Photos that Almost Made My Portfolio

My last blog post was about how to create a sports photography portfolio. I suggested that about 20 photos is a good number of photos in a portfolio. Well, today, I am going to share a few photos that almost made it into my portfolio but did not. I will explain the details of why each one did not make the cut.

This was a tough one for me to not include in my portfolio because I love the action of this photograph. The players are airborne, the hair reveals the motion, the ball can be seen, and the composition is tight. The problem is we do not see any faces in this photo. If the ballcarrier’s face was visible, that might have been enough for it to make the cut. Another problem is the tackler’s body is cut in half, which is not a good way to compose a sports photo.

This photograph definitely shows peak action. You can even see the receiver’s eyes as he is looking for the upcoming hit and he is high in the air catching the ball. I also like the definition of the calf muscles showing on the cornerback. The biggest problem with this photograph is that it is crooked–just look at the goalpost. Trying to straighten it in Lightroom would cut off some of the legs of the cornerback and hide the muscles. I could have isolated just the receiver but decided that this photo just wasn’t going to make it into my portfolio.

PV Baseball 2012-09-22-79

This photograph was also hard for me to eliminate from my sports portfolio. It shows action, is sharply focused, and captures the baseball as it is leaving the batter’s bat. It also shows the face of the batter in some beautiful sunlight late in the day. The problem is the background–that chainlink fence and steel pole. I know some fields have this kind of fence all over the place and I find it hard to capture better backgrounds at many of the games I shoot, but a clean background is necessary to better isolate the player in a photo. I still go back and forth on this particular photo because of the magic light, but the background seems to be the breaker for me.

As you can see from these three photos, there are some photos that are the almost good enough but not quite. We have to be our own worst critics if we are going to get better and improve our portfolios. Narrowing down to 20 photos is not easy. Think about what an editor would say about your photograph. Why should it make the cut? Why shouldn’t it? Making such decisions are not always easy but they certainly are necessary.

Building a Sports Portfolio

Howie Stevens' bunted ball leaves a cloud of dust  against Stroudsburg.

Howie Stevens’ bunted ball leaves a cloud of dust against Stroudsburg.

Building a sports photography portfolio is much like building a portfolio in most styles of photography. The first step is to make stunning images that will cause a viewer of the photo to stop for a moment when they see the photograph. I am often asked about my preferred use of the verb “making” a photo instead of “taking” a photo. I was influenced by teachers and mentors who taught me that we create photographs through the use of composition and exposure. Even as a photojournalist, the eye with which we see news can and often does influence us to press the camera shutter at a precise moment and help express a meaningful moment. Why include one subject in a photograph over another? What is it that captures our eye in that scene? Instead of taking photographs, I much prefer to say we capture or make photographs. After all, we are visual artists, at least to some degree.

After acquiring a healthy number of sports photos, how do we decide which photos make it into our portfolio? This, again, is more art than science. However, a few basic guidelines might be helpful to us. First and foremost, the image must be sharply focused. A soft image is one that is not tack sharp and has no business being in our portfolio. A few exceptions might be capturing a critical moment of peak action or a panning shot where we intentionally blur part of the photo. I also believe a worthy image in our portfolio should show some action in some way. The photo below does not show a lot of action but the towel at the quarterback’s waist does help.



How many photos should be in our portfolio? I struggle with this a little bit mostly because I sometimes find it hard to decide on one photo over another. Twenty photos is what I’ve heard is a good number and I try to be around that number for my portfolio. The rule of thumb is to only show our very best work in the field of photography we are hoping to pursue. Too many photographs can be a problem and even cause boredom. Editors should be able to get a good sense of our photographic abilities by seeing twenty of our top photographs.

Another important consideration is how to share and show our portfolio. Years ago the expected standard was enlarged photos on a matte board in a portfolio folder. This can still be one way to share our portfolio, but electronic mediums have become the norm nowadays. Showing a portfolio on our website or tablet is a very good way to share a portfolio with others.

I will share one final thought on this topic today: we cannot rest on our laurels. In other words, we can never think that our portfolio is finalized. Rather, we need to be out there shooting the next photos in our portfolio in order to get better!

PV Baseball 2012-05-09-335

Portfolio Worthy Photographs



I capture plenty of photographs in the games that I shoot. However, only a select are worthy to be included in a sports photography portfolio. I believe showing action is an important aspect of a portfolio worthy photo. The photo above was the one that got me noticed by the newspaper I freelance for now over three years ago.

MBKB160220 0479A

Showing the emotion of an athlete is also important to me. Sports are full of emotions and our job as sports photographers is to show this emotion in our photographs. A photograph without emotion tends to be lifeless and boring. Bring emotion into a photograph and it just seems to come to life!

FB 2014-09-27 3-15-42C

I also learned that showing the face and eyes is critical for a photo to come close to being great. The eyes often reveal some of the intense emotion in an athlete. The old saying is “the eyes are windows to the soul.” Well, to me, the eyes are a key element in a great portfolio worthy photograph.

PV Baseball 2009-09-05-128

A great photograph tells a story. The action is this photograph shows the catcher putting the tag on the baserunner while the umpire is looking on before calling the out at the plate! What a story it tells! It also helps that some additional elements like emotion and eyes are included in this action shot.

I know that not every photo I capture will be portfolio worthy, but I am finding that the more I keep these key elements in mind while shooting a game, my success rate increases. I am capturing more quality, winning photographs these days. I attribute this to practice, practice, and more practice. I am not quite there yet, but someday I plan on having a perfect day from behind my camera!

My New Sports Photography Portfolios

Sports Photography Portfolios by Bob Shank

US Women's Open - Tuesday Practice round

I just finished updating my photography portfolios. Periodically, I go through my portfolios to add some of my better photographs to share my work with others. I believe my sports photographs are getting better over time and I hope you agree!

One of my frustrations is finding a good way to present my photo portfolio so the viewer does not have to wait long to view the photos. I appreciate any feedback you can provide on this matter because I want to be able to get my photos out quickly and efficiently.

The link at the top of this post will direct you to my newest portfolios: published photographs, baseball, football, and golf.

There are some upcoming sporting events I will be photographing and I am always looking to broaden my horizons and get better at the craft. I now have well over 60 photographs published and my sports portfolio is growing!

 

My New Portfolios

PV Tournament 2012-079 Matte

Sports photography is my passion! There is just nothing more exciting, challenging, thrilling, and, yes, sometimes frustrating, than photographing a sporting event. Football season is now in full swing and I am learning more and more about how to photograph the game to capture the story-telling action. I love it!

I am slowly but surely adding better quality photos to my website, so I decided it was time to create and build new sports portfolios. One of my hopes was to create a slideshow-style portfolio featuring my photographs so viewers, editors, and potential clients can easily view my work. I also wanted the portfolios to be simple, yet attractive.

My newly updated sports portfolios can be viewed here: http://bobshankphotography.com/Baseball%20Portfolio.html

I think I achieved what I was hoping for in this redesign. Take a few moments to view my photo portfolios. Let me know what you think of the new design. Does it work well to show and highlight my sports photography abilities?

My New Baseball Portfolio

I was long overdue for an update on my Baseball Portfolio, so today I spent some time sifting through new photographs, comparing them to old ones, and refining my Baseball Portfolio. The images in this blog entry are just a few of the photographs that made the cut.

I need to be very picky to keep getting better with the wonderful subject of sports photography. Some of my primary goals are clean, clear backgrounds; tack-sharp focus; catching the action (hopefully peak action); and telling the story of a great play with an image. These goals are important to me because they keep pushing me forward. I want to get better so I have to be demanding of myself.

Paying attention to the quantity, quality, and direction of light sometimes keep me on my toes as the sun moves during a game. Keeping a chain-link fence out the background is very difficult at some fields, too. Then there are other times when a base umpire or another player steps right between an exciting play and my camera! Tenacity and a never-give-up-attitude are all very helpful. Another important tip is to never get lazy or give up on a play. Stay behind the viewfinder until you are positive the action of that play is complete. Besides, some of the player’s emotions after a play can make for some real interesting subjects, too. But stick with it because you don’t want to miss any action!

The game of baseball provides hours of enjoyment for the players, coaches, and fans. But I strongly believe the great game of baseball also provides endless hours of enjoyment and even excitement for us sports photographers, too! Time sometimes seems to stand still during a baseball game, but if the photographer gets lured into this false sense of boredom, he or she is sure to miss some of the action! Keep alert and keep shooting!

You can see my new Baseball Portfolio with all the photos that made the cut here.

 

My Wildlife Portfolio

The elk rut is on and the feeling of fall is in the air!

I will soon be heading to the mountains to photograph the majestic elk of Pennsylvania and I can’t wait! This is definitely my most favorite time of year! So, in an effort to remain patient while still getting excited about being out in the wild with my camera, I decided to update my wildlife portfolio. I also submitted a few of my photographs to a couple of magazines. I wanted to make sure my portfolio was up to date for them as well.

I always debate with myself on the best way to present photographs in an online portfolio. I like the images to be seen right away, but not everyone can use the flash technology of some galleries. Thumbnails can be clicked and enlarged, but they don’t have the pop of seeing an image in a larger size. The other problem is the time it sometimes takes to load a group of images. I also like to be able to use the right arrow on my keypad to move through a series of photos, but sometimes this option is not available. As you can see, finding a way to best present a portfolio consists of many options!

I am sharing two links to two different versions of my wildlife portfolio here. If you have the time, please check them out, compare them, and see which one you think is better. Then let me know. I am looking for input here because I’m not really sure which is the best way to present my portfolio online. Thanks!

Wildlife Portfolio version 1

Wildlife Portfolio version 2

500px

I heard some photographers talking about and raving over 500px.

This unique website is incredible! Many people post tons of photographs on websites, Flickr, SmugMug, etc. The result is much like the overload we all experience with the internet. Posting so many photos is much better than hiding them away in an old shoebox and it is great for those wanting to have photos of an event or game. The problem is so many photos are posted that we do not see the best of the best. I do this myself. After a baseball or football game, I eagerly post many photographs of that event. I know players like to see themselves in action, so I try to post as many photos as possible attempting to include as many players and as much action as possible. Obviously not all of these photos are top grade. I do try to highlight my favorite shot of the month on my Perfect Game Photos website–posting my favorite photograph of the month.

500px is a website of top quality photographs from all over the world. Check it out at 500px.com You will see incredible photos here and even some that will take your breath away! Photographers post only their best, top quality photos here because the high level of standards with this collection. Forcing oneself to limit posting only the very best photos is a good exercise and helps advance the level of any photographer.

I strongly encourage you to check out this website. 500px is a site to behold! Along the way, check out my photographs. You can let me know what you think of each one by hitting the “Like” or “Dislike” button and/or leaving a comment. You can see my page on 500px here: http://500px.com/bobshankphotography and you can see my portfolio there at this address: http://bobshankphotography.500px.com

Check out 500px.com to see what I am talking about. This is one incredible site!

 

 

 

 

 

Just Updated My Sports Photography Portfolio

Is your portfolio up to date?

Mine was not. I shoot a lot of different sporting events: baseball, football, golf and even some soccer. I am confident in my ability and the work flow is easy since I use Lightroom. It does take time to sift through anywhere from 600 to over 1,000 photos after  a shoot and I am learning how to be efficient in this process. Lightroom does make it much more manageable!

Each month I post a “Photo of the Month” on my sports photography website: perfectgamephotos.com I typically choose my favorite photo of each month and either tell a short story on how I captured that photo or share a few thoughts pertaining to what is in the photograph. I was blessed to be a student at Temple University in the communications. We had to take the obligatory basic photography class and my life was never the same! My final project for the class was to shadow a newspaper photographer in my hometown for a day, culminating in the shooting of a high school baseball game. I could see that my final grade was definitely assisted by the photographs I was able to capture at that game for this final assignment. To this day, I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of photographing a sporting event. I believe as each game is played it tells a unique story. My job as a photographer is to tell this story with the photographs I capture with my camera. What is the plot of this particular game? What is the turning point or climax of this game? How are the players reacting? Photographs still tell these stories better than hundred of words!

Even with all the modern tools of digital photography and Lighroom, I am not good at keeping my portfolio up to date. So last night I decided it was time to update my sports photography portfolio. Motivation for this came to me because I want to use the updated portfolio as a reference point for a hopeful upcoming assignment. It was definitely time to gather my best work and put them on display. The portfolio will hopefully display my photographic skills, ability, and experience in sports photography.

One dilemma I confronted was just how I wanted to display my portfolio. Lightroom allows easy output to web galleries, but I wanted the photos to appear in a large format without having to click on a thumbnail. I also wasn’t pleased with the slow screen rate with some flash plug-ins. So I decided to create CSS HTML code to present my portfolio photos all in a row. I figured this display would be easy to navigate and get my photographs more easily in front of the eyes who wanted to see my best work.

A quick search on the internet helped me put wings to my dream. I found some CSS code that looked like it might work and with a few editorial alterations I knew I was in business. The power of the internet continues to amaze me! I spent most of the night last night tweaking the layout to display my portfolio after going through and assembling my sports portfolio. I still am not completely happy with the result due to the slow screen rate as photos are first loaded but it will work at least for now. How do you prefer to display your portfolio? What works best for you?

I will admit to the difficulty I encountered in narrowing down my number of photographs. There were some I was personally attached to for some reason, but I eventually realized some of these did not fit the high standards to be included in the portfolio. This editorial challenge forced me to critique each photograph in painstaking detail. It was a good exercise and I believe it will even help me on my upcoming photo shoots. We can learn a lot by going back over past work!

My updated sports photography portfolio can be viewed here.

And here are a few of the photos that made the cut.

 

 

Wild Collages

Today I am piggybacking on yesterday’s post about photo collages. This time, though, the subject is a little more wild–wildlife, that is.

Pennsylvania elk are my most favorite subjects to photograph. There is no denying this. Sure, I enjoy photographing other subjects like sports photography, musicals, and just about anything else I can point my camera at on any given day. Pennsylvania elk are amazing creatures. They are both somewhat predictable and yet sometimes do the most unexpected thing you could ever imagine. A day spent on the elk range with these incredible animals will change your life forever!

My growing portfolio of PA elk subjects should make at least somewhat interesting collages. So I figured I would give it a try. The following five collages are exactly like yesterday’s, except the subjects. Today’s collages feature the beautiful elk that often take my breath away.

See what you think. These collages were all made inside of Lightroom. Do any of these collages attract your photographic or creative eye?