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The Process: Inside Ashley Orellana’s playoff shoot with Gilbert Christian High School’s Girls soccer team

The Process: Inside Ashley Orellana’s playoff shoot with Gilbert Christian High School’s Girls soccer team

El Johnson
GCHS girls soccer - photographed by Ashley Orellana

Arizona-based photographer Ashley Orellana has shot everything from Messi to NWSL to US Women’s National team matches. Her love for Women’s soccer particularly transcends all levels of the game.

For the past few years she’s been working with a team close to her heart, her younger sister’s soccer team at Gilbert Christian High School. Ashley has taken it upon herself to shoot the team as if they were a professional club, from kit release photos to epic playoff media day shots.

We caught up with Ashley to learn more about the process behind her most recent shoot with the team ahead of their upcoming playoffs.


41: What was the inspiration for the shoot

AO: First I have ALWAYS wanted to do a media day for a team in the desert so I was so hyped. I wanted to showcase Arizona but also gave a playoff element. With high school sports there’s not much time in-between school, games, and practice to do a shoot. We were able to squeeze this in right before playoffs and right before a rain storm. I really wanted to capture that these girls are fierce competitors and are force to be reckoned with. 

What is your connection to the team?

I love these girls, I’ve been shooting them for a couple seasons now. My sister plays on the team (Daniella Orellana) and my dad is the head coach. It’s crazy to see how far this team has come, last year they went to the finals and lost so this year there’s an element of unfinished business. Combine that with an incoming talented freshman squad who are living up to the pressure and hype. These girls are truly for each other and fight together as a unit on the field.  

What does this level of creativity do for the girls on the team? 

Obviously I’m really passionate about coverage of women’s sports, but I think a lot of times we focus on the pros and forget about where they come from. High School girls are still fighting for adequate coverage, funds, facilities, transportation, and so much more. So this year, I wanted to give back and cover the team because nothing brings me more joy than how girls see themselves. It has brought them confidence in how they are represented as a team, and how they are represented when applying for teams/colleges. It also brings a level of confidence for them on a personal level, you can play sports and be beautiful at the same time. Doing this shoot we got to see so many of them view themselves as beautiful, which brings me so much joy. 

What is your preparation process like for a shoot like this? What’s your creative process?

Well, I had this idea and had been thinking about it for a couple weeks. I spent 2 days mapping out the concept, mood, and posing. I took out a note book and rough sketched how I wanted all 26 in a photo (which is a lot more difficult than it looks). Then I create a mood board of the style, and poses I want to achieve. I wanted no smiling in these photos as they’re entering playoffs. When thinking of posing, I didn’t want anything stereotypical or cheesy, I was aiming for an editorial vibe.

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I knew I’d have to pose each girl so I made sure to have at least 20 poses and some that I could alter as I wanted each girl to be unique. I then started pulling up model poses and would look to see where a ball could be added in the photo naturally or if it even needed a soccer ball. From there I took all my notes to the shoot and before we started I explained to the girls the concept and vision and well the work speaks for itself! The girls crushed it!

If you had the opportunity and resources, how would you elevate this shoot?

Honestly Im not sure if Id do anything to change it, I tend to think that creators overcomplicate simple things when it comes to photo shoots. I love using natural lighting and the scenery/elements around outside it brings a level of creativity that causes each shoot to be different and unique. Maybe some jackets for the girls cause they were cold lol. 

I would love to see teams use outdoor locations for a media day more. It can be difficult to coordinate, but if 26 high school girls can get to the Superstition Mountains I think teams can do it. 

You can follow Ashley and her work on Instagram


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