US Olympic Team Portraits Come Under Scrutiny

Photographer Joe Klamar has been receiving some criticism over his portraits of the US Olympic Team that many believe could have been done better. Most of the criticism, as you would imagine, comes from photographers who believe they could have done a better job representing the athletes. And with access to these athletes for photographic purposes being so restricted, it’s understandable that photogs would get upset over sub-par portraits.

You can see the full 35-photo gallery over on the CBS News website, but what’s your take on the photos? Do they deserve the negative attention they’re getting, or do they represent the US Olympic Team just fine? Let us know in the comments down below.

(via Solstice)

Image credits: Photographs by Joe Klamar

  • Brian M. Lisi

    As a professional photographer, I would have thought the whomever “selected” these images would have done their homework. I blame them! Lighting, cropping, capturing who these athletes (aka story telling), posing, I could go on and on of what’s wrong with the portraits. As a professional photographer (whether portrait, landscape, etc.) you should still tell a story through your art, I understand distress, but part of being an artist is being able to think on your feet and see what others may not be able to see. I still blame the person that said these images were good enough to represent these athletes photographer or editor or whomever!

  • codizzle

    shame on CBS.

  • Robert French

    Well done to Joe for these shots. Thank the stars, no Photoshop and no awkward poses. Why don’t all the detractors say what they are really thinking, “We could have shopped the shit of those pictures”. They actually look like real people, warts an all. Why does everything have to be posed and shopped?

  • Student

    Thank you for making me feel good about my personal photos. ;) I’m way better than that pro!

  • Lee Harris

    What? This not about Photoshop or awkward poses?? This is about awful lighting, cheesy grins and terrible composition!

  • tttulio

    If the main problem is the fact they were taken in a limited time session, the blame should be on US Olympics shoulders.

  • Footski

    A very poor set. Not sure what the photographer was trying to achieve, but he failed.

  • James Schooling

    I think his only lighting source was a table lamp with a 100-watt bulb and no lamp shade.

  • Mansgame

    yeah but why publish them? why not pass and say “send someone who does portraits, i’m an action photographer. “

  • Mansgame

    What’s wrong with telling your boss “hey, I’m not a studio photographer. Send that old guy Joe McNally and he’ll take good pictures for you and I’ll kick McNally’s butt when it comes to getting the sports shots.

  • StrobeOhio

    Olympic committee to photographers: “We have no budget…”

  • Kerry Lunt

    My 7 year old son could have taken better!

  • Bobby

    Ya know what. I really don’t care a bit about portraits of Olympic athletes. I’m going to be seeing a lot of them in a couple weeks doing what it is they do for a couple weeks a year.

  • Ben Dover

    No matter what the issue or topic someone somewhere will find something to complain about. Blow it off and move on to a really important news issue – not fluff like the Fox Fiction Channel covers.

  • Tito H.

    It’s hard to judge without knowing the details of what happen or why he did the photos that way but… It’s also kind of sad that such an great opportunity with good subjects turned out so bad. And yes, there is a line between creative and bad lighting and well… The photos are bad!

  • Tito H.

    There is no excuse… I thing the problem is that he was trying to be “creative” with the light with subjects and a day with no time for experiments. Sooo, if you are not a portrait photographer, you know it will be crazy and you have no time… Keep it simple. A plane even light in front of a plane white backdrop, anything basic and simple would have being better than that. I understand what you are saying, I’ve being in those situations y self byt still, no one to blame but him self!

  • Tito H.


  • Cowboy

    Joe Ill help you out next time. you can just show up and push the button.

  • LearnedAmerican

    he wanted to not put too much attention to the backdrop of the scene, rather he wanted the viewer to just focus on the athlete themselves. No big deal!

  • Ute Sonnenberg

    It depends with what purpose they were taken. They are not the pics one expects to see in a magazine, they are more images one sees in galleries.

  • Remi

    Hello from France. Perhaps the photographer was so badly paid that he decided to sink himself the boat? It rather seems to be such a poor photo op (Where were the atlhetes agents?) which will happen more and more with budget restriction and poor hiring. The Press kills itself with such a panache! the devil eating its owns tail. Same game on the old continent: Era of business graduates running today our industry, thinking everybody can make a photograph because he bought a phone. They cannot see any difference and the results are visible now here and in many magazine. Sad.

  • Bobby

    Would have been better if you shot them against a white wall with crappy lighting. That way, you could at least say “thats all I had to work with”. These photos are awful! He should have never released them. He is a sport photographer that is used to throwing on a big lends and holding down the trigger in motor drive.

  • Ben

    They’ve gone viral, isn’t that what counts? Obviously, a professional photographer would have to try pretty damned hard to take photos this bad. Therefore they must be intentional. Maybe he’s trying to make an artistic point?

    Ben @

  • t_linn

    I have to admit that, before I saw the first image, I figured people were just being obnoxious. Now that I’ve seen them…wow. They are bad.

  • t_linn

    Your last point is my question too. So the images didn’t meet expectations. Do you still publish them? I don’t know the circumstances but if I were Joe I would be doing everything I could to keep them out of the public eye.

  • darren

    There are so many things that went wrong here, it’s sad.

  • Aragorn

    The photographer should have done a lot more wedding photos before taking on this assignment. This is why you need to hire a professional. This is why you don’t just hire a relative. This is why you don’t award a project to the lowest bidder.

  • francie

    As a professional photographer I am embarrassed and ashamed that these images are even out there. Who ever chose this photographer and the ultimately these images should also be ashamed and embarassed. With the 1000’s of amazing portrait artist in this country my question is WHY? WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? My 8 year old son could have taken better images than this… And as for Joe – what are you thinking? Really you are okay with this? You are not a portrait photographer and you had no business presenting yourself as one… your final images clearly display this.

  • Sandra Seino

    WTH? My 3 year old grandson takes better photos than these! I’m not even going to show my son, also a photographer – he’d yell for hours over it! As a prior Gold and Silver Medalist, these Olympic photographs are treasures for the athletes and what are shown are terrible! Yes, they’re clear, a great camera was used HOWEVER, nothing else is positive – these look like a first year photographer was shooting them, no creativity, no balance, no concept of usage. If he were shooting a commercial for a can of Spam, then he may have done it right, unless he had more depth perception issues. Whomever hired the photographer, needs to be shown the door with the photographer. How do you apologize for this to all these Olympians that worked so hard to get there? IF it were as simple as taking another photo, no problem BUT with all the licensing and restrictions, these Olympians get what is given to them. What a joke – a bad one.

  • Eric

    is this a joke? No way these are official portraits for the US Olympic Team. Terrible.

  • Halfrack

    Can’t photoshop or alter the images in any way. This is where portrait photographers and news photographers are VERY different

  • VS

    Pretty sad. Most anyone who’s taken a lot of photos could have done better!! Cutting the face in half with bad lighting, etc….. and I agree with garricks about the bad framing.

  • dega

    Wait! They haven’t been Photoshopped yet!! :-)

  • Nathan Caulford


  • Nathan Caulford

    Wow. I am Speechless. Was Joe McNally Busy? What About Dave Black, Corey Rich, Donald Miralle Jr, and 100 other photogs who are amazing?! These are serious shite of the highest degree. NO feeling whatsoever from the athletes, none of who they are comes through. No creativity used in the execution — they’re weak, weak photos.

  • Erik Sawaya

    Think the US had a bad international image, it just got worse!

  • woofa

    Oh, but he’s just being creative. Adding his “style” to it all. The USOC/IOC are just like the rest of big business in this country and worldwide, corrupt. There’s no reason to be limiting access to the athletes except that some turd with a supposedly big brain thinks it’s a good idea because then they can sell the rights for more.

  • Lee

    I agree with everyone else about how they are not up to standard, but is it a ploy? We all know how valuable it is for something to go viral. The US Team, Committee, Athletes and Photographer, now have more attention than money can buy.

  • Ashley

    There is no excuse for the terrible lighting in these photographs. To say he didn’t have enough time is just an excuse. He had “enough” gear on hand to do a better job than what he did…and if he didn’t, shame on him for not being prepared. But on the other hand…these athletes have worked incredibly hard to get to this point and it saddens me that there wasn’t ample time set aside to photograph them with a well respected and trusted PORTRAIT photographer.

  • Denise

    These are REALLY bad. Almost everything is wrong with them technically and they’re awkward and just horrible. Who hired the photographer?

  • ag

    terrible shots!

  • Labelle Photo

    Donald Giannatti has a good writeup on this story here:

  • dd

    Yes, but any photographer should know how to manage the use of light better than what he did!!! Use reflectors!!! I’d have ripped a window right out of the wall to use as a reflector if need be to get better pictures than this!!! And you should NEVER cut off the hands! Zoom out a bit! When you take a photo, the picture needs to tell a story…..this is a nightmare!

  • Justin

    Actually, his portfolio of late features “red carpet”-style, direct flash photography in Los Angeles…secondly, as we can obviously see in the photos, he had the equipment on hand to create some stellar images – studio light, seamless background, gels, filters, etc. I’ve worked “photo calls” and “media days” for sports and other events. I’ve also been told, “You have five minutes with the CEO….” on several occasions. At the end of the day, the photos look half-assed, uninspired and technically flawed. At the very least, AFP/Getty should have not released the images…an editor who doesn’t know the difference between good and bad is worse than a poor photographer.

  • Justin

    Everyone is piling on the photographer and, honestly, he bears the brunt of the comments. But what about the photo agency? Surely someone at AFP/Getty should have “killed” these images before they were released. As I said in an earlier post, an editor who doesn’t know the difference between a good and bad photo is more dangerous than a photographer who poorly executes his assignment.

  • B D Roberts, M. Photog. CPP.

    Just because someone owns a camera does not make them a photographer. The entire problem is in the hands of the idiot who hired the picture maker without know what they were capable of.

  • Scott

    Holly crap, that is just horrible. Did they find this guy on Facebook? LOL

  • gianni

    how did this guy even get the job? whoever hired him should get booted as well.

  • Ed: Sabot Images

    I guess I don’t suck as much as I think I do. Thank you Joe.

  • Your babies daddy

    How come Michael Phelps looks like an anorexic Harvey Dent? #fotofacepalm