Ken Griffey Jr. is a Professional Photographer

| January 1, 2015

An interview by Deanne Fitzmaurice with former Major League Baseball player, Ken Griffey, Jr., one of the most prolific home run hitters of all-time. Ken Griffey, Jr. is now a photographer, shooting NFL and college football games for ESPN from the sidelines.


Photograph by Scott Clarke for ESPN

ESPN photographer, Scott Clarke, says, “He’s actually pretty good. He has that hand-eye coordination.”


Photograph by Ken Griffey Jr. for ESPN

I called Griffey at his Florida home to talk with him about his new passion for photography.


Photograph by Deanne Fitzmaurice for Sports Illustrated 2009

“When I’m on the sidelines, people don’t bother photographers so its a way for me to really watch the game”, Griffey says.


“The biggest challenge is the speed of the game, trying to catch where the ball is going. The fun part is capturing the moments.”


Photograph by Ken Griffey Jr. for ESPN

“I have the privilege to know some of the best photographers in the business like my mentor, Scott Clarke from ESPN and Walter Iooss from Sports Illustrated, because of my background. I can call upon these guys and ask them questions. Being around them, I see what they do and what they see.”


Photograph by Deanne Fitzmaurice for Sports Illustrated 2009

The best advice he has received from his mentors: 

“Read the manual.”

He is trying to learn everything he can about photography and recently attended a 3-day Nikon School seminar. “Now, as a photographer I look around me and I see things differently.” Not only is he interested in photographing sports but he would also like to branch out to broader subjects including wildlife and is contemplating an African safari.

Griffey is also using his photography talent to give back to local families. “In the area where I live in Florida, some people don’t have much money so I go out and shoot Pop Warner football games then make 8×10 prints for the parents. For me it’s about giving back something special to a family.”

Griffey’s son, Trey, is a wide receiver at the University of Arizona so he photographs some of his games, including the recent Fiesta Bowl. Griffey says about his son, “He’s one of those guys who isn’t flashy but he gets the job done.”

Last month, Griffey shot his first pro football game in Green Bay. “It was my first NFL game and it was cold, real cold. To go there, to what they call the frozen tundra, and have all the elements, it was something that I’ll never forget.”


Photograph by Ken Griffey Jr. for ESPN

“I also like photographing cars. I’m planning to photograph my airplane, my cars and my motorcycle in a hangar.”

What’s next? The College Football National Championship Game, Oregon vs Ohio State, on January 12th.


Photograph by Scott Clarke for ESPN

Ken’s Gear: Nikon D4, D4s, 14-24mm f2.8, 24-70mm f2.8, 50mm f1.8, 85mm f2.8 tilt/shift, 70-200mm f2.8, 400mm f2.8, 600mm f4.


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Category: About You

About the Author ()

Based in Melbourne, Australia, Simon manages social media for You can find out more about Simon here -
  • jpughinreallife

    As a professional photographer here’s what I think. The guy has made millions entertaining us all, now let’s hush and let him do what
    entertains him. Isn’t that how we all got started in the first place, doing something we enjoyed??

  • jpughinreallife

    As a professional photographers here’s what I think. The guy has made his millions entertaining us all, now lets hush and let him do what entertains him. Isn’t that how we all got started in the first place?? Doing something we enjoyed??

  • jbrancoccio

    Wow, a ton of resentment here. Did he get hired by ESPN because of his baseball career? Obviously. Has he “paid his dues” like many other pro shooters? Obviously not up to some peoples standards. But as an ex-athlete turned semipro photographer with roughly 15 years experience at both ends, I can tell you that being an athlete is more difficult. A lot of you guys are crying out that he doesn’t deserve the free gear, the sideline passes, ect, but most of you are opining from a one dimensional perspective. There have been maybe 3-4 guys in the last 50 yrs that had the ability KGJ had on a baseball diamond. You don’t put together the kind of career he had without working your ass off, putting in the time, and any other cliché you can think of to describe earning your place in whatever profession you want to consider. This guy stood at the top, was the best at what he did; and the sort of dedication it takes to get there tends to carry over into other aspects of your life, so would be willing to bet he is working become better at photography as well. In all honesty, all the whining sounds more like a bunch of career minor leaguers who want to blame everyone else for not making it to the majors rather than admit to themselves that they just never got good enough despite whatever level of work they put in. Is there a question of “credentials”? Sure sounds like it. But is it completely crazy to assume that he may be able to offer a different perspective on the sports world than the rest of us considering he used to be the subject you were all turning your lenses to? Sometimes taking yourself too seriously can get in your own way.

  • Stuart Court

    Excellent photos. I’m a huge football photography fan myself. At present i use the Nikon J1 which, although not expensive, this is a fantastic camera. I’ve had it now for about 3 years and it’s helped to produce almost all of the photos on my website – I’m actually looking to replace this camera now but it’ll take a lot to fill the void.

    I was wondering if you’d take a look at my site and send me any feedback you may have. No matter how critical.

    Keep up the good work!

  • wonderdude

    I’d love to buy a Ken Griffey, Jr. Signature hand strap…said no self-respecting photographer, ever.

  • Adam

    Adam from the Peak Design team here. We also make camera accessories. Stoked to see KGJ (a hero for many baseball fans born in the early ’80s) rocking at Think Tank Bag! And, equally surprised by the fury contained in this comments thread! Just wanted to chime in with a couple points:

    1. As the marketing guy at a photography product business, I’ll say hands-down that getting your stuff in the hands of influential photographers is one of the best ways of informing the world about your products. We do it all the time. All product-based companies do it. And that means that famous people get free stuff more often than non-famous people. Is that the best, fairest system? Not really. Is that a stunner to anybody here? Not really. Does it mean that companies that give out free products to media and influencers don’t care about their customers? Not at all.

    2. KGJ shooting for ESPN is probably preventing another hard-working, super-qualified photog from getting a sweet job. If I had put my life’s work into sports photography I’d be a bit peeved about that one too. But you surely can’t blame the guy for loving photography, wanting a career after his career, and making the most of his situation.

    3. Last year I saw Randy Johnson (The Big Unit) at Imaging USA in Phoenix. Just strolling around. It was awesome. I felt special and also very short.

    4. To the Think Tank Team: do you think KGJ would send us an autographed baseball if I sent him an autographed Clutch Hand Strap? Can you please arrange?

  • Nik

    Wow, what a bunch of whiners. This stuff about being elevated or getting a job, role ,whatever because you’re famous has gone on forever. I wonder how many photograhers here will photograph Kim Kardashian. Shame of you for even focusing your lens.That’s a true nobody that YOU have elevated.

  • wonderdude

    Evidence why ESPN may have put Griffey behind the camera, instead of in front of it:

  • Zack W.

    ITT: People need to calm down, the jealousy and soapboxing is strong.

    Can’t really blame Think Tank for offering their bags to Ken, on the surface it’s a great marketing opportunity. Really though, for anyone who’s up in arms about that decision, did you buy a Think Tank bag because of who they sponsor, or because the bags are so damn good? That’s why I bought mine.

    If I had as much money, and was as well connected as Ken, of course I’d fill my bag with every lens I possibly desired and spend my time shooting whatever high profile games I could. It’s another example that life isn’t fair, which sucks in highly competitive fields like photography, but I have a feeling that the better photogs will win out in the end. His shots aren’t bad, but they’re not spectacular. Experience will trump money.

    The way I see it, you can get mad and pout (and apparently boycott a company that makes awesome gear as some have claimed), or just go out and take better photos then him. I prefer to follow Teddy Roosevelt’s advice: ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick.’

    • Thanks for the kind words, Zack, appreciated. We do what we can and sometimes we make mistakes or, errors in judgement – maybe this was one of those time. –Simon

  • Spinning Wheels Photos

    I have been shooting for over 32 years in automotive sports. I took several college classes as well as read numerous books and now I even watch videos on my computer to learn new subjects on photography. By definition I would be considered a “Professional Photographer” as I have been paid to photograph, but I still learn new tricks every day. I would call myself a “Professional GWC” more than anything. My mentor was Mark Rebilas’s father Gil, whom showed me how to develop film and print photos, how to frame the subject for the best overall results that would make my photos stand out from the other photographers, and how to make the deadline that set me above the others. It took me 32 years to get my first cover shot and it was a shared cover. The following month I got my first solo cover. In that time I have never had any name brand product manufacture come to me and say we want you to support our product. I have always had to purchase my gear second hand because I was never able to buy brand new gear. I have been working paycheck to paycheck to get by. Now I have a full-time job that will carry me until I retire, so I do not get to travel much to sporting event like I would. If Think Tank came to me and said here is a new top of line backpack or Canon outfitted me with a great new set of bodies and lenses, I would be all over promoting their products, but I will never see that. I will continue to save my hard earned money and buy the best deal I can find. As for Ken Griffey Jr, it is nice that you can use your name to get your gear for free and into places were other struggle. I would love if ESPN, SI or even AP hired me to shoot for them. I would be a dream come true. But I may never see that either. To Mark Rebilas do not let people like Ken Griffey Jr get you down. He is in the spot light for now. One thing I have learned over the years, some will shine for a period and then the light will go dim, while other will be the dim light that will shine forever, just bright enough to light the path in front of themselves. Mark keep your light on for your path.

  • Frank Mattia

    I’ve been at this for many years and I do own my fair share of TT products, but as I’m sure many of you are like me when it comes to buying ANY kind of new equipment, I must save my $$ and plan for what’s coming 6 months to a year down the road. Just wondering (not that he can’t afford it) how much of his equipment was given to him just so it can be said by Nikon, Canon,or Think Tank, that Ken Griffey Jr. uses our gear? Simon, I’m would be more than happy to tote a Airport International around instead of having to keep my different camera equipment in different bag if I could only afford it. Someday

    • Thanks Frankie, appreciate you using our bags. We’ve given him a couple of bags, yep. Can’t speak for the gear he’s using, sorry. —Simon

  • Tom Smitters

    When do I start? I read the manual, took a three day photo course, and have a bit of cash to burn.

    • Jeremy Taco Patterson

      Sorry. Don’t recognize your name. Back in line.

      Hey, is that Doug Flutie with an iPhone? Here’s media credentials. Wear the vest at your leisure. Enjoy!

  • chuck liddy

    Very sad. I maybe could have stomached the article a little more if he was described as an amateur with a lot of cash and access. Calling him a professional is certainly over the top considering what being a “professional” really is. He WAS a professional baseball player. Professional photographer…..ahhhh….not so much. Come on ThinkTank you guys are better than this. It’s pretty insulting to those of us who are left in the business.

    • frank

      If you’re getting paid you’re a professional..

    • Ash53

      Isn’t it really up to the people who buy the photographs to decide who is professional?

  • Mike Levitt

    This is ridiculous. He was HORRIBLE to the photographers when he was playing, and now think tank is promoting his ridiculous attempt at “work?” After a 3-day school and reading the manual. Shame on ESPN and Think Tank for promoting this BS. I own about 10 different think tank bags, not buying any more after this. What a load of crap.

    • Hey Mike, I’ve had emails back and forth with Deanne about how Ken was with other photographers and neither Deanne who wrote the article nor I (I’m Australian, I didn’t even know who he was!) had any idea what he was like with photographers (as a few people have mentioned now) He’s shooting for ESPN as a professional – though we can all agree that there are varying levels of ‘professional’ and that he wouldn’t be in the same league as pro sports shooters that has a life career. Naturally sorry to hear you won’t support us anymore.

      • Mike Levitt

        Hey Think Tank, you and I and everybody else know that the only reason that ESPN has hired this guy is because of the novelty of his former career. He has no credentials or skill as a photographer, and no background other than a 3-day Nikon course! I would also assume that they are paying him a reasonable amount of money while the industry continues to squeeze the actual pro photographers down to the poverty line. While I understand that a company like ESPN probably has something to gain here, a company like Think Tank – that depends on actual SALES from actual pro photographers should be smarter than to gleefully promote something that is really a slap in the face to their real customers. Did you actually just gave him the think tank bag he’s pictured with, (as I am sure that he couldn’t afford it…) Seriously, if you want photographers to support you with our business you would be smart not to endorse something like this which is just an insult to everybody who shoots sports. I am enjoying the think tank products I own, which include a shape shifter, 2 airport accelerators, airport essentials, 2 airport security, one airport international, retrospective 5 and 10, hydrophobia 70-200 and 300-600, artificial intelligence and a whole bunch of pocket rockets. I’ve been a customer since the start of the company, and always really happy with your products. The thing that set your company apart was the real understanding of what the photographers do, and your commitment to making gear that worked for us. Seems you might have missed the boat on this one, but since you’ve seen the reaction, I’m glad you understand why everybody is up in arms about this. It’s not that you promoted an athlete-photographer. Both Mark Rebilas (below!) and I have worked at various races with Randy Johnson, and would agree while he uses his celebrity to gain access, once he’s at the track, he follows the rules, respects the working pros, and is really serious about his photography – which he’s been working on for decades. Griffey is just a con artist looking for a good seat to watch the action. So since you’re an Aussie, you can have a pass for this one. But you might want to run this stuff past a few US friends before you post it! The fact that I even heard about it on facebook means that the story is spreading fast…

        • OK Mike, thanks for the feedback.


        • Jeremy Taco Patterson

          Even though I was, and still am, 100% on board with the “Seriously, thinkTank?!” bandwagon, I believe the point has been made and driven home. I believe Simon saw the story, thought it may be an interesting read for the readers, and posted it without any intention of insulting his readers/customers. He can’t, or shouldn’t have to, legitimately analyze every blog post to the degree it would have taken to find out the background about Griffey.

          Not trying to boss you around or anything, I’m just saying, Simon seems to “get” that this didn’t go over so well. No need to accost a deceased equine, yeah?

        • Nik

          Geez, over reaction much …..paraphrase…….”I’m not going to buy a product that I love because you didn’t ask us who you should give a free bad too”

  • Dale Clark

    Sure are a lot of jealous people crying on here.

    • Jeremy Taco Patterson

      Did you ever receive one of his rants about photographers shooting him while he was playing? Do you feel you’re above the rules of wearing mandatory photo vests? Did you pick up a camera and a bag and make a phone call and get on the sidelines ahead of hundreds, if not thousands of photogrpahers who have been waiting on a shot to shoot at this level because of your famous name?

      • Hey Jeremy, it isn’t cool these rants people have mentioned, or the attitude you’ve mentioned re vests, but as I replied to Mike above, it certainly wasn’t something we were aware of.

        • Jeremy Taco Patterson

          I understand that you can’t know all the background on everybody you post about. I just know at least a few of these shooters are professionals of the highest degree of talent and experience and are HARDLY jealous or crying, as Dale so callously claimed.

          I am not a pro, I’m a hobbyist at best. I just felt somebody needed to address his (Dale’s) comment.

          • Hey Jeremy, It has made for some interesting hours of watching my laptop screen nervously, I can tell you that much… Honestly don’t like what some blogs have become with all the “I just came here for the comments” posts… We honestly try to stay the heck away from that stuff. It is tough to know the background of everyone, but i’ll… we’ll try to do better in the future. –Simon

          • Jeremy Taco Patterson

            Hey, I get it, Simon. I REALLY do. Until Mark Rebilas posted recently on Facebook that Griffey had always been a jerk to photographers and had basically “bought” his way onto the sidelines as a photographer, I had no clue about any of it.

            The timing is just ridiculously coincidental for you to post this.

            I didn’t come for the comments, but since they were here, I thought I’d join! LOL!

          • I’ve just been across to Mark’s Instagram and found a photograph with a telling description. Will look further into this. :/

  • Chris Case

    Wow, that’s some serious glass your swinging Ken. I wonder how quickly and frequently he would switch lenses during a game and how often?

  • Speed Captured

    Ken Griffey is NOT a professional photographer. He’s a wanna-be using his name to get access that other people can only dream of.

    How about writing about (and sponsoring) actual working photographers who have worked their way up and earned this type of access?

    • Beef12345

      Like Randy Johnson?

      • Denny Medley

        Randy Johnson actually majored in photojournalism in college, and has been shooting for quite a while. Actually took some time to learn the craft. Similar to Jeff Bridges. Not just using their names/celebrity to gain access to sidelines to watch your kid play…and make headlines.

        • Jeremy Taco Patterson


    • Cronock

      Bitter much? He worked his way up to get this kind of access, just not as a photographer. He could probably just stand there without a camera if he was so inclined. I see no reason to fault him for this, or call him a wanna-be.

      • Bernard Middlebrook

        “Worked his way up?” Really? He took a short-cut, doesn’t know the first thing about being a professional photographer, didn’t pay for his shiny new gear. What a freaking joke.

        • Cronock

          I believe you failed to read the rest of the sentence. “Just not as a photographer”. Why all the hate? Did he wrong you in some way? Is being both famous and aspiring to learn something new and leveraging your established contacts to do so something to be disliked for? Were you somehow harmed by this? Why is this a joke other than the laughable amount of jealousy you apparently harbor?

          • Bernard Middlebrook

            When you spend your entire playing career intimidating and abusing the photographers who work hard for a living (and who make a fraction of your salary) it’s a bit insulting for him to now claim to be one of us, especially since he’s had no formal training in photography and has no experience shooting professional sports. “Working your way up” implies that someone paid their dues, rather than being handed $40,000 in free gear and an unearned sideline pass. I’m not jealous, just the opposite. I pity the idiot at ESPN who though that getting Junior a credential might help the network get an exclusive interview down the road.

          • Mike Levitt

            Well said Bernard!

    • Dale Clark

      what makes a professional photographer? I’m guessing he gets paid to do it. you jelly bro?

    • Hi, we sponsor loads of pros… we mention them and write about them often. If you take a look at other articles on the blog, on our other social pages – they’re all there. Cheers.

      • Speed Captured

        Simon I’m aware that TT does actually write about pros using their bags. The point I was trying to make was that TT might do better to avoid writing about people like Griffey but you’ve already covered that you didn’t know who he was.

        You guys make a great product and I’m considering one for my next roller purchase as I’ve outgrown what I currently use but it’s upsetting to see you (corporate you) get away from your roots by touting someone like Griffey – feels like a slap in the face.

        • GolfPro

          You’re an idiot. KGJ has been shooting on sidelines for many years, including the last 7 for his sons football games in HS and at Arizona. Hes very accomplished and your criticism is unjust and envious.

  • Denny Medley

    Yep – it’s just THAT easy to become a professional photographer and automatically be able to shoot on NFL & NCAA sidelines. Anyone can do it, right?
    Oh, and all of us can start off our gear with $40k or so of the newest equipment, right?
    I must’ve been doing it all wrong for the last 13 years…

    • Hi Denny, personal attacks aren’t cool. You might not like the article, you may not even like the guy (He was hired by ESPN as a pro photographer, it seemed interesting) …but there’s no need to come in here having a go at me? Please feel free to leave any comment you like (within reason, obviously) but you’re welcome to leave it about the content of the post, not the person who posted the article. Cheers.

      • Denny Medley

        Simon, not sure if you’ve seen them but there are several others on here ‘calling out’ ThinkTank for posting this article (apparently) without much research into the Griffey, as well as several other pros considering it an insult. Since you’re the one who wrote the article and put it ‘out there’, I think it’s fair game for those of us who have been in the business for years, worked our asses off to get to where we are to ‘have a go’ at an article we solidly disagree with and consider it an insult to group someone like Griffey in with those of us who make our living shooting professionally.
        I guess since I mentioned your name specifically I’m now on this end of your ‘attack’, but by your own admission you represent ThinkTank, (which I have 100% supported and purchased many bags/gear from over the years), so it’s not only ThinkTank’s issue, it’s the person who wrote/posted the article too.
        Fair game…

        • Hi Denny, totally open to you and anyone giving your thoughts on this photographer, but – and all I said – was don’t make it a personal attack, that’s fair isn’t it?

          • Denny Medley

            Yes, that’s fair, and although I used the “shame on you” thing in my comment, it really wasn’t intended as being personal, but more a reflection on ThinkTank (and apparently ESPN’s) promotion of basically a ‘hack’ that because of his celebrity can essentially ‘buy’ his way in to NFL/NCAA sidelines, buy some high dollar gear, and then all of a sudden he’s a “pro”, and lumped in with the rest of us that (most) have worked many years to attain. My respect for ThinkTank went down considerably after seeing and reading this.

          • I think you can attribute most of the blame to me – I didn’t know who this guy was (Though I could bore you with Aussie football stats?) …I do now and will do better going forward. Certainly sorry to offend, Denny. I hope you don’t mind, I added you on LinkedIn, if you’re interested, I’d like to talk more about this? —Simon

          • Bernard Middlebrook

            Didn’t know who the guy was? I get that you’re in Australia, but Griffey is one of the biggest sports stars of the 20th Century, even made the All-Century team. They have ESPN in Australia, don’t they?

  • Mark J. Rebilas

    LOL, hes a professional photographer?!? What a joke! He is a GWC on the sidelines only there because of who he is. I wish you guys would have asked him why he is such a jerk to photographers at sporting events. On top of being the only “photographer” on the sidelines above the rules of wearing a photo vest, he routinely threatens and intimidates legitimate photographers working on the sidelines. I bet a 1000 bucks he has never spent one penny on Thinktank products…

    • Jeremy Taco Patterson

      Odd that Think Tank didn’t reply to you. Even asked another commenter about personal experiences, but didn’t ask you, or reply to your comment at all.

      Hell, they replied to MY comment…

      • What reply were you hoping for Jeremy? (its 11:36pm here…it may be a tad short) Kinda felt like I was repeating myself a bit… Yes, we gave the guy a couple of bags after the fact, as we do for most people that give us content. (though, not the one on his back in the main pic as far as I’m aware, not sure where that came from so can’t comment) Mark, as mentioned to (this is the bit I mentioned about being repetitive) to others, neither Deanne or I were aware of this guy being as you say “a jerk” to other photographers – did this happen first hand to you, tell me about it? Cheers. Simon

        • Jeremy Taco Patterson

          That’s the reply I was hoping for!

          I happen to know Mark has had personal experiences with Jr. I hope he will share a few. He may choose to avoid the drama though, now that this has taken a life of its own.

          • It has kinda taken a life of its own and it will run its course… I for one am interested to know more – we support photographers (of all kinds) but there appears to be more to this than meets the eye. I’ll email Mark privately. Cheers Jeremy. —Simon

          • Jeremy Taco Patterson

            :Shameless begging:

            I’d LOVE a Think Tank bag! I’ve done a lot of work for “exposure”, so I’d like to trade you some of my exposure for one of your BADASS bags. I carry 2 full frame bodies and a variety of lenses when I go cover the drag races. I’m willing to give up HALF of my exposure as payment. Fair?

            Let me know where to email my mailing address to! Thanks, er, I mean Cheers!

          • What if I give you HALF a bag?

          • Jeremy Taco Patterson

            Is that an offer for a bag at half price? I’d take that!!!

          • Jeremy Taco Patterson



    • Denny Medley

      And replied to mine as well, calling me out for him posting an article insulting to pro photographers which is primarily geared to getting more eyeballs on ThinkTank’s site.
      Guess you’re immune, Mark.

  • Mike Swiech

    Most important part of the interview “Read the Manual” 🙂

  • Bernard Middlebrook

    Hilarious. Anyone who shot Junior during his playing career knows how much he abused and intimidated photographers who shot him on-field during batting practice.

    • Be interested to know more about this, do you have a first hand account at all? (I asked Deanne and she didn’t have any idea about this, and I’m Australian – I can tell you about Aussie rules!) –Simon

      • Bernard Middlebrook

        I sure do. I started shooting Griffey in 1993. If you shot him during BP, he’d single you out for some harsh treatment or demand to know “Who you shooting for?” I recall guys from the AP and Sports Illustrated telling me that they didn’t shoot Junior except in game action because “he doesn’t like it.” It was astounding how he’d intimidated these guys. I was the newbie and shocked that these professionals were intimidated by him. I even heard how he tried to get one of the photographer’s credential pulled. Sure he was the big star, but all of us were properly credentialed and just doing our jobs. This guy was the king of special treatment, so it’s hardly a surprise that he wouldn’t wear the vest the rest of the shooters are required to wear while doing their jobs.

  • 1click

    Great interview Slime!

    • gtvone

      And I thought you could read, JLime…. I didn’t interview him… 😀

      • 1click

        I guess I’m just stupid! 🙂

  • John Williamson

    Great interview of a man in transition… and his “Read the manual” advice is one that should be followed all.

  • Jim Wafwot

    All I need now is a stellar baseball career to afford $40k+ worth of Nikon gear! Great work, Junior!