Magdalena Stysiak

Stories > Magdalena Stysiak

Athlete: Magdalena Stysiak
Sport: Volleyball
Client: Red Bull
Location: Scandicci, Italy


Born in the small village of Turów in Poland, Magdalena Stysiak was always a sporty child and could regularly be found playing football on the local pitch. But it was once she was introduced to volleyball by her older brother, Tomasz, that she found her calling.

Regularly practicing on the court that her dad had built in the garden of their home, Magda joined a sports club in Kurów and soon began playing for her local team, Siatkarz Wieluń. Such was her dedication to the sport that she chose to study and train in the School of Athletic Excellence in Szczyrk. During this time she experienced a huge growth spurt and by the end of middle school was already 6ft 4in (196cm).

Excelling in school, Magda soon joined the best team in Poland, Chemik Police, and made her league debut at the age of 15 in a game against KSZO Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski. She was then sent on loan to gain experience and during this time won a bronze medal at the 2018 Polish Junior Championship.


2019 was a huge breakthrough year, with Magda earning a call-up to the national team. Still just 18 years of age and now 6ft 6in (203cm), she played a crucial role in Poland reaching the semi-finals of the European Championships.

Such was her impact at the tournament that Magda was able to realise her dream of playing in the Italian Serie A, earning a move to the Savino Del Bene Scandicci team. During her first year in Italy, she showcased her talent and is already seen as a hugely important member of the team.


As often happens, the time to shoot is very short. In order not to arrive unprepared for the shooting, I made some notes sketching some of the shots I wanted to take.
I usually prefer to start with portraits, as simple and impactful as possible. It is important to break the ice and earn the athlete’s trust! The fastest way to do this is to show them immediately images that they can appreciate.

Since the location was not the best from an aesthetic point of view, I immediately decided to shoot with flashes in HSS. By maintaining a high shutter speed I could easily darken the background.
With a main light I lit up the subject and with a back light I drew its outline. To contextualize these first portraits, I decided to play with representative elements such as the net and the ball.


Another type of shot that I love to take to empathize with athletes is to capture some habits or gestures that represent them.
In this case I had already imagined taking a shot like the one in the sketch below, in the moment before a service.
Speaking with Magdalena I optimized the shot by immortalizing her in a pose that she always takes before serving.


Obviously, I couldn’t refrain from taking the most representative shot of volleyball: the dunk.
Also in this case I lit up the subject placing all the attention on it while keeping the background dark.
I used two light points to freeze this beautiful athletic gesture at best.
The other action shot I made is what I like to call “the rescue”. I am very happy with this shot because it came out just as I imagined it would be. The subject is beautifully lit and the backlight creates that pleasant flare that gives an artistic touch to the picture.


Before completing the shooting with some classic lifestyle shots, I decided to take some photos in which the athlete was still wearing the team uniform. I tried to recreate some credible and natural situations, such as breaks, or pre-game stretching; and then move on to more posed portraits. Below are some of the results.


Still just at the very start of her career, Magda is already seen as a pillar of Poland’s national team and is fully embracing her role. She says: “I like feeling the weight of responsibility. I like it when a lot depends on me. The more, the better I play.”

With that excellent attitude, it seems inevitable that she’ll achieve great things both with her club and country.

Here is the link to the whole photo gallery published on Red Bull Content Pool:

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Gabriele Seghizzi