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How I approach making great athlete portraits

What's the difference?

I wouldn't blame you for asking that question when you're looking at all the options for athlete and team portrait services.

You might think it better to go with a more affordable (okay, okay, I mean "cheaper") option.

A soccer player smiles through a net.
Let's talk about how CSP uniquely approaches creative athlete portraits.

But what are you really paying for? Do you really want to spend money, any amount of money, on pictures that end up in a desk drawer or storage box?

And what kind of experience do the athletes and coaches have as the images are made? Does the photographer truly care about them and about you?

Today, I wanted to stop by and share with you a little bit about how I approach athlete and team portraits so you can see the difference for yourself.

I want to invite you to see how I see.

Before you arrive at your athlete portrait session

When you arrive at the field, court, or pool for your athlete or team portrait session, chances are, I'll have been there for an hour already.

Why? It's like my pregame warmup.

Yeah, even photographers have routines and rituals they go through to get into "the zone."

A basketball player standing holding a ball.
Scouting a field, court, or pool before our shoot allow me to better prep for your athlete session.

For me, that means walking the area - the field, court, bleachers, and so on - to seeing everything from potential spots to shoot that will look phenomenal to the trajectory of the sun.

I recently hosted a portrait session for a high school golfer. My original plan was to start at a tee. But when I arrived at the golf course and saw this gorgeous bridge that would include a sunburst in the background, I knew that was a must-have shot.

Believe it or not, I actually listen to SiriusXM's Chill station before your session.

Why? Because it helps me get grounded, calm, into "the zone" for making dynamic athlete portraits.

1-2-3. The Rule of Three in athlete portraits

When we work together, you'll hear me count to three out loud ... like a lot.

"One ... two ... three."

It's part of my Rule of Three approach, an essential component to the method I've developed for delivering results for clients every single time.

Every set up, I take at least three of the same shot. This helps - in case you blink or the focus is off - to ensure we get the look we're going for.

More than just "stand there and hold the ball like this"

When I set out to create an elite portrait service for local athletes, I wanted to smash the traditional way sports photographers work with you.

One of the ways I've achieved that is to use the same approach to athlete portraits that wedding photographers and other high performing visual artists work.

For example, bleachers make for great "leading lines," just like a landscape or cityscape photographer might use.

A soccer player looks over her shoulder while standing on the bleachers.
Bleachers make for great leading lines in an athlete portrait.

I also look for interesting things to shoot through in the foreground. Dugouts in baseball and softball, for example, are perfect for this.

This way you get more than just a boring picture using the same stale poses.

You get a whole gallery with a variety of interesting portraits that go beyond the status quo.

Show me your "Game Face"

There are two "looks" I go for with every athlete with whom I work.

One is a smile.

For the athlete in your family, it's a moment to show the joy he or she has in playing a favorite sport.

Let the side of him or her that's grateful for the opportunity to compete and have teammates and memories radiate.

The other is a "game face."

Others call it "fierce mug."

A boys lacrosse player leans against a fence.
Show me your game face!

Whatever it is, I have an athlete look at the camera like it's their disrespecting rival.

Not mean or angry. Just ready to kick some butt. The way your athlete might look right before the whistle blows to start a game, match or meet.

Both looks represent who they are and what playing means to them. And that is more important than anything else I've talked about today.

These are their portraits. I'm here for them (and for you). I'm here to create something that represents who they are and that will endure for years, a testament to this time, which goes by faster than any of us would like.

And that's the difference.

Creative Sports Photography provides athlete and team portrait experiences for youth, high school, college, and pro sports. Based in Lancaster, Pa., and available anywhere, CSP creates portraits that reflect what this time competing and playing sports means to an athlete. Contact CSP’s owner and chief image maker Dave Pidgeon if you’re interested in booking a session.


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