Why athlete portraits matter

Updated: May 18

Not so long ago, while cleaning out a poorly organized and overstuffed storage closet, I came across something I'd forgotten about.


A pile of glossy photographs sat in a box.


In one photograph, I'm kneeling in a goalkeeper jersey that was trendy back in the 90s (look up Tony Meola, my friends).


In another, I'm standing center back row with a youth baseball team, a squad of my closest friends in those days, whose season to this day remains deeply embedded in my memory.

High school soccer goalkeeper holding a ball.
A portrait from my senior year of high school.

Maybe I'm just the sentimental type. That ought to be obvious. I'm a portrait photographer after all, and sentimentality is kind of a pre-requisite for the job.


This prompted me to sit down and write out all the reasons why athlete portraits matter; why it's important to hire a professional photographer to make them for you.


Why it's important to hire someone willing to go the extra distance to provide you something that's unique and of better quality than your usual team photo day.


They tell a story


Every photo I have in my possession from my days playing baseball and soccer inspires more than a few stories and memories.


The bus rides. The shenanigans on the bench. The games we won. The games we lost. A home run here, a fielding error there, a saved penalty shot that made me feel invincible, my last varsity game.


Two brothers who play soccer standing at a net
The Post Brothers | Soccer | Penn Manor Soccer Club

When athlete portraits are done well, they tell the viewer about you - the kind of person you are, the kind of competitor you are, what this moment means to you.


Every student-athlete I've photographed has a story to tell. And I channel that story into the portrait photography so that today and years from now, when you look at these portraits, you're gonna get all the feels, all the chills, all that this time in your life means.


They inspire


It's true.


You ever look at a photograph of an athlete you admire? Has a younger sibling ever looked up to their older brother or sister and aspire to be like them?


Did you ever play youth sports and watch a high performing varsity athlete, thinking to yourself that you're going to be that kind of player?


We all have.

Girl softball player at sunset
Macy Zohn | Softball | Penn Manor

Now imagine a framed print of your student-athlete hangs in the living room of your home. Or at a school. And someone who plays youth sports sees it, and it lights a fire in their heart to be like your son or daughter.


Great photography inspires. It's aspirational. It connects the photographer, the person being photographed, and the person looking at the photograph in such a unique and wonderful way.


They build self-esteem


Much has been written on this topic, but it's worth emphasizing - printed photographs on display in your house can build a child's self-esteem.


There are a variety of reasons for it. And in this article, psychologist David Krauss explains:


“I am very conservative about self-esteem and I think placing a family photo someplace in the home where the child can see it every day without having to turn on a device or click around on a computer to find it really hits home for that child this sense of reassurance and comfort. They have a certainty about them and a protecting quality that nurtures a child. It lets them know where they are in the pecking order and that they are loved and cared for."

Krauss is referring to a family portrait, but the same principles apply to an athlete portrait.


If you take the time and make the effort to hire a professional photographer who can make fantastic portraits of your student-athlete, and you then print those out, frame the prints, and prominently display them, you're signaling support for your child.

High school girl swimmer jumping out of a pool
Carol Fabian | Swimming | Hempfield

The kind of creative lighting I bring to every athlete portrait is meant to flatter. It's meant to empower. It's meant to inspire the student-athlete to feel great about him or herself.


Imagine the impact of that on display in your home.


They are a reward


For high school-age athletes, making a team is a serious milestone in their journey.


Finishing a senior year season? All the feels, right?


Or maybe your student-athlete is 12 years old and just made a travel squad in their favorite sport.


Think about what it all means to them, having started early (like elementary school), and since then, all the ups and downs, the practices and friendships, the mentoring, the games.


Athlete portraits can be a reward, a celebration, for all the dedication and diligence it took to reach a milestone.


So go all in. This moment is fleeting. Memorialize it.

High school boy swimmer in a pool
Anderson Pilsner | Swimming | Manheim Central

Use these images to announce your college choice or to tell friends and family your student-athlete achieved a significant goal.


Hiring a professional photographer, especially one whose niche is youth athlete portraiture, will make the moment that much more meaningful.


Got questions? Send them my way at 717-669-2026 or dave@creativesportsphotography.com.


And don't forget to sign up for our email newsletter where CSP often makes announcements, coupon codes, and so on. I don't want you to miss out, and if you sign up today, there just might be a little something extra in there for you.


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