How to Capture Creative Athlete Portraits

Written by Backdrop Express Photography Team on . Posted in Photography Tips

 How to Capture Athlete Portraits

Playing sports while in school has been linked to higher academic success and overall personal satisfaction in a number of studies of high school and college students. Student athletes are a special breed, and your sports photography, athlete photos and portrait photography should strive to reflect this.

Student athletes tend to exude confidence and character both on and off the playing field; an air of poise and success follows them whether their team is #1 or not. Athlete photos and sports photography should capture the unique essence and personality of each athlete. Impactful athlete photos require some different considerations than traditional portrait photography. Bring your sports photography portraits to new levels of creativity by following these tips:

1. Location Shooting

Sports portraits can be taken anywhere, and you should collaborate with the athlete to capture the desired look, location and result. Sports portraits taken on the field, near the pool, at the track or in the gym will help to create an authentic atmosphere and offer dynamic composition opportunities for your student athlete photography.

track runner posing in field

2. Outdoor Tips

When photographing your athletes outdoors, be aware of the position of the sun in the sky. You might even try to choose a day that is slightly overcast but not raining, as this affords optimal lighting without sun glare. However, if a bright blue sky is desired in your shots, shoot your subject with the sun off to one side of them; this way they will not be back lit and will be less likely to squint in the sun.

3. Signature Poses

Photograph your athlete in their favorite poses. Highlight stances that express the power and uniqueness of their sport and unique player position. Whether you’re shooting a cheerleader, a football player or a rugby player, each will have poses they like best, postures that will convey the essence of their connection and love of the sport.

dancer portrait on wood floor

4. Sports Photography Elements

Whether on location or in your studio, incorporate some sports symbols to complement your athlete. Get some shots of the athlete with their equipment, near the scoreboard, goal posts, stands, bleachers or an interesting-textured fence. Try some shots in the locker room, by the equipment room, on the pitcher’s mound or at home plate as appropriate. Experiment with low and high-key lighting. Include creatively placed sports elements such as the jersey, cleats, protective gear or other uniform elements. Bring in pom-poms, face guards, clubs, hockey sticks, pennants, balls, etc. as appropriate to the sport. Showcase the school’s colors, sporting equipment, logo and signage.

football player portrait on black backdrop

5. Studio Sports Photography

Shooting in your studio can yield creative and artistic results as well. Try a variety of lighting techniques and camera angles to showcase your athlete in a number of scenarios and compositions. Shoot from below them angled upward to convey authority. Sports-themed photo backdrops¬†can help create the perfect professional setting for your studio sports photography. Some sports backdrops even offer a realistic on-the-playing-field effect. There are also faux floor backdrops available to create the look of hardwood or turf. Styles like First Base, Center Court and Grass Field can complete your sports studio setting. You can still bring in many of the other elements described above — playing equipment, balls, home and away uniforms, etc. — to further enhance your shots.

6. Break with Tradition

Experiment with both the expected and the unexpected in athlete photography. Take both traditional and non-traditional shots. Have your athlete pose in uniform as well as dressed up in street clothes for some of the shots. Try posing them in their Letterman’s jacket outdoors and/or with their trophies and medals. If possible, take some shots on the playing field at night with the house lights on for dramatic effect. Try a closeup of their hand with their class ring on it and holding a ball forward toward the viewer. You can even bring in the team mascot for a shot or two. Experiment with innovative poses, bold angles and a variety of facial expressions.

boy with medals and trophies

Pay attention to these six areas of sports photography, and you’re likely to create athlete photos your clients will love. When they start telling their teammates about you, look out — your appointment book will start filling up rapidly. Do you like creating unique portraits, or sticking to traditional poses?

-Backdrop Express Photography Team

Interested in learning more about sports photography? Check out How to Take Great Sports Photos!

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