Updated: May 18
You are marking this happen.
I may have the camera and the lights, the technical know-how and maybe a few intangibles that go into making athlete portraits.
But all of that is not possible without you and your support.
The journey toward lifting an athlete portrait photography business from concept to reality began in earnest during the summer.
Three years earlier, I'd left my previous photography efforts behind to return to a public relations career.
A pandemic came in 2020, we held our kids out of sports for a year, and when we returned that bright Spring of 2021, the enduring embers of the idea of youth athlete portraits began to catch fire.
Now it's the end of the year, Creative Sports Photography is my full-time job, I'm loving it, and it has to do with the athletes and their families I've met on this rejuvenating journey.
You've responded with such great enthusiasm and support.
Today, I want to share what you have largely chosen on Instagram as the nine most popular images of 2021.
I've judged this based on variety of data: likes, comments, which photos prompted someone to click on the link for CSP website, others.
So here are the nine and the stories behind how they were created:
9.) Hillary Murse | Softball | PA Strikers
When you hire a portrait photographer, any portrait photographer, there's something especially important you should be on the look for:
Does he or she take their time when creating the portraits?
This image of Hillary is an example of why that's important.
I met Hillary, a member of the Class of 2022, at the Manheim Township High School softball field during a mostly cloudy evening.
As we were making these portraits, a brilliant patch of blue sky opened. The problem was I had Hillary facing a different direction.
Even though it took precious time to rearrange the lights and Hillary, then angling the camera from the infield dirt to get that blue sky, it was worth it.
8.) Luke Arms | Hockey | Palmyra Black Knights
Luke and I met at Regency Sports Rink in Lancaster, even though he plays for the Palmyra Black Knights club up in Lebanon County.
The challenge - Regency is covered in banners for one of Palmyra's rivals, the Central Penn Panthers.
One thing athlete portrait clients should know - Every location is a challenge. It could be a stadium with a track populated by runners, a ball field in a crowded public park, or an ice rink with championship banners for another team.
The job of an on-location portrait photographer is to do everything in our power to minimize or eliminate those things.
In this case, it meant lying on my back on the ice and finding the perfect spot in the rink to put behind Luke so it can appear like any ice rink anywhere.
7.) Macy Brandt | Softball | Penn Manor
Macy's portrait session was so much fun. That was because of her.
You can just tell with her smile how much she enjoyed it.
During athlete portrait sessions with Creative Sports Photography, I mix in portraits that show your joy and competitive fire.
Smiles and game faces. That's the combo.
That look on Macy's beaming face shows how ready she is to play a sport she loves.
And athlete portrait sessions are meant to capture that spirit whether with a smile or as if your chief rival just arrived on your home field.
6.) Aidan McBride | Soccer | Manheim Township Soccer Club
Aidan is the oldest son of one of my closest photography friends, Erica McBride.
He was a few weeks from heading into his future, the start of his freshman year at a university in Iowa.
As Creative Sports Photography was just getting started this summer, Aidan and his sister, Ava, volunteered for a soccer portrait shoot in Manheim Township's Overlook Park.
I had Aidan sit against the goal post for a pretty routine shot. During a break, he leaned his head back against the post.
Just that little head tilt made a huge difference, I thought, in the mood of the image. He's relaxed, casual, perfect.
I asked him to hold it, to give me both a smile and a stern game face.
5.) Gracyn Brandt | Soccer | Hempfield
Gracyn was a lot of fun to work with -- patient, kind, grateful. There's a budding leader in this Hempfield sophomore.
About halfway through our session, we were working in the stands of Hempfield High School's football stadium.
Sometimes during a session, a look may not work out. Whatever the reason, something just isn't clicking.
It's nothing a client has done. It might be the lighting, it might be the location, something unforeseen.
Those of us who make portraits outside have to figure the solution out fast when the light is fading.
Gracyn had been sitting, but I asked her to stand up, and that's when I saw this shot. The trees and the fence made for perfect balance points if I had Gracyn stand right between them.
4.) Lilly Farmer & Carol Fabian | Swimming | Hempfield
Carol and Lilly are teammates on the Hempfield High School swim team, and they graciously volunteered for a portrait session at the Hempfield Rec pool.
As I mentioned above, no location is perfect. Such was the case at this pool -- it was open swim and windows surrounding the entire facility made light an unbelievable challenge.
The solution, though, came like this.
I set up a studio backdrop in the pool area to use while other rec center patrons swam laps.
While we waited for the pool to clear out, we went into this makeshift studio and made some amazing black-and-white portraits.
I love these images. They're among my favorites. Fierce was the word I think we used while creating them.
Both are featured here because when I posted them on Instagram, I did so as a carousel.
3.) Kendall Achen | Soccer | Manheim Central
Yes, I dodged out of the way at just the right time, haha.
This is Kendall, a middle school soccer player from Manheim Central. She's one of the most amazing young people you could ever meet.
I've been working and developing my action portraits. They're getting better and better.
Kendall was shooting on a goal behind me, and I was laying on the grass. Her shots were veering well to my right.
Then she hit this one right over my head. It was awesome.
2.) Autumn Rhoads | Lacrosse | Hempfield
The simple ball toss can make for some outstanding portrait images.
It's an easy one with big returns. The athlete simply tosses the ball into the air, and the camera and lights capture it.
They're wildly popular images.
And this is Autumn, a senior lacrosse player at Hempfield Area High School.
She's one of my favorite athletes to work with, and this was our second portrait session; the first was three years ago when the idea of creating a photography business for student-athletes first took flight.
1.) Hillary Murse | Softball | Manheim Township
This list began with Hillary, and here she is in the top spot.
No surprise. Hillary is amazing.
We made this shot at the end of her portrait session. Her Dad soft tossed the ball and she blasted it into the outfield.
The action shots it seems are the athletes' favorites to make.
While we create some amazing portraits with the skies and the stadiums, when we get to those action shots, the athletes get to do the things they love best -- play their sport.
Great portrait photography involves two things. Emotion and motion. The action shots give us both.
I can't wait to see what we all create together in 2022. What about you? Is it time for you to get the athlete portraits you've always dreamed of having?
If you'd like to sign up for an athlete portrait session with Creative Sports Photography, reach out by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by phone (717-669-2026).
And if you'd like to sign up for the CSP newsletter, here's the form: