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We Asked a Photographer for His Theory on How That John Wall Photo Happened

His best guess: While technically sound, "This looks like a classic example of a rushed shoot to me."

NBA Twitter went crazy Thursday when the Washington Wizards posted a photo of point guard and US national team member John Wall looking a little worse for wear at the Team USA minicamp in Las Vegas. The less than flattering photo (which has since been deleted) resulted in the five-time All Star being ruthlessly roasted on Twitter and inspired numerous memes. We asked Jeff Elkins, a Washingtonian staff photographer who does a lot of our portraiture, for his thoughts. Although Elkins thinks the photo is “technically sound meaning the lighting is fairly solid,” he has some other critiques. 

“It appears to be an awkward and rushed example of a canned smile . . . which means the photographer probably had less than a minute with John to execute this portrait. If you have less than 10 seconds with a subject there’s no way you’re going to connect enough to get an authentic expression. Time is everything,” Elkins, who was not involved with the shoot, says. Sometimes, he notes, PR reps  “will underestimate the amount of time needed to allocate for photography …. For all we know the photographer only had time for three shutter clicks and John was blinking in the other two shots. This looks like a classic example of a rushed shoot to me.”

Yaron Weitzman, a reporter for Bleacher Report covering the minicamp, asked Wall for his thoughts.

Andrew D. Bernstein, who took the photograph, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

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Helen joined Washingtonian in January 2018. She studied Journalism and International Relations at the University of Southern California. She recently won an Online News Award for her work on a project about the effects of the Salton Sea, California’s greatest burgeoning environmental disaster, on a Native American tribe whose ancestral lands are on its shores. Before joining the magazine, Helen worked in Memphis covering education for Chalkbeat. Her work has appeared in USA Today, The Desert Sun, Chalkbeat Tennessee, Sunset Magazine, Indiewire, and others.