Student freelance sports creative builds his own brand

Nathan Yuan and Katie Dalton

Braeden Schmidt takes photos, and gets paid money. But don’t ask him to photograph a wedding.

“I’d say no because I’m gonna screw up your photos and be the demon at your wedding,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt is a freelance sports creative who has worked with Sports Center Next.

“I’m not on a payroll,” Schmidt said. “I’ve signed contracts before, but I’m not an employee of someone. I’m freelance. My talents are photography, cinematography, editing and graphic design.”

It originally began with a passion for airplanes. There, Schmidt became interested in photography.

“I used to be into aviation a lot, and YouTube was just starting to be a thing when I was growing up, so that was kind of my only way to be immersed with that kind of content,” Schmidt said. “I watch these videos all the time. I’m like, dang, how do you get shots like this?”

It was also at an airport Schmidt learned the basics of photography. 

“In sixth grade, I got gifted a camera, and me and my dad would make weekend trips up to O’Hare, Midway or whatever, just outside the airport and take pictures of planes,” Schmidt said. “That’s kind of how I started learning the basics of a camera.”

During his freshman year, Schmidt began shooting photos and videos for the Central football team. There, Schmidt fell in love with sports media and started to become heavily involved in the Chicagoland suburbs’ sports. 

“I’ve been shooting things on my own and building my own brand from I’d say freshman year up until about the end of sophomore [year],” Schmidt said. “I started figuring out I can actually go and do jobs.”

One of the jobs Schmidt has covered are football games.

“On game day, I would be in the press room working,” Schmidt said. “Around two hours before tip off, we went back with the team because I’m shooting for them and went back in the locker room, showed locker room content [and] got sound bites from coaches. Then about an hour before the game, [we] come out on the floor to warm ups. And then obviously [during] the game I’ll be on the baseline working shooting the game.” 

The most difficult portion to cover is the post-game.

“In a space like that you want to capture two emotions at once,” Schmidt said. “Essentially, you have to capture the winning team and the losing team at the same time.”

Derrick Echols II, founder of Sloche, the “ESPN of Illinois High School Sports” helped Schmidt get his foot in the door to create live content.

“[Echols] helped me build my own personal brand while shooting for Sloche in 2019 and 2020,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt has been a “cool guy” to work with, Echols said.

“He’s real energetic and sociable,” Echols said. “When he’s in these games, and these little events, he’s dialed in, you know, he’s getting his work done. But I do love the fact that he can balance that and still have fun in the moment.”

Next year, Schmidt will attend the University of Louisville and create live photography and videography for their football team.