Our latest edition of Industry Insider sees us venture into the world of American Football as we sit down with Taylor McLaughlin, production intern with the Baltimore Ravens. We talk everything from the journey to her current role to the advice she would give to those starting out!

Taylor McLaughlin

 

Tell us about yourself, what do you do in your current role and what roles have you done previously?

My name is Taylor McLaughlin and I am currently a production intern with the Baltimore Ravens. I graduated from the University of Maryland in the spring of 2023 and I was a creative media assistant and athletics department photography student intern all four years that I was in school. I have a degree in journalism, but I oftentimes would joke that my major was “Maryland Football.”

While I was mostly doing still photography in college, I was always interested in learning cinematography, especially after interning with NFL Films in 2022. So, I applied to my current intern position with the Ravens to expand on my skill set as someone who loves storytelling in sports.

My day to day throughout this past season has been to set up and record our daily live press conferences, shoot the Ravens daily show “Final Drive”, filming game and atmospheric moments on Ravens game days, and a lot of those typical “other duties as assigned” things around the office during the week!

There were definitely a lot of highlights to working with the Ravens this season, but I think my favorite was traveling to London with them for the NFL London games. I had never been out of the country before and it was certainly an amazing experience to travel there and play an American football game in an English Premier League stadium!

Taylor McLaughlin

 

What three words would you use to describe your role?

Fun, exciting and motivating!

“Normal” isn’t a thing in sport so what does an “average” week look like for you?

Honestly, I would say my position with the Ravens has been pretty normal and structured every week, at least compared to a week in my life at the University of Maryland. During the week, I work at our team facility, the Under Armour Performance Center, which is about 30 min from our stadium in Baltimore. Every Monday, I bring all of our gear and cases back from the loading dock after games to our studio and unpack everything to get ready for the week. The rest of the week, I attend meetings to plan what we’re doing content-wise that week, I set up and shoot our post-practice live press conferences, I go in the locker room after practice to shoot media talking to players and I shoot our daily show “Final Drive.” I also work as a production assistant for any shoots we are doing throughout the week for trailers or our team’s longform series “Wired.”

Taylor McLaughlin

 

On game days, I’ll do a variety of things. Depending on what I am assigned to do, I’ll usually set up camera gear and plan my day. Some days I will be shooting all over the stadium and the field to get different atmospheric shots, shots of fans and just unique angles of the game. Sometimes, I will also work on more specific things, like setting up a GoPro timelapse of the snow storm we had at the stadium the day before our first playoff game. One of my personal highlights on game day was shooting All Time Low performing at halftime of one of our games. They were one of my favorite bands growing up, so it was really cool to be right in front of them at a concert and capture their show!

 

How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?

So, this is going to be kind of a loaded answer haha! But, my original dream career when I was in high school wasn’t working in sports, it was to go to the United States Naval Academy and be an officer in the Navy. During my freshman year of high school, I realized that I wasn’t well-suited for a nine to five desk job. One day while driving through Annapolis, MD with my dad, he started telling me about the Naval Academy. From that point on, I decided: “That’s what I am going to do. Be in the Navy.”

If you’re unfamiliar with the process of applying to a service academy, they’re not like other schools that you can apply to during your senior year. It’s a 3-4 year process that includes applying to nominations from senators and congressmen, applying to be a candidate for admissions, many extracurriculars and summer programs, many interviews, physical fitness training…. It’s a lot. But, when I put my mind to something, I make it happen and work very hard towards my goals.

 

By my senior year, I had everything completed and lined up except the fitness examination. Exactly seven days before my scheduled exam, I tore a ligament in my foot and was wearing a boot. The academy informed me that I wouldn’t be able to reschedule my examination and after four years of hard work, I wasn’t going to give up on my dream. So, I had to push through the pain and try my best in the exam. But, I ultimately did not perform as well as I had hoped and was unable to go to the Naval Academy. I saw all of my hopes and dreams shatter in front of my face.

However, I always loved photography as a hobby. When I was 16, I bought a GoPro with my summer job savings and started making videos at my high school’s football games. My school’s media director noticed my work and lent me one of his spare Canon DSLR’s to mess around with and I would go to all of my friends’ various games after school and take photos of them.

Fortunately, I applied to other schools besides Navy and I decided to attend the University of Maryland. I had no idea what I was going to study and I was scared. A friend of mine’s mom knew someone that worked in coaches film for the University of Maryland’s football team and she put me in contact with them about student internships with the team.

Taylor McLaughlin
Maryland Terrapins vs. #4 Michigan at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on Saturday, Sep. 24, 2022. Mackenzie Miles/Maryland Terrapins

 

I started working for Maryland football during the summer going into my freshman year in 2019. Photography was always a fun hobby that I loved, but when I realized that you can pursue it as a career, it was a no-brainer. This was my next pursuit.

My senior yearbook quote that I submitted before my injury was, “And though the course may change sometimes, rivers always reach the sea,” from Led Zeppelin’s “Ten Years Gone” … Clearly, that was a fitting choice.

At Maryland, I primarily worked for the football team day to day. I would shoot photos at practices, do photoshoots for recruits, shoot home and away games, help plan content for the team, lead our other, younger interns, etc. One of my favorite memories with Maryland Football was going to the Pinstripe Bowl in 2021. It was our first bowl game in a while and it was really cool to see the team and everyone work so hard to get there and it was pretty cool to shoot a football game in Yankee Stadium.

Outside of football, I would shoot any and every sport at Maryland in the same capacities as football. There were some days where I would shoot three different games in one day! One of my favorite sports to shoot was lacrosse and I worked closely with our Men’s Lacrosse team. My favorite memory was in 2022 when they went undefeated all season and won the National Championship.

I also interned with NFL Films in the summer of 2022. The internship was only three months, but it impacted my career a lot! I met and worked with some of the most amazing and talented people I have ever met. Every day, whether I was in the office or on a shoot, I learned SO much about how they do things, how to light sets, how to work with Arri cameras and all of the equipment Films uses. It was probably one of the most valuable experiences of my career and I am so thankful for the internship and the people that continue to mentor me today. My two favorite memories from that internship were meeting Joe Thiesmann (one of my dad’s heroes) while working on his “A Football Life” feature and getting to go and work at Manning Passing Academy in Louisiana with the Manning family and all of the best college quarterbacks at the time.

 

What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?

My number one focus when it comes to work is storytelling. Sports are such a beautiful thing and I love capturing moments that can preserve the emotion of a moment or aspects of a game that tell the greater narrative of a game. Whether that’s a game winning touchdown or a tight shot of players’ cleats digging up grass on a field– I love looking to get shots or angles that people may not normally see.

One of my favorite shots that I’ve ever gotten was at a Maryland Basketball game in 2023. The Terps were playing No. 3 Purdue, who were a favorite going into the NCAA tournament that year. It was a huge game and the arena was packed with Maryland’s dedicated fan base. When it got down to a few minutes left and it looked like Maryland was going to win, I knew the students were going to rush the court. So, I went up to the catwalk in preparation for that and I got a shot looking down at the completely covered court and it was a really cool moment to experience from so high in the arena. The photo I got went “viral” and was reposted a lot, but that’s not what makes me proud of it, nor is that the reason I went up there to get that shot. I am proud of that photo because I think about the people in the crowd and how when they’re maybe 70 years old and looking back at that photo and being able to feel the same emotion as they did in the live moment. Moments in sports like that are what make it so beautiful and I was honored to capture it and continue to capture moments like it.

Maryland Terrapins vs. the #3 Purdue Boilermakers at Xfinity Center in College Park, Maryland on Thursday, February 16, 2023.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career so far?

I would have to say that the most important lesson I’ve learned is: even though hard work pays off, don’t forget to take time for yourself.

Although, I am very thankful to have found a career that embodies the phrase, “if you love your job, you never work a day in your life,” I do wish I had taken more time to have fun and enjoy my time as a college student. While I was in school, I certainly worked my butt off doing my job and my school work and, yes, it definitely paid off. However, there were a lot of times where I was skipping social outings with my friends, skipping out on parties or skipping out on just hanging out with friends.

It felt like I had skipped being a college kid and jumped straight into a full time job. But, there’s plenty of time in your life to work full time, but only a small amount of time to be a college kid! Even after college, I have been trying to get better at having a good work-life balance. It’s extremely important to take time for yourself.

 

What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?

I think the growth of interest in photography and cinematography amongst younger generations is really exciting. When I was in high school shooting games, there were never any other kids my age or a lot of people at all shooting sports. Now, when I go back to shoot my high school’s games every now and again, I see so many younger creatives on the sidelines and it’s such a great thing to see! My high school even has credentials now because of the growing interest to shoot games haha! When I was in high school, I didn’t even think about this fun hobby I had as a full-time career and I think it’s great to see people discovering this passion earlier than I ever did. I love seeing how talented these young individuals are and it gives me hope for more and more amazing content for the future in this industry.

Taylor McLaughlin

 

If you could change one thing about your Industry, what would you change?

If I could change one thing (besides the prices of camera equipment being crazy!) I would change the competitive nature. Of course some healthy competition isn’t the worst thing in the world and it drives people, but I think there can be a negative aspect to it.

One of those negative aspects is how this competitive nature can easily lead to imposter syndrome in many people and lead to comparing ourselves to others a little too much. Whether it’s comparing our work to someone else’s or comparing our journeys in this career to others, I think it weighs on an individual’s mental health. I certainly have and still do fall victim to these things. Art is subjective! Everyone’s journey is different! What really matters is your intention, your motivations, your values and YOUR mental.

 

Sport is a hectic industry, what do you do to switch off?

Working in sports is definitely hectic and I don’t have a lot of free time! But, when I do have free time I like to run. I know that sounds psycho to some people, but I find running relaxing. I think it’s a great time to either clear my mind or give myself time to think through things and I just zone out on my runs!

I also like to read a lot, and have been trying to be better at reading habitually. Recently, I’ve been reading “Sidelined: Sports, Culture and Being a Woman in America” by Julie DiCaro, which I definitely recommend.

I also do a lot of freelance photography in my spare time! I got a really great opportunity to shoot (and attend) my first NBA game for All Pro Reels and the Washington Times.

If you were to give a piece of advice to someone wanting to do your role, what would you say?

I think my greatest advice would be to always be to always be kind. Throughout my time with Maryland, NFL Films and the Ravens, I’ve met so many awesome people on the sidelines shooting for other outlets and I have made so many friends. Of course connections are key in this industry, but these friendships have impacted my career in more ways than one– like advice, freelance gigs and even just a fun environment on the sidelines with friends!

How to follow Taylor McLaughlin…

I’m most active on instagram (@taylorafiphotos) and Twitter (@taylorrafi)

My portfolio is: https://taylormclaughlin.photo/work

My LinkedIn is www.linkedin.com/in/taylor-mclaughlin-photos

 

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