London-based Sports/Fitness photographer Pete Muller has a flair for capturing the excitement and wild intensity of athletes in motion. William Hill, an online gambling company based in London, had seen “Kick,” the personal project Pete shot in 2021 with MMA fighter Alex Montagnani. Pete’s gritty, action-packed images had just the fierceness the client was hoping to convey in a new summer 2022 soccer-themed advertising campaign for their brand. Last year, an image from Pete’s series for William Hill went on to win the 2023 PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris award for Advertising.
For preplanning, Pete met with the William Hill team to go over the poses and angles he would be using to create the effect they were seeking.
The campaign was based around the title, “Epic.” So they wanted the shots to embody that, be dramatic, wide angle, lit well, and have a visual impact.
On the shoot days, William Hill’s head of brand and team were present on set. Pete had prepared the lighting for the shoot the night before.
There was a great vibe on set. We also had a guy do quick mock-ups of how the shots would look before we moved on to the next shot. We were in a green screen studio for 3 days. It was a great studio and a fun, relaxed, productive set with no stress. We got through all of the shots and actually finished early on most days.
In addition to specializing in sports/fitness photography, Pete also has a background as an athlete himself.
I did the casting and put forward who I thought was the best for the shoot. I have done a lot of sports in the past and I continue to do so. Although I don’t play football anymore, I did play for the best part of 30 years, so I know the shapes, action, and movement of athletes. Where the best point is to catch the shot, what motion they should make, and how they should hold themselves.
I was told to not shoot their faces too much, as the client didn’t want the athletes to be recognized. Also, though, to not show their numbers on their backs. So I had to bear this in mind when shooting the stills and video, plus I had it lit so they were slightly in shadow all the time. It is quite difficult when shooting athletes and was especially hard for the goalkeeper shot. He was an absolute star.
Pete considers this a special project as he set up the entire photoshoot himself. His work and preparation paid off, especially in the positive reaction from the client on set. His fostering of a fun environment made this shoot flow, a playful and sporting counterpart to the images themselves.
When I was directing the players, it was good fun because this is when I come alive. This is when you earn your money, this is why they chose you. Sometimes it is like you have to be a performer, not just someone who holds a camera. You need to inspire, encourage, and put the subjects at ease to help them perform without feeling foolish or self-conscious. It is almost like a stand-up show, but with lots of intermissions.
I also learned a lot about myself on the shoot. It was great. I was so calm, as I am on most shoots, and this resonates with everyone else. It starts at the top and if you flop, everyone else will. Panicking about things never helped anyone.
I look at competitions as marketing, as they are often the best way to get your work out there, but they have to be the right kind of competition. So, a few photographers whose work I admire, I often check out and see what they have entered in the past. Plus I look at previous winners to see the kind of work that won as well as who won it. I look to see if they are my peers and people I want my work to be associated with. It can be a very fickle world, so you have to pick and choose the right ones for you.
See more of Pete’s work on his website.