TOPPS NOW® Photogs Tell All

From DSLR to

Date: Jun 3, 2024
Author: Greg Bates, Senior Writer
Topics: Card Culture, Education, Greg Bates, Larry Radloff, Photography, topps cards, TOPPS NOW
Length: 1559 Words
Reading Time: ~8 Minutes

Picture this: It’s the bottom of the ninth inning, and Milwaukee Brewers phenom Jackson Chourio hits a walk-off grand slam — the first of his career.

Larry Radloff is stationed in the third-base camera well. Firing off seven shots per second with his Canon 5D Mark III and 300mm lens, the Milwaukee-based photographer is looking to get the money shot. If he does, he might log onto in the morning and see his photo used for a TOPPS NOW® card.

Larry Radloff in his element at American Family Field in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Photo provided by Larry Radloff)

It’s not too far-fetched to think every photographer who shoots Major League Baseball games dreams of having one of their photos on an iconic Topps card. Radloff and fellow photographer Dylan Buell live out this scenario each season.

Radloff, a freelance photographer for Icon Sportswire since 2013, has captured 11 photos that Topps have used since 2021. Whenever one of his images is on a TOPPS NOW® card, Radloff purchases a five-pack of that base card on

“It’s still the coolest thing ever,” Radloff said. “To get the physical cards, it’s just, here you are. You walk into the pro shop, and there are cards sitting there for sale. And I’m like, ‘Holy crap. This is real.’ It really puts some worth into what you do that there’s a physical product with your artwork on it.”

Buell is based in Cincinnati and shoots mostly Reds games as a freelancer for Getty Images. He figures around 30 of his photos have been featured on TOPPS NOW® cards since 2019. Buell loves to see his photos get picked by Topps to last eternity on a card.

“It’s always been a huge thrill, especially for a kid who grew up collecting baseball cards,” Buell said. “Having my photos on cards now is an awesome feeling — a full-circle moment. It’s cool when you go to the ballpark, and you see fans asking for the players’ autographs, and it’s my picture on the card that they’re getting autographed. That’s just an incredible moment. It’s one of the most fulfilling things about my job.”

Dylan Buell sharing some of his TOPPS NOW® cards (photo provided by Dylan Buell)

Capturing key TOPPS NOW Moments

Radloff shoots about 50 Brewers home games per season. Before heading to the ballpark, he’ll do a little research on the Brewers players and the opponents. Radloff wants to be prepared to know if a top prospect might collect his first MLB hit or home run or if a veteran could reach a milestone. 

“That’s the interesting thing about having to cover out-of-town teams; you have to look at who’s coming,” Radloff said. “It’s different when the Yankees come to town because you just shoot everybody because they’re all good. But if you get a team that isn’t very good, you’re looking at prospects.”

Radloff, 57, captured a trifecta in a game he shot on Aug. 29, 2022. Brewers prospect Garrett Mitchell smacked his first MLB home run, teammate Keston Hiura hit a walk-off home run, and Pittsburgh Pirates rookie Oneil Cruz recorded the team’s hardest-hit home run ever, per Statcast. All three of those moments turned into TOPPS NOW® cards.

But another photo Radloff took in 2022, his favorite image, was turned into a TOPPS NOW® card. On the 75th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s MLB debut, Topps used photos of three players from different games. Radloff’s shot was chosen for the center of the card.

“Brewers catcher Omar Narvaez had a 42 on his chest protector, and they used that one,” Radloff said. “That’s probably my favorite shot.

Mike Trout, for the name value, and the one for Garrett Mitchell was pretty cool. That’s just because it’s a Brewer, and as a Brewer fan, I find it really cool to see your stuff on the team you grew up watching.”

Before moving to Cincinnati three years ago, Buell lived in Milwaukee for five years and shot hundreds of Brewers games.

Buell’s most memorable MLB game he’s ever worked turned into a TOPPS NOW® card. He was at Miller Park in Milwaukee when Chicago Cubs pitcher Alec Mills tossed a no-hitter on Sept. 13, 2020. With the league not allowing spectators in the stands due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the milestone happened in nearly a hollow ballpark.

“It’s the only no-hitter I’ve ever seen both as a fan or working,” Buell said. “The total attendance with everyone working there was maybe 100 people. It’s odd that it could go down as the least-attended no-hitter in history. It was such an odd moment for that to happen with essentially no reaction. It was a very bizarre experience.”

With the only celebration coming from the Cubs players, Topps opted to use a shot of Buell’s that had Mills pitching.

Buell, 34, never really anticipates any of his photos ending on cards. But he certainly knows the formula for what the TOPPS NOW® team members enjoy seeing for images.

“They use walk-offs a lot for TOPPS NOW® cards,” Buell said. “It’s a big event, usually a very good celebration and a great moment. In those kinds of situations, I get a feeling, ‘You know what, this one might be a Topps card.’”

Radloff snaps roughly 1,500-1,600 images during a regular, ninth-inning MLB game. He’ll start filing photos by about the third inning and a couple more times during the game. By the time the last pitch is thrown, Radloff has already sent 30-50 shots over to move on Getty Images’ wire site. At some point after the game, Radloff generally adds another 50 shots that can be used as file photos by subscribing organizations.

Buell’s total number of photos he’ll take during a game can hinge on which opponent is in town and if superstars are playing on either side. Reds dynamic youngster Elly De La Cruz has kept Buell plenty active since his call-up last season. Buell rattles off anywhere from 2,000-3,000 photos in a typical game. He’ll generally file between 60-100 images.

“If I have a very good feeling that an image I got is going to be a TOPPS NOW® card, I’ll send more photos that night after I get home,” Buell said. “I want to make sure that they have a good variety to choose from.”

A Fan of Buell’s TOPPS NOW® cards — notice Elly De La Cruz on the top (photo provided by Dylan Buell)

From Photographer to Topps Team

Topps has a contract with Getty Images for on-field photography for MLB games; all the images used for TOPPS NOW® cards come from there.

While photographers across the country file their photos from ballparks each night, TOPPS NOW® team members prepare which players to feature on the next day’s cards. On an average night with a full slate of MLB games, TOPPS NOW® will produce three to six cards.

If an MLB player registers a three-homer game, a walk-off to complete a come-from-behind win, or tosses a no-hitter, there will be a TOPPS NOW® card.

“Each night we’re talking about moments, and sometimes there’s already shots from Getty,” said Pat O’Sullivan, a brand manager at Topps. “We’ll Slack that to each other and talk about it. ‘Oh, this would be perfect for tomorrow.’ Then, by morning, we’re creating proofs and routing internally to get visibility.”

It’s a fluid process. According to O’Sullivan, the TOPPS NOW® team has about a 12-hour turnaround each day to design a card before it is available for purchase.

O’Sullivan and two of his co-workers determine the image that will be used for a card. Will it be a shot of the player connecting for the game-winning hit or a celebration?

“It’s going to revolve around that moment and what best captures it in an image,” O’Sullivan said. “If it’s a really cool swing shot where it’s the point of contact, or maybe it’s a little bit more of an energized celebration coming around third and high-fiving the third-base coach or a celebration at home plate. We’ll say, ‘Alright, here’s our options for this moment. What do we think works best?’ Then we’ll kind of deliberate over that a little bit.”

It generally doesn’t matter if the photo is horizontal or vertical; the TOPPS NOW® team selects the image that is as true to the moment as possible.

The TOPPS NOW® folks send their favorite image — sometimes multiple images — to a larger e-commerce team to receive feedback. Before each TOPPS NOW® card can become a reality, a digital proof is emailed each morning to Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association for approval. “They’re just checking for accuracy in the images, and they’ll give us the approval,” O’Sullivan said. “Pretty quickly after that, let’s say we send it by 10 or 10:30 AM, we’re getting their approval typically around 12 to 1 PM. Then, by 1, 2, 3 PM, we’re going live on Then we’ll do it again the next day.”



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