that can quickly be sidetracked by my dogs, dinner, movies, naps, etc. I love doing what I do. As long as I keep it fun, it’s not tedious to me! Besides, spending time on making these pictures right is going to result in someone somewhere smiling. My mission: Make 3 people smile per day. I think I’ve got that pretty much covered for the next few years…
I think that’s about it…but please add anything you would like to share. And again, thank you so much.
Shayne: I would like to thank Coach Troy Hedgren of Pacific Coast Magic – Anaheim for turning my daughter into the amazing athlete and coach that she is today. You are most highly respected, in not just the cheer world, but our house as well.
Also I would like to thank my wife, Tina. She’s the one that started this all. Actually it was Kelsey, but without Tina there would be no Ryan so yeah…
Last but certainly not least, I would like to thank all the parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, coaches, owners, and everyone else associated with Cheerleading for all their amazing support! Thank you for this opportunity!
I do know one thing for sure, he definitely makes more than three people smile per day!
Catch a smile for yourself by going to www.facebook.com/CheerDadPhotography
A journey may be ending, but the legacy of captured memories will last forever.
By: Brandon Caylor
Blogger, Heart of Cheer