The Art of the Perfect Sports Photobomb

Matt Haupert@@matthaupFeatured ColumnistJuly 28, 2014

MIAMI, FL - April 2: LeBron James
Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

"Art and love are the same thing," said writer Chuck Klosterman in his book Killing Yourself to Live. "It’s the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you."

The process of photobombing, then, is both a work of art and an act of love.

The photobomber sees a picture before it is taken—a picture of, perhaps, a celebrity, a friend, a stranger— and sees himself in it. The process of photobombing is also an act of heroism, however, as the photobomber must then take it one step further and find a way, against all odds, to make himself an eternal part of the picture.

For whatever reason, the art of the photobomb has been forever underappreciated, never mentioned in the same breath as more mainstream—albeit less interesting—forms of art like painting or sculpting.

You won’t (yet) find museums dedicated to the greatest classic photobombers in history, such as Aaron Rodgers and Chris Bosh. You can’t (yet) attend a Conservatory of Photobombing, and you can’t (yet) receive a degree in Photobomb Education.

I believe the sole reason for this is that the art of photobombing is grossly misunderstood. It is my great mission, then, to provide some basic education on what it takes to create the perfect sports photobomb.

SAN ANTONIO, TX - JUNE 8: Chris Andersen #11 of the Miami Heat photobombs Eric Reid of NBA TV prior to the game against the San Antonio Spurs during Game Two of the 2014 NBA Finals on June 8, 2014 at AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User e
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

While the non-sports photobomb is an equally powerful art form, it is not my field of expertise, and so I will stick with what I know best.

Let’s break down the perfect sports photobomb into five simple and easy-to-grasp criteria. Think of these as the categories on a rubric that you might use to evaluate a photobomb: Stealth, Creativity, Element of Surprise, Forethought and Magnitude of Photograph.

I’ll discuss each of these categories in some detail and provide a number of exemplary models in the hopes that the next time you see a photobombed picture, you’ll see it not as a nuisance, but as the act of love that it really is.



The success of even the most basic photobomb hinges greatly on a proficient amount of stealth. In an ideal photobomb, the bomber is able to keep the subject of the photo completely oblivious to his presence, only to be noticed long after the picture has already been posted on Instagram.

To succeed consistently, then, the aspiring photobomber must be quick and agile, always aware of his surroundings, quiet on his feet and calmly focused on his work. He must operate like a man robbing a bank, keeping his eyes on the prize and fearlessly executing his craft.

Take, for example, the Queen of England, whose photobomb at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow marked the most important accomplishment of her career:

There she stands, eyes piercing the camera's lens like a hawk, announcing her presence in commanding silence, while two naive field hockey players look on, unaware that their selfie is focused on an old woman standing far behind them.



Though the Queen's performance in the above photograph was legendary, one cannot make a career out of photobombing by simply standing and smiling. Part of what makes a good photobomb great is the level of creativity displayed by the bomber. Is a funny face involved? Or perhaps a prop of some sort? Is a level of wit or irony achieved in the execution of the bomb?

No man has pushed the boundaries of what it means to create a truly imaginative photobomb more than Chris Bosh, as demonstrated in the video below:

Bosh spins, dives, glares, ascends and creeps, always finding a new way to enter the photograph and developing a better performance for once he arrives.

Take a risk, try something you never thought was possible, and taste the sweet nectars of photobombing glory.


Element of Surprise

While stealth represents the essential foundation of a good photobomb, maintaining an element of surprise is one of the most effective embellishments.

Catch your audience off guard. Photobomb when it's least expected. Take advantage of a distracted photographer who isn't prepared to defend against you.

Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez expertly utilized the element of surprise while trying to keep themselves busy in the dugout during a game in which they were sidelined with injuries (maybe Anthony Rendon had a point).

Though their stealth was remarkably low, the element of surprise was strong enough that this videobomb became the talk of the nation:



While an inadvertent photobomb can certainly be a great source of laughs, one that has been premeditated and carefully planned ahead of time demonstrates a much higher level of skill and generally results in a far more iconic piece of work.

Take, for example, one of today's most esteemed professional photobombers, Aaron Rodgers, who also plays some quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers has been photobombing pregame captains photos for years, often enough to warrant the creation of a website devoted to his work.

Rodgers didn't just get lucky and end up in the right place at the right time one week. Rather, Rodgers did what he had to do, carefully planning his attack time and time again to achieve successful photobombs on a regular basis.

Skeptics might claim that the weekly ritual of photobombing actually diminishes its effect because it comes to be expected.

And yet, Rodgers has displayed a consistent level of production and excitement that can be likened to Joe DiMaggio's record 56-game hitting streak. You always know that a hit—or a photobomb—is coming, but it's just as exciting every time, because it's always exciting to witness greatness.

CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 09:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers photobombs a television interview with teammate Brandon LaFell #11 during a preseason win over the Chicago Bears at Bank of America Stadium on August 9, 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Grant Halverson/Getty Images


Magnitude of Photograph

While photobombing an innocent fan at a baseball game can be fun, this would not compare in any way to a successful photobomb of, say, an acceptance speech at the Hall of Fame. The rule of thumb here is simple: The more important the photograph, the more impressive the photobomb.

Practice on low-stakes photos—kids taking selfies, tourists getting their pictures taken in front of a stadium—to prepare yourself for your first shot at photobombing in the big leagues.

In a way, the art of photobombing has spread hope to the hopeless. It has given those people whom nobody ever wants to photograph a chance to finally be in a picture—a chance to be in any picture, with or without an invitation.

Think carefully and purposefully on the five criteria detailed above and learn to look at photobombs like you have never looked at them before.

Learn to see the art. Learn to see the love.

And the next time you're standing in a crowded baseball stadium and you see a camera pointed at two strangers just a few rows ahead of you—well, you know what to do.

Think I'm a genius? An idiot? Let me know on Twitter


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