Five ways you can make the most out of an athlete portrait session

When Creative Sports Photography became a reality, when I put the proverbial "Open" sign out to the world, little did I realize just how much athletes and parents wanted better sports images.


What a journey it's been with all of you.


And after what feels like countless joyful portrait sessions with individual student-athletes and teams/clubs, from youth to high school here in Lancaster, I've compiled something of a Top Five list.


Girl softball player looking at the horizon
There are five simple ways to help make your athlete portrait session amazing.

The Top Five Ways Student-Athletes Can Make the Most Out of an Athlete Portrait Session.


Look, if you're paying a photographer to make portraits, then you want to know that it'll be money well spent.


I know I do. Whenever I hire a photographer, I want to have confidence and trust that the result is going to be amazing.


All of these on-location portrait sessions with student-athletes have revealed five super important things you can do during your portrait session to make those amazing results happen.


The good news is ... they're easy.


Have clarity about why


This is going to sound obvious, but you'd be surprised how many skip over this step.


Know why you are hiring a photographer to make athlete portraits.


The answer to "why" shouldn't be super complicated. You might just want them because you like the look of the photographer's work and you want it for your own.


High school track sprinter at the starting gate.
Know why you want athlete portraits before hiring a photographer.

It could be a simple matter of celebrating a student-athlete's accomplishment. She made high school varsity or he set a league record.


You might want large prints of amazing skies on a home field where so many memories have been made.


You might want to announce a student-athlete's college of choice.


Either way, the answer to "why" will help everyone from the photographer to you know the effort is worth it.


Include something special in the photo shoot


One way to guarantee the athlete portraits will be unique is to include something that's, well, unique!


When I was a kid, my grandfather gifted me a baseball glove. It was massive. It was made for the hand of a gargantuan outfielder, which at the age of 7 years old I was not.


The team nicknamed it the "Laundry Basket."

High school girl athlete holding her running shoes
Include something important in your athlete portraits like equipment or apparel.

Something like that -- a special hat, a beat up softball bat, your first pair of swim goggles, a lucky T-shirt -- can be included in some or all of your portraits.


That will make the athlete portraits even more meaningful to you.


Start later in the day than you might think


If we're wrapping up our athlete or team portrait session before the sun has actually gone down, we're probably missing the best skies.


Especially in the months of May, June, September, and October.


What's known as blue hour happens during the 15-30 minutes after the sun has set.

High school baseball player readies to hit.
Right after the sun sets often provides the best skies for athlete portraits.

That's when the sky remains illuminated in a deep, rich, royal blue. If there are clouds, they may appear orange or pink or purple.


You don't want to regret missing that.


So think about starting about an hour or 90 minutes before the sun is scheduled to set.


It's okay to take our time getting other portraits done as we wait for the light to change. It'll be worth it.


Tell the photographer when you need a break


Let's acknowledge something that's super important. Being in front of a camera for an hour can be mentally exhausting.


You definitely want to hire a photographer -- whether it's for family, high school senior, professional headshot, or wedding portraits -- who understands this.

Youth shortstop tags second and readies to throw a baseball.
Let the photographer know whenever you need a break.

Few things ruin a good photo shoot as much as the photographer losing sight of what matters.


What matters is the experience of the client because if it's positive then that will shine through in the final images.


Tell your photographer during your athlete portrait session when you need a break. Take five minutes. Reset. Remember why you wanted athlete portraits and hired someone to make them.


The most important -- be yourself!


Whenever I'm photographing a student-athlete or a team, I cringe when I hear a parent scold a son or daughter for getting their uniform dirty.


Athlete and team portrait sessions should be enjoyable. They should be meaningful. To achieve that joy and meaning, there's one crucial, vital, important, essential, fundamental (have I exhausting the synonyms) thing to do.


Let the athlete be herself or himself.

Youth competitive swimmer in black-and-white smiling.
Be your absolute, wonderful, amazing self in any athlete portrait session.

If they're a hard-charging player who gets their uniform dirty every game or match, let them get dirty during the portrait session.


Do they turn their hat around backwards? Are they the team jester who makes everyone laugh? Did they start a tradition, even a ridiculous one, that rallies the team around itself?


Are they a quiet leader? Are they a vocal team captain? No matter what, let's let them be themselves.


The athlete's personality should shine through in the portrait images.


Parents and photographers should do what's necessary to create an environment where the athlete feels like they can be themselves in front of the camera.


Those five things will go a long way to ensuring you get the best athlete portraits with any photographer.


Interested? Ready for a better athlete portrait experience? Reach out at 717-669-2026 or dave@creativesportsphotography.com to sign up or learn more.


And don't forget to sign up for the CSP newsletter. That's where I announce special events, promotions, and other news you'll want to know about and I don't want you to miss it.


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