Sportraits: The Art of Athlete Portraits

athlete portraits


I can pinpoint the date: January 31, 1980. I was in the school library and I picked up that week’s edition of Sports Illustrated (dated Jan 28, 1980). On the cover was a photo of THE play of the game from the previous week’s Super Bowl game. The game featured the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Los Angeles Rams. I really wanted the Rams to win, not because I was a big Rams fan, but mostly because my older brother was a big fan of the Steelers

The Big Play

During the game, the Rams held on to a slim lead early in the 4th quarter. But then it happened! On a 3rd down play from their own 27-yard line, Steelers QB Terry Bradshaw dropped back and unleashed a long bomb! Wide receiver John Stallworth caught the ball over his left shoulder and took into the endzone for a go-ahead 73-yard touchdown play. What made it more heartbreaking was that Rams safety Rod Perry had flown in from Stallworth’s right. Ha made a leaping effort to deflect the ball as it sailed toward Stallworth’s outstretched hands. He missed the ball by a fraction of an inch, and the lead, and the game, were lost. That, to me, was the play of the game! The Steelers went on to win the game and their then-record-setting fourth Super Bowl title.

The Picture

The photo, captured by renowned sports photographer Walter Ioss, Jr., sparked something in me that, at the time, I didn’t realize. But I do remember thinking to myself, ‘That’s it! The whole game in a single picture!’ And it was somehow exciting to me. Three years later, I was headed off to college to study photojournalism, where I would learn the principles of capturing peak action, big story moments and everyday life as I worked towards a career in newspaper photojournalism. Now, I try to use the lessons of years as a newspaper staff photographer, editorial freelancer and photography business owner, to create story-telling Senior portraits for athletes and non-athletes alike; what I and others like to call, ‘sportraits‘.

Seniors and Sports: It’s What I Do!

Along with Seniors, I photograph a lot of sports action here in Fort Mill. Shooting action photos for Nation Ford and Catawba Ridge sports, along with several of the middle schools, provides plenty of inspiration for athlete portraits. While I’m on the sidelines capturing the plays, I’m also imagining what a great play, or even a routine play, would look like if I were right next to the players. How would a diving catch in the outfield look if I were laying on the ground shooting as the player dived at me? What if I added water to a scene? Or powder? Wide-angle close-ups? Telephoto closeups? So, when I get a Senior client who is an athlete, I always try to incorporate this into their session. Sportrait sessions can be stand-alone sessions where we do nothing but sports photos. Or it can be part of a longer regular session that allows for more time, outfits and locations during the session.

athlete portraits
athlete portraits

The End of the Line

For most Senior athletes, their Senior season will be their last. After years of playing for the school teams and often club/travel teams in the off-seasons, it will all come down to this one last epic season on the field or court. Years of games, practices and workouts will soon come to end. The dedication, the passion for the sport, the grind to improve, the highs of victories and the lows of defeats have all been part of the process of making them the young men and women they are becoming. Which makes it important to save this moment in time for them, and for parents, to remember it forever. There’s no better way to do that than through a special athlete portraits session.

athlete portraits

That’s where I come in! In my years as a sports photographer I’ve seen a lot of great individual plays, amazing team efforts and awesome displays of athletic ability. These are the moments I like to recreate on the field or in the studio. Lights, colored gels, smoke, powder, water, dirt…I like to use it all to craft dramatic, story-telling athlete portraits. It’s really my favorite thing to do! And for this Senior portrait season for the Class of 2023, I have bigger, more extreme ideas for creating the best athlete portraits yet! All that’s missing is…YOU! So let’s get started by scheduling a session and making plans for the images you want to tell the story of your sports journey.

Things to Remember

Parents, here are some things to keep in mind when scheduling a sportraits session; getting them done before the season is usually best before the hectic schedule of games/practice/schoolwork kicks in. Also, the Senior sections of the yearbooks usually have a deadline around mid-October. If you want to have the photos available for submission, then we’ll need to have the sessions done within a couple of weeks after school starts. I have a great working relationship with the athletic directors at all three high schools, and the coaches at Nation Ford and Catawba Ridge, so I can usually arrange access to fields, courts and gyms as needed. as long as I give adequate notice of our plans and schedule them when these areas are not otherwise being used.

As always, feel free to call, email, or text me with any questions. I’ll be happy to hash out a plan with you! Click on any of the photos to be taken to my scheduling calendar. And check out the rest of my website for all the info on the various sessions.

athlete portraits

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