Tim Tadder creates imagery gold for Adidas X Ninja collaboration

I get into the zone faster when I have to; it’s just part of my flow state. 

Tim Tadder

By Missy Hunter

Tim Tadder is always seeking to amplify his effectiveness in visual communication. Raising the bar is his baseline for each project, his goal in creating the next iconic image. Cultural idol, Ninja, collaborated with Adidas in launching the “Time In” sneaker and setting in motion a consumer frenzy. Asked to shoot the imagery for this grand launch, Tim and his crew jumped in and got down to business in no time, showing that it couldn’t have been a better partnership. Here is a bit about the project.

The Adidas Original X Ninja collaboration launch is a story of Firsts. This partnership is the first of a major brand and a gamer. It is also the first time that a gamer has had a shoe. Some of the creative brains for this campaign included a cross-section of entertainment content agency, 3 AM, and an e-sports/gaming management firm, Loaded. Is this the first time you’ve worked with a collection of individuals that come from vastly different backgrounds? Was it challenging to navigate the various parties and agendas?

Not at all. The creatives were all very experienced and came in with tons of confidence, that always helps. They knew what they wanted, which was to let our team do what we do and be creative, inventive, and motivate Ninja into the performance needed to support the agenda of the product launch. They set boundaries around what they needed, then let me create freely within those goalposts. 

 You are a visual communicator to the Nth degree, a perfectionist, always wanting to improve upon what you’ve done in the past – trying new ways of lighting, playing with color, and making iconic imagery no one can forget. One epic image is the lighted eye mask that Ninja “wears.” What made you think to do this? What is the significance of the costume?

The Ninja mask is part of the historical uniform of the “Ninja.” Covering the face except for the eyes is iconic with the warrior. Ninja, the Gamer, has an iconic logo that incorporates that mask. I have been playing around with shaping light through a projection system. While pre-lighting, we shared the idea with Evan and Andy from the creative team, and they loved the idea and direction. It was a natural fit for the subject, and I am so glad they gave us the time to make such an image. 

 The collaboration between Ninja and Adidas for the “Time In” sneaker launch meant the blending of two worlds. Can you tell us a bit about how you ensured you were balancing the digital and physical worlds each brand represents? 

I think our work sets itself up for the digital space quite nicely. We are great at visualizing what’s not there and what CGI elements will interact with the scene and how. In creating the teaser image lighting design, we were able to create the backlight effect, capture the shadow in camera in the space, as well as through light on the subject whose motivation was from the letters on the keys in the CGI world. 

 Besides the fact that the Adidas X Ninja partnership was the first of its kind, you had the added pressure of limited time to get the job done. Since you only had 60 minutes with gaming superstar, Ninja, how did you bring efficiency to the game?

Time limits and multiple setups are the reality of our creative niche, where we work with celebrities that are contractually limited in the time given to a brand. It’s our job to be enormously efficient with our preparation and execution to harvest the most rewarding crop of content from the shortest season. Efficiency is part of our value-add. We get more quality content in less time because we prepare, are confident, and thrive under pressure. I get into the zone faster when I have to; it’s just part of my flow state. 

 Have you heard any feedback from Adidas or Ninja that you can share?

Ninja left the shoot beaming, frequently snapping images of the screen and sending them to his wife. The agency told us that Ninja and his team commented it was the best shoot they had ever done. I love feedback like that! 

 The NinjaXAdidas work featured on Behance has already garnered 14K views, setting the photography viewing world on fire. Rumor has it that the car you and Creative Director, Evan DeHaven, were riding in caught fire. Do you think that was a precursor to the results you were going to encounter? All kidding aside, any fun information to share about what happened there?

Pure Fire! I often say that on set when I love an image. Little did I know as I was saying that my new car was roasting in the studio lot. I was without a car for eight weeks, that kind of sucked. Losing a car is nothing in the grand scheme where folks are losing their homes and lives in fires. It was quite a surprise to find my car a roasted marshmallow after the shoot. 

Follow Tim on Instagram to see more sizzling imagery that sets the bar, and elicits a response.

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