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How to pick the right sports photographer for your team or club

There ... are ... so ... MANY!

I'm talking about people who identify themselves as "sports photographers."

There are some who photograph sports as a hobby.

There are others who photograph sports as part of their general photography business, which also includes every other imaginable genre from weddings to cute pets to what they ate while traveling.

It can all get so confusing with so many options and different pricing.

And all anyone wants is the right photographer for their club or team.

Boy soccer player holding a ball.
Dropping by today to help you find the best photographer for your team's picture day.

Today, I want to share with you some tips and insights that can help you pick the right photographer for your team or club.

And I come to you not just as a professional photographer.

I'm also a parent whose kids play sports and as a youth coach who desperately wants images which reflect how special these kids/teens are.

So if you're looking for a photographer for team picture day, let's dive in on how you can find the right one:

It begins with getting clear on what you want

You might be thinking, "Well, Dave, no duh."

But there's more to it than at first glance.

Here are some questions you should answer at the start:

  • What are my top priorities? What's No. 1? Is it image quality or pricing or if digital downloads are available? Make a list of what's the most important thing to your club or team (and believe it or not it can be different for every team/club).

  • What kind of style best reflects our team? Light and airy? Dark and moody? Natural light? Creative light?

  • Do we want traditional or creative? Does the team or club want the tried-and-true or are you looking for something unique that can standout from other clubs/teams?

You'll want to get crystal clear on your priorities.

If price is your top priority, a lot of large volume businesses exist to provide low-cost photography services. But then image quality might not be the best.

However, if there's a photographer whose style matches your team's character, and that photographer's services are a little higher price-wise, that may be worth it.

A youth baseball team shouting "Let's Go!"
Figuring out your team or club's photo priorities is the most important step (and the first one).

No one wants to waste money or time on photos most players and parents don't like.

Success here all with getting clear on what the team/club prioritizes.

A word about that well-meaning friend or parent

You may be a team that has a friend-of-a-friend or a parent with a newly purchased camera offering to take the team photos (and cheaply!).

There are a lot of teams and clubs out there like that. So let's have an honest, upfront discussion about it.

Does that parent or friend's photography service match the priorities you listed above?

If we remove the connection to the team, is that photographer's portfolio the kind that's going to excite your team, players, and parents?

Can you say "thanks but no thanks" if your team or club is looking to go in a different direction?

There are a lot of teams and clubs who feel trapped by this. It's understandable. Relationships are super important.

But so is spending money on photography that's meaningful, matters, and excites the team. No one wants to waste a dime or a practice for a bad experience.

If you want to go in a different direction, let's hope that friend or parent understands.

Let's narrow the choices down to the best one

There is a way to pick a great photographer, one that's the right fit for your team or club.

After you've gotten clarity on the team or club's priorities, now it's time to list the photographers in the area whose services and portfolio match up with those priorities.

Let's say you've found 3-5 photographers. Fabulous!

But how are you going to pick the right one?

Boy hockey player holding a stick.
There are insider ways to distinguish the right photo service for your team or club and the one's you want to avoid.

As a photography business owner, here's some insight I can offer:

  • Which one of those photographers has a consistent style throughout their portfolio? In other words, does every image have that photographer's signature style? If so, then that's a pro with experience and confidence. Or do the photos in one person's portfolio look like they were taken by different people? Which one do you trust with your money?

  • Does the photographer have an efficient, convenient process for ordering prints and digital products? Parents of athletes are SUPER busy, and the last thing you need is to jump through a bunch of hoops or find a confusing multi-step process just to order prints. Make sure the photographer can easily explain the ordering process.

  • Is the photographer trying to serve multiple customer types like sports and weddings or do they specialize just in sports? Many experienced photographers can deliver amazing images no matter the subject, but you may (for the sake of dependability) want someone who's specialty is sports; especially if that someone has the ability to connect with youth and teen athletes, which brings out the best images.

  • Is the photographer transparent about pricing or do you have to jump through hoops to get a price list? Neither is a deal breaker. Some photo business owners don't feel comfortable putting their pricing out public, preferring you email or contact them first. But a lot of clients want to know pricing up front, whether it's on a website or from an emailed brochure, so they can turnaround and share immediately with parents and players.

I hope this helps you find the right photographer for your team or club.

One last note. These days, team photos are more than just getting a few prints.

Chances are that photographer is going to share behind-the-scenes video or images online and tag your team/club.

Chances are parents and players are going to share images from team picture day on their social media accounts and take your team/club.

Or maybe they won't because the images weren't worth sharing.

Team picture day is a chance to tell the world about your team and club. So be your team/club's No. 1 fan and hire a photographer that's the best fit.

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 CEO and chief image maker Dave Pidgeon if you’re interested in booking a session.

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