How I Made Instagram Images That Were Good Enough for Sports Illustrated

Posted on July 18, 2012

LEFT: Instagram of San Francisco Giants batter Melky Cabrera in the on deck circle during the game against the Chicago Cubs at AT&T Park on June 2, 2012 in San Francisco, California. RIGHT: Instagram of San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum sitting in the dugout before the game against the Oakland Athletics at the Coliseum on June 22, 2012 in Oakland, California. (Photos by Brad Mangin)


The big news was leaked on Mashable last night that Sports Illustrated is publishing 18 of my baseball iPhone Instagrams spread out over three Leading Off double trucks (6 pages) in the magazine this week. This is an exciting development for a project that I started in February on the first day of spring training when I was on assignment for the magazine.

Tools to Use
iPhone 4s

Instagram iPhone app
Dynamic Light iPhone app
Snapseed iPhone app
Camera+ iPhone app
PhotoShelter pro image archive

I purchased my iPhone 4s in December of 2011 and immediately fell in love with the special effects and social networking aspect of working with Instagram. Since I was not shooting much over the winter I was mostly posting pictures of my cats Mike and Willie. Once Spring Training began, I felt like I had an amazing blank canvas in front of me just begging to be shot with my iPhone. I was officially addicted to Instagram and wrote about it in a story about covering spring training over two decades for

Instagram of Mike Trout and Matt Trumbo of the Los Angeles Angels getting ready in the dugout before the game against Oakland Athletics at Coliseum on May 23, 2012 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Brad Mangin)

By the time the regular season opened in April I felt like I was shooting baseball for the first time ever, through the lens of my iPhone and the square format of Instagram. I wrote a blog post for The Photo Brigade entitled “I Love My New Camera.” I wasn’t kidding! I started looking at everything with a fresh set of eyes from the moment I walked onto the fields in Oakland and San Francisco about three hours before each game. It was like I was a newborn photographer seeing things for the first time.

I was naturally drawn to the dugouts where I found many baseball-related pieces of equipment that made for good pictures. By the time the players came out and sat in the dugouts before the games I was ready to try and capture them getting ready. At first I felt pretty strange not using my Canon EOS-1 Mark IV and shooting with my iPhone instead. I eventually became more comfortable and started getting some pictures of the ball players that I liked.

Instagram of the umpires attendant’s hands rubbing up a baseball with mud from the Delaware River before the game between the Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on June 30, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Brad Mangin)

Once the season got going in April, I talked to Nate Gordon, my baseball picture editor at Sports Illustrated, about trying to put together a photo essay with these pictures. He thought it was a cool idea and continually coached me on different things to look for. Once I had a good enough variety he told me he would pitch the story to the editors. Thanks to all of Nate’s hard work this is the week I have been dreaming of. I am so excited to show people the quality of pictures that can be made with a cell phone and some cool apps.

I shoot all of my pictures with the native camera in my phone. All editing and toning happens within the iPhone, too, using a few of my favorite iPhone apps. Once it looks good, I import the final image into Instagram. The final step in my workflow involves uploading the images to my PhotoShelter archive, which is where editors like Nate can easily view and download them for publication.

Some of my favorite apps include Dynamic Light, Snapseed, and Camera+. I really love Snapseed for converting images to black and white and for toning my images. Dynamic Light is my favorite app for making a sky look dramatic and for adding great color to images. Once I get the image into Instagram I usually apply the Lo-fi filter and border if I want high contrast and rich color, or rich black and white. If I want muted colors with an old-school look, or if I want to make a black and white image into sepia-toned I use the Earlybird filter and border.

Instagram of Chris Snyder of the Houston Astros applying resin to his bat in the dugout during the game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on Sunday, July 15, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Brad Mangin)

The picture above of Astros player Chris Snyder is the newest image that will be published. I shot it on Sunday in San Francisco after I got a text message from Nate saying, “Get me one from today’s game.” I then crawled under the legs of my good friend and legendary television camera man David Benzer with my iPhone and shot this picture in the Astros dugout in the 5th inning.

This was a great example of using some fun apps to make the picture look good. The image in camera was backlit with flare and a little washed out. I ran it through Dynamic Light to punch it up. Then I went into Snapseed to darken it just a bit. By the time I applied the Lo-fi filer in Instagram I knew I had an image I liked.

After I sent the image Nate texted me again. “We’re shooting for three spreads here. But it’s early,” he said. Oh man. so much can change from Sunday afternoon till closing time on Monday. I went to bed Sunday night hoping like hell I would get lucky.

I got word on Monday that we were locked into having 18 images published across 6 pages in the front of the magazine. I was ecstatic. When Nate called with the good news he told me I owed him a beer. I think I owe him more than that! He worked so hard for me on this project. There is nothing like having a picture editor in your corner on a story like this.

I knew this was really official when I received an email from my old boss Neil Leifer titled “WOW!” “I just got my new SI this afternoon and I love your 6 page spread in “leading off”. Congratulations, the spread look really great,” Leifer said.

The iPad edition of the magazine comes out today and the hard copy of the magazine will start arriving in subscribers mailboxes today, tomorrow and Friday. Although I embrace all of this new technology, I can’t wait till I can hold the issue in my hands.

What Others Are Saying

  1. Greg Foster July 18, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    Really nice work, Brad, congratulations on the six page spread!

  2. Lippy July 18, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    Great story Brad!
    Thanks for the tips about which apps you used. I just bought “Dynamic Light”. Now if only I can magically possess your EYE!


  3. Mandy July 18, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    Congrats! I’ve been following your instagrams and look forward to seeing the spread! The issue is downloading right now on my iPad, but I look forward to seeing them in print, too. Pretty cool to see these changes in sports photography happening, and it’s interesting to hear how you edit your iPhone pictures.

  4. Chris Owyoung July 18, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    Congrats Brad. Awesome shots (as usual) and a great story.

  5. Pingback: How to Take ‘Sports Illustrated’-Worthy Instagram Shots | Tech News

  6. Pingback: How to Take 'Sports Illustrated'-Worthy Instagram Shots

  7. Pingback: How to Take ‘Sports Illustrated’-Worthy Instagram Shots |

  8. Pingback: How to Take ‘Sports Illustrated’-Worthy Instagram Shots | Create Own Social Network

  9. Karl Mondon July 18, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    Now I know why you never answer my calls. Too busy making beautiful art with your communication device. Great stuff!

  10. Pingback: How to Take ‘Sports Illustrated’-Worthy Instagram Shots | Tech-News

  11. Pingback: How to Take ‘Sports Illustrated’-Worthy Instagram Shots | How to Social Network Tips

  12. Pingback: How to Take ‘Sports Illustrated’-Worthy Instagram Shots | The Social Network Guru Guide

  13. Pingback: How to Take ‘Sports Illustrated’-Worthy Instagram Shots | Web Guide

  14. Brad Mangin July 19, 2012 at 12:43 am

    Thanks so much everyone! I am excited to finally see the issue in a day or two.

  15. Pingback: How to Take ‘Sports Illustrated’-Worthy Instagram Shots | Great Tips on How to Make Social Network Site

  16. Pingback: How I Made Instagram Images That Were Good Enough for Sports Illustrated

  17. patrick_ryan July 19, 2012 at 11:17 am

    Just saw the gallery online and the rest of your work on Instagram. Lovely lovely work. Nicely done–

  18. Thomas Boyd July 19, 2012 at 11:29 am

    I feel so lucky to have been following you on Instagram and seeing these as they were being made.

    I follow some of the best photographers in the world in Instagram and your stuff was standing out big time. It was like, whoa! Mangin’s at it again!

    Good job on with a great idea.

  19. Tustin Ellison July 19, 2012 at 11:41 am

    Nice work Brad!
    Seems to me that the difference between the professional photographer and the casual Instragram photographer is pushing boundaries. You’ve certainly done that here.

  20. Timothy Hughes July 19, 2012 at 11:55 am

    Great shots Brad! Congrats on the tear sheets.

  21. KK July 19, 2012 at 11:55 am


    There is nobody that knows more about anything baseball than BRAD MANGIN and loves baseball more than BRAD MANGIN.

    Look forward to seeing more baseball and cat photos!!


  22. @Twheat July 19, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Seriously inspiring. Bravo.

  23. Christian July 19, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    Hey Brad!
    Great work and nicee shots!
    Greets from Germany

  24. Doctor Popular July 19, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    Great shots! Thanks for sharing some of the process too.

  25. Pingback: A New Era of Visual Culture | LVPOV

  26. Francis Specker July 19, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    Thanks for sharing some of your workflow.

  27. Pingback: Baseball Stock Photography: My baseball iPhone Instagrams in Sports Illustrated :: Mangin Photography Archive

  28. Pingback: How One Photographer Got His Instagram Photos Into Sports Illustrated

  29. Collin Orthner July 19, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    Congrats on the spreads. Great work! Thanks for sharing info on apps and workflow .

  30. Chris Hutty July 20, 2012 at 8:00 am

    Must admit to being rather anti-instagram, just because of all the poor quality images I have to see posted on FB etc that people think are art just because they ran them through some filter. However your work shows that great images can be produced this way. Nice work!

  31. Tonio July 20, 2012 at 8:18 am

    I love your photos!! And now, with Time Magazine making a call for submissions of Instragram photos, looks to me like they just gave you the best endorsement for your work. Keep those great baseball photos coming. And I wouldn’t mind seeing more SF Giants photos either. ; ) Cheers!

  32. Pingback: Instagram Photos in Sports Illustrated Magazine « Books I Read

  33. Ben Van Hook July 20, 2012 at 11:47 am

    congrats brad! beautiful job…now if only we had an iPhone when we were working at the national!

  34. Pingback: Instagram Meets Sports Illustrated | Glow Images Blog

  35. Pingback: Phone photography gets spread in SI | LandisPhoto

  36. zavera July 21, 2012 at 4:08 am

    Nice work brad, amazing shot with a perfect story!

  37. Pingback: Baseball and iPhoneography

  38. Brian Lawless July 21, 2012 at 8:37 am

    WOW is right! These images are magic. I too have fallen in love with instagram, definitely helping me to look and see in a whole new way. Haven’t really start using it on sports events but I will now. Thanks for the inspiration. You’ve got yourself another follower. Cheers, @brianlawless

    PS haven’t tried printing any of my phone images, don’t even know what the files are capable of. Any tips or info?

  39. Phil July 21, 2012 at 11:56 am

    Hi there just wanted to say GREAT photos you have here from your iPhone and I wanted to invite you to join the 6×6 facebook page at

    If you don’t have the 6×6 App yet check it out it’s like Instagram as in being a square format and very similar of having a 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 camera.×6/id436138823?mt=8

    Join the group if you love 6×6…. thanks so much Phil.

  40. Luca July 21, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    Really great work! congratulations!
    I would be really interested to know which app or workflow you used to extract the pictures from instagram. How did you preserve the highest picture quality in order to make it good enough for print?
    Your work is inspiring and I would like to know more about your last part of the workflow in order to pitch an idea I have to magazines here in my country…

  41. Brad Mangin July 21, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    Thanks Luca! I am very low tech. All my Instagrams are save as high quality into my photo album on my phone. Then I just email the images to myself to get them to my desk top. Nothing fancy!


  42. Brad Mangin July 21, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    Thanks Hook! Oh man. An iPhone back then would have cost 100 grand and we would have gone out of business even sooner!


  43. Rosario July 21, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    Fantastic series!
    Its obvious that its only the eye of the photographer what you need to take fantastic shots.

  44. Pingback: MLB and Instagram « Art and Soul

  45. Alyson July 21, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    I don’t normally read Sports Illustrated, but when I heard they were publishing a spread of your photos, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of the issue. Your photos are amazing and thanks for sharing the apps you use for your photos.

  46. Pingback: IG News: The Week on Instagram | 36 News Happening the weekend of July… | Don't Call Me Tony

  47. Pingback: The Week on Instagram | 36 News Happening the weekend of July… | Facebook

  48. Pingback: browserFruits Juli #4 - kwerfeldein - Fotografie Magazin

  49. Pingback: The Digest – July 22nd, 2012 | LPV Magazine

  50. Pingback: Fundstücke vom 23.07.2012 « daniel rehn – digitales & reales

  51. Pingback: On Taking Pictures #013 – “Hand Gestures & Credit Cards” : On Taking Pictures

  52. Pingback: Exposures » Blog Archive » apertureWEEK: Photography Reading Shortlist

  53. Pingback: London 2012 Edition- The Sports Technology Week In Review – July 27th « Sport Techie

  54. Pingback: How One Photographer Got His Instagram Photos Into Sports Illustrated | fozbaca’s WordPress

  55. Pingback: apertureWeek: Photography Reading Shortlist | Aperture Foundation -

  56. Joe Mezzanini August 11, 2012 at 2:08 am

    I hope you got paid for the photos.

  57. Brad Mangin August 11, 2012 at 2:43 am

    Joe- I get paid for all of my work. Including these Instagrams that SI published.

  58. Pingback: Wait for It…PODCAST with Jonathan Steiert at Social Echoes | Rouse Photography Group, LLC • 888-974-4777

  59. Pingback: Modern Techniques for Photojournalism, Part 2: iPhones, Instagram, and Innovation | Mark Kauzlarich: Photographer

  60. Pingback: London 2012 Edition- The Sports Technology Week In Review – July 27th

  61. joseph September 4, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    Great photos. I really wish there was a way to print the photos as you take them from your iphone or Ipad. It really is a drag that you have to save it and then transfer it out to some 3rd party company to print them and mail them.

    I just wish you could hit print from your ap and it wirelessly sends it to your printer. Anyone knows how to do this. I mean from instagram not from your camera iphone roll.

  62. Pingback: Sports Photography Advances with Technology | Sports Photography

  63. Pingback: Pregame Sports Coverage with Instagram - Doug Strickland Photography

  64. Pingback: apertureWEEK: Photography Reading Shortlist

  65. Pingback: Shooting Street in Paris | iPhoneongraphy 5 Tips & 5 Apps to Help You Shoot Like a Pro » Kids | Children | Family Photography | Orange County | Newport Beach | Los Angeles | 800.943.0414

  66. Pingback: David Calvert, visual storyteller | Social Journalism

  67. Pingback: How To Build An Unstoppable Sports Network With InstagramSports Networker

  68. Pingback: iPhone Photography: Baseball and iPhoneography

  69. Pingback: The camera in my new iPhone 6 Plus kicks ass! - Mangin Photography Archive

  70. Pingback: How to Take 'Sports Illustrated'-Worthy Instagram Shots -

  71. Pingback: World Series: Photographing the Premiere Baseball Games

  72. Pingback: This Photographer Has Been Photographing the World Series for Two Decades | USA Press

  73. Pingback: This Photographer Has Been Photographing the World Series for Two Decades

  74. Pingback: Free Wallpaper News | This Photographer Has Been Photographing the World Series for Two Decades

  75. Pingback: The Unoriginal Instagram Project | Madeleine's Blabber

  76. Pingback: How to Take ‘Sports Illustrated’-Worthy Instagram Shots | DiongLoverFoundation.Org

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *