This Cover Shoot Left Jimmy Butler in ‘Shock'

A lot of work went into SI Kids’ Science of Sports issue.
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Jeffery A. Salter usually prefers to do “minimal propping” when it comes to his SI photo shoots. He went in another direction for his SI Kids cover with Heat frontman Jimmy Butler, with the Science of Sports issue giving Salter an opportunity to dress up an NBA All-Star in a lab coat, goggles and gloves.

“This shoot involved a lot of preproduction,” Salter says. “Running to a uniform shop and getting the right jacket. Running to Home Depot to get the right kind of gloves. We had to set the stage so we could get the right performance from the athlete.”

Salter especially took care in making sure he had the proper outfit for Butler. Between shopping trips on Amazon and going to Ace Hardware, More Than Tools and Home Depot, the photographer showed up to the shoot with three pairs of goggles and eight pairs of gloves. The commitment paid off, because Salter remembers Butler having a lot of fun with the conceit once he donned the right combo of all the science garb.

“He was definitely having fun, and he really wanted to get it right,” Salter says. “[In] one part of the shoot, one of the lights died. So we had to stop the shoot for a moment, and he was getting really antsy saying, ‘We have to get this right. Let’s get this with the strobes going off right.’ Once I got him going, it was hard to get him to stop.” 

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With the issue being for kids, Salter says he had more flexibility than normal to do a fun, high-energy look. He kept cajoling Butler to loosen up by repeating this was to make children want to pick up a magazine. To capture the look of shock on Butler’s face that ultimately made the cover, Salter gave some very detailed instructions.

“I told him, ‘You’re here in the lab and you just made this awesome discovery,’ ” Salter says. “Then I would ask for a look of fright. Then I asked him, ‘Do you remember that scene from Indiana Jones when the Nazi opened up that tomb?’ That’s what I want!’ ”

Salter, though he’s a prolific cover photographer for SI, admits he’s not even a big sports fan. (“My favorite sport is paddleboarding.”) But he says his strength, as evidenced by the look on Butler’s face on the SI Kids cover, is drawing performances out of athletes.

“I don’t know too much about sports, but I know enough about people,” Salter says. “Knowing when to push, when to cajole, when to step back and when to let them have their moment.”

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Full Frame is Sports Illustrated's exclusive newsletter for subscribers. Coming to your inbox weekly, it highlights the stories and personalities behind some of SI's historic photography.

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