Meet the Filipino American Photographer Who Caught Lebron James’ Attention on Instagram

For many basketball fans and aspiring photographers, having the opportunity to shoot the Los Angeles Lakers during practices and games would be a dream come true, in and of itself. 

But having LeBron James himself actually post your pics on his personal Instagram?

That’s reality for 27-year-old Darrell Ann, a Filipino American creative who goes by the professional name of Graydient Visuals.

Darrell Ann (courtesy Darell Ann / via cassyathenaphoto)

The multi-talented visual artist works in photography, videography and graphic design, but his main gig right now is as a photographer for Lakers Nation, the most comprehensive source for all things L.A. Lakers without being affiliated with the NBA team.

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade embrace at Staples Center after playing their final game together. (courtesy Graydient Visuals)

Ann, an L.A. native who went to high school in Orange County, initially majored in Nutrition at the University of Arizona.

“I moved back home, took my first job at a hospital doing nutrition and I hated it from the first day,” he told NextShark. “I ended up quitting after 2 weeks and used my first check on a camera.

“I use to make videos for vacations and some events with a GoPro and that kinda pushed me into buying a camera and from then, I learned everything about photography, videography and graphic design.”

Quitting your “real” job to pursue your passion — it’s the stuff of nightmare for parents, particularly Asian ones. But as Ann — and quite a few others — have proved, sometimes it’s the right move to make.

After gaining experience shooting weddings for the first three years while honing his skills through YouTube tutorials, Ann eventually invested in some top-of-the-line equipment and landed an internship with Lakers Nation working on graphics, video and photography.

Kobe Bryant speaking to kids about mental health at a community event. (courtesy Graydient Visuals)

The first-ever picture he took for Lakers Nation? None other than fellow Filipino American Jordan Clarkson.

“Jordan Clarkson held a community event and he ended up using this picture [see below] for flyers and posted it on his Instagram,” Ann recalled. “[It] was super inspirational since he was half Filipino, so he was very supportive of me and very chill every time I shot and worked with him.”

Jordan Clarkson demonstrating how to shoot at a basketball camp for children. (courtesy Graydient Visuals)

For his first three years with Lakers Nation, Ann worked behind the scenes, shooting mostly practices and community events.

Then, in the summer of 2018, everything changed.

It started with Ann getting the opportunity to shoot Drew Hanlen, a first-rate basketball trainer and skills consultant who regularly works with high-profile NBA players.

“He had a bunch of NBA players all summer and I was able to practice specifically basketball photography for hours at a time,” Ann said.

Ann shooting NBA All-Star Joel Embiid during a training session with Drew Hanlen. (courtesy Darrell Ann / via Good Looks!)
NBA All-Star Gordon Hayward training with Drew Hanlen. (Image via Instagram / graydientvisuals)

Then came the announcement. LeBron James was taking his talents to the City of Angels.

“Everything kind of rocketed for me,” Ann said. “Just that collision of the Lakers and LeBron James and me being in the middle of the whole thing has really been a crazy experience.”

LeBron James speaking on media day after signing with the Lakers. (courtesy Graydient Visuals)

Fast forward to 2019 — Ann has taken more than his fair share of pics of The King at this point. But there’s one snap — and memory — that really sticks out to him: the first time James posted one of his pictures on Instagram.

Due to an unforeseen prior commitment, Ann recalls rushing into Lakers practice 15 minutes late, just in time to catch James walking towards the media with a headband on “for the first time in a while.”

“I had about a 2 second gap of being able to take his picture or he would’ve been too close for me to shoot with the lens I had,” he said. “I ended up taking about, like, six pictures as fast as I could and when I checked, there was only one usable picture. So I ended up posting it on Instagram because it was a rare sight to see LeBron with a headband on.

“Later that night, he ended up using my picture to announce that he was bringing the headband back during the game and it was the first time he had posted one of my pictures, so it was a super sick day after that.”

View this post on Instagram

🤔💭.. #headbandthoughts

A post shared by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

It wasn’t the last time, either. A little over a week ago, James posted the following to Instagram:

This season, Ann began shooting Lakers games at Staples Center for the first time in his four years with the company.

His favorite picture he’s ever taken? This spectacular snap of James soaring for a two-handed flush.

LeBron James soaring through the air for a dunk. (courtesy Graydient Visuals)

“One of my favorite pictures I’ve taken. This night, LeBron moved into 5th on the all-time scoring list.”

We’ll be waiting patiently for the pic on the day he moves past Jordan for 4th all-time!

Featured Image courtesy Graydent Visuals

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