UAH freshman Joe Tipton edits photos for the nation's top high school sports recruits

Joe Tipton

UAH freshman Joe Tipton (center) is pictured with two of his clients Shareef O'Neal (left) and Bol Bol, sons of legendary NBA super stars Shaquille O'Neal and Manute Bol.

Courtesy of Joe Tipton

There are two reasons incoming freshman Joseph "Joe" Tipton decided to attend The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH): the challenge and the savings. "I knew UAH would challenge me and prepare me for the career I wanted, and I knew I could save thousands of dollars while achieving that goal," he said.

Wise beyond his years, Tipton easily recognizes when a challenge can pay off.

At the age of 17 he started a successful national niche business, Tipton Edits. His company customizes photo edits for the nation's elite high school sports stars — basketball is his specialty. Tipton's impressive list of recent clientele include Shareef O'Neal and Bol Bol, sons of legendary National Basketball Association (NBA) super stars Shaquille O'Neal and Manute Bol. When high school athletes are in the market to showcase their talent in the high stakes collegiate recruitment process, they contact Tipton to create a custom graphic themed message.

"I've been doing design and edits for about two years, but my business didn't really take off until I officially opened my website last December. When I created my website it presented me as being more credible and more professional," he said. Since then, Tipton has sold roughly 300 edits. His website tracks how many people visit his site and their location. So far, the website has tracked viewers from 40 countries outside the United States.

"When I first began photo editing, I never imagined that it would branch out this far. At first, getting paid for edits never even crossed my mind. I was just doing it as a favor for people because I love basketball," Tipton said. "When the requests reached an all time high, I realized that I didn't have time to make edits for everyone who asked. When the popularity of my edits started to grow, it motivated me to do more and to improve. When famous people and top college coaches began recognizing my edits, it motivated me even more." Tipton said.

The Gurley, AL, native said it took his parents "a long time to actually understand the magnitude of what I was doing and what I was accomplishing. They aren't as big into sports. I guess they started to catch on that this was a big deal when one of my edits was posted on ESPN in September 2016." Tipton's edits have been widely viewed on his website, of course, ESPN, The Bleacher Report, FLOHOOPS, and hundreds of other sports websites. His dad Lyn ('00 BSN Nursing), a UAH alumnus is the Coordinator for Regulatory Affairs and Accreditation Services at Huntsville Hospital, and his mother Mary Lynn has been a kindergarten teacher for nearly 30 years.

Several factors led Tipton to UAH—including some pretty vocal taunts by some of his classmates. "All I heard throughout high school was 'don't go to UAH because it's too hard'. It was a challenge and I accepted it. "While attending Madison County High School Tipton took several Advanced Placement courses including History, English and Mathematics. Those advanced classes almost certainly earned him a prestigious Presidential Scholarship to attend the university. "UAH is close to home…its a 25 minute commute from my house, plus it saves money on housing and other expenses."

While Tipton is flourishing at his dream job, the delicate balance of going to school full time and managing a demanding business is "extremely hard," he said. "I am busy most of the time. Its all about time management…Knowing your priorities and making sure they're straight." Tipton's academic plans include a marketing degree from the UAH College of Business. But he is not ruling out a double major in management and marketing, with a minor in graphic design.

"One day I want to escape design and editing…move on to larger things. My dreams are huge and I'm shooting for the stars. But for now, college is very important," said Tipton. "A marketing degree will give me that extra boost and expand what I can achieve in the future." Tipton didn't really know what to expect when he arrived at UAH, so far, he said, his courses have been a bit grueling. "It takes a tremendous amount of adjustment. The teachers here are great and I know they want me to succeed."

Tipton fell in love with the game of hoops when he was 12 years old, that's when he started playing, too. He didn't take an interest in editing photos for basketball players until his freshman year of high school. Tipton has done photo edits for just about every other sport, but basketball edits are what he enjoys producing the most.

Tipton is in constant contact with elite prospects as they go through their recruiting process. Athletes usually contact Tipton via Instagram or text message. Then, when it's time to announce their decision to attend a specific college, "I make the graphic that introduces them to the world," Tipton said. "I've built a strong reputation and a strong relationship with these guys. We become fans of each other. Confidentiality, is a must. The whole relationship is built on trust. If certain information is leaked to the media about their college decision, it could ruin my business completely. All the information I receive from players, parents and college coaches is strictly confidential, until the announcement is made.

"I've also made many edits for players in the NBA, but I made them while they were still in high school. That's when you build a relationship and stay in contact with the players. Once they enter the NBA, they're almost untouchable," Tipton said. "In this year's NBA Draft, 60 players were selected. Out of those new professional players, Tipton. Edits made designs and edits for 23 of the players. I am very proud of that and it is very humbling."

Large companies sponsoring sporting events are beginning to recognize Tipton's work too, including McDonald's All American Games and Jordan Brand Classic ( Last May, Tipton attended an elite high school basketball conference in Atlanta, GA. While there, he sported a customized "Tipton Edits" t-shirt, when an executive from Nike approached Tipton and introduced himself. "He complimented me on my work with the players, told me it was amazing, and to keep up the hard work. It really blew me away…that a huge company like Nike had seen my work and was pleased. That meant a great deal to me."

Tipton has some sage advice for other young entrepreneurs:

  • "Do something original. I was the first in the sports industry to make high school basketball photo edits popular."
  • "Don't give up. You will become overwhelmed and stressed, but you have to keep a level head and keep pushing."
  • "Respect everyone. It is crazy how much respecting someone and being polite will open doors for you."
  • "Turn any negative energy you receive into motivation."
  • "Work hard, work hard, work hard. If you believe in it, you can achieve it."

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