Styling for commercial footage: The sporting life

Sports- and recreation-themed shoots are among the most difficult scenes to style and film. Creating convincing action scenes — from mainstream sports to niche activities — means having the right gear. But think about it: do you own a single piece of gear or sportswear that doesn’t have a brand name on it? Ghyslaine, stylist with Hero Images, guides us through the logo-infested waters.

Logo-free authenticity

First, know your logos. Ghyslaine suggests visiting stores that carry gear for your sport to look at brands and their trademarks. “Most brands don’t have just one logo — watch for the company name in different lettering and styles,” she cautions. “Sometimes it’s a design or combination of colors. It doesn’t even have to be a logo to be recognizable.”

A visit to a specialty store will also help you style a contemporary look. “Do your research. Check out sports stores and ask the staff what will help you get the right look. If I’m unsure about what people typically wear for a certain activity, I ask the people who regularly do it. You want things to look authentic.”

Once you’ve assembled a potential wardrobe for the shoot, scrutinize every piece of clothing and equipment for logos and other branding elements you’ll need to work around. Don’t let anything slip past you. This is a good plan for any kind of shoot, but it’s essential for sports. Ghyslaine warns, “You could lose your whole shoot over a pair of socks.”

Stylist’s sticky secret

If you can’t avoid clothing and gear with branding, how can you shoot commercial footage? That’s where stylists get crafty. “I have every color of duct tape. I use it to cover logos,” Ghyslaine says. “You have to be careful though. Match the color as close as you can and use small pieces.” Once logos are covered, you can maintain the sporty look by creating new logos from duct tape. A few carefully arranged shapes will look like a logo, but won’t pose any copyright or trademark issues.

“This kid had tons of duct tape on his shoes.”

Ghyslaine takes a similar approach to artwork on sports equipment. Bicycles, skateboards, and snowboards are all notorious for excessive branding and eye-catching custom graphics that are often protected as artwork. Rather than try to find generic, unbranded gear, the best approach is a DIY approach. “Remove the stickers, sand off the rest of the graphics, and repaint it yourself. If you have some artistic talent, make a new logo. Otherwise, leave it generic. It’s even better than keeping the original look, because you can make old stuff look brand new.”


Leave it to layers

To get the look of high-end technical gear without worrying about branding or spending too much money on wardrobe, use layers. Dress models in a technical-fabric tank top and layer a generic tank top or hoodie over it. You’ll get the bright colors and specialized look of sports gear without having it dominate the scene.

This is also a good way of maintaining a high-end, specialized look while using less expensive gear. Expensive sports gear is usually distinguished by details in pockets, seams, and fit — cover up these details and nobody will know you’ve substituted a discount brand.

Rely on experts

Finally, if you’re not knowledgeable about the sport you’re filming, find someone who is. Authenticity is key, especially with niche or extreme sports, and customers are looking for footage that gets it right. You don’t want to have your rock climbers styled perfectly but wearing their harnesses backwards.

Now grab your duct tape and get out there!

For more tips on styling commercially viable footage, see What not to wear and What to wear.

See all the well-styled footage from Hero Images.