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What clients can do to make great athlete portraits

Updated: May 18, 2022

There's only so much a photographer can do.

Well, okay, so there's a lot a photographer can do to make dynamic athlete portraits.

But in order to create stunning athlete portraits, it takes more than just creative lighting and changing camera settings. It takes more than anything a photographer can do.

This is where you come in.

Today, I'm here to help show what you can do during your athlete portrait session with Creative Sports Photography that will all-but guarantee you'll have an entire gallery full of amazing images.

Look, I can bring the cameras and the lights and know-how. That's craft, but there are two things you can do in front of the camera during the portrait session that I can't because I'm behind the camera - motion and emotion.

Let's start with motion.

And in this case, I'm talking about when we're making a portrait of you standing on the field with those rich blue skies behind you or inside an arena with those cool rafters and banners overhead.

*When it comes to action shots, motion is inherent to the photo, so let's set that aside. Let's instead talk about portraits and how you can use motion.

You've all seen portraits where the person looks frozen or stiff. They look like they'd rather be doing anything other than having their picture taken. Right?

We want to avoid that.

What we want to do together is to help you relax in front of the camera. A relaxed athlete is a photogenic athlete, is enjoying themselves, is not thinking so much about a photographer pointing a camera and lens their way.

So how do you relax with motion? It's simple.

Let's say I have you stand on a field or next to a pool, on the ice or the hardwood court. After I position the lights and make sure we have everything set, I may ask you to slowly, subtly, move your face in the shape of a square.

Right-up-left-down. Repeat. Honestly, it might even make you laugh, which generates an authentic smile.

The motion helps relax the athlete, and it provides four different looks in the same pose. That makes for better athlete portraits compared to a photographer saying: "Stand there, now smile."

Okay, so that's motion. Now let's talk emotion.

Take a look at Ava, here:


I asked Ava, an up-and-coming soccer player for Manheim Township, to give me her best game face.

Yeah, she definitely did.

While she may not be smiling, there's intensity in the eyes. It's like Hempfield's soccer team showed up on the opposite sideline ready to dominate and Ava's got something to say about it..

So when I ask an athlete to show me his or her "game face," that competitive intensity is in the eyes. You can show a lot of emotion just through the eyes.

When you come to an athlete portrait session, think about what you want to convey through your eyes. Competitiveness? Intensity? Joy? Hope?

Now let's go to a very different portrait than Ava's. Here's Macy, a 12-year-old softball player for Penn Manor:

There is zero doubt that Macy is having a heckuva good time during her session.

She's emoting. She's showing off who she is through and through, and that includes how much she loves softball.

And that made her athlete portrait session all the more successful.

Whether you're like Macy (all joy and smiles) or you have a different personality, they're all great.

What's important is it's your unique personality as an athlete, and how you express that personality, that's what we want to capture.

If you'd like to sign up for an athlete portrait session with Creative Sports Photography, reach out by email ( or by phone (717-669-2026).

And if you'd like to sign up for the CSP newsletter, here's the form:

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