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

New 1-day Guided Photo PA Elk Trips Added

Here is an opportunity for you to photograph the majestic elk of Pennsylvania.

You will be guided to the action so you can concentrate on photographing these incredible animals. Our 20+ years of experience can put you onto elk that will leave you filling up your memory cards with one photograph after another.

Fall is the absolute best time to photograph the elk because they are in their glory as the bulls fight for dominance in the rut. Each bull wants a piece of the action and will fight for that opportunity. This combined with the beautiful fall foliage provide breath-taking photographs for you to capture.

To learn more about our 1-day Guided Photo Trips, check out our Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience website.

Fall Baseball

The changing weather and upcoming fall season turns thinking to football. Baseball, however, is in full swing, too!

Today Pleasant Valley High School faced Wilson. It was a beautiful day for baseball. The sunlight only got better as the game progressed, which made photographing this game a lot of fun. The light was completely different than it was on Monday afternoon. The last few photos you see here were taken when the sun was low on the horizon and golden. There is nothing better than sweet light for a photographer!

Shooting baseball games is a passion of mine and I always seem to learn something new. Recently I heard a podcast where a sports photographer was interviewed and he talked about some of the extraordinary photos that can be captured after a play. The first photo you see here on this blog post is Justin Raad after he was walked. He flipped his bat toward his dugout before running down to first base and you can see his eyes focused on the bat, which is still in the air. Another lesson learned is to capture the “peak action.” This is the highlight of a particular play when the action is at it’s peak. I think a few of these photos are good examples of capturing peak action during a baseball game.

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Merkle Turtles

Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary in Maryland was a very fortunate find for me. I came upon it when I was searching for something to do while my wife and daughter went to Six Flags. The internet search located this spot quickly and I was pleased to see it was less than 30 minutes away from the amusement park. I would much rather amuse myself in nature any day of the week rather than be forced to endure an amusement park! My wife, knowing this and being the sensitive, loving wife she is, suggested that I find something to do while they enjoyed the park.

I looked over the Merkle website, which was helpful, but I still wasn’t exactly sure what I might find there. I knew taking my bike seemed to be the prudent thing to do since the “Critical Area Driving Tour” was only open to cars on Sundays. Taking the mountain bike was indeed helpful and I saw wildlife immediately! This place is awesome!

Today I am posting some photos of the turtles I saw at the sanctuary. There were a lot of turtles to be seen but they were a little shy. They were mostly sunning themselves on the logs when I came upon them. Being patient was imperative and eventually some of the turtles accepted my presence if I didn’t move much.

As you can see in the one photograph below, some of the turtles have some green algae on their shells. This makes them more difficult to spot because they are well camouflaged with this accessory. I also saw several turtles in the river but they were farther away and stayed in the water. One of the photos below shows the head of one of these turtles.

The Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary was a great location to visit. The trails are well maintained and there is plenty of wildlife to see. I will definitely be going back there again!

Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience

This week my friend and professional photographer, Dick McCreight, are hosting our Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience.

The rut is on and the elk are active. This is a great time of year to photograph the elk, and in fact, is my favorite time of year. I love the sights, sounds, and feelings that accompany the fall season in the mountains. It is truly a beautiful time of year to be sure!

I am busy out shooting much of the day and leading photo workshops this week, so I won’t have time to post any photos. However, I am hoping to have plenty of photographs to share in upcoming blog entries.

You can find out more about our Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience trips here. They are lots of fun and we always learn a lot about photography from each other on these photo trips. We’d love to have you join us on one of these trips sometime!

Sharing Photos

How do you share your photographs?

Years ago we used albums, carousels, shoeboxes, and picture cubes (do you remember those?) to share our photos. Now that the digital era has arrived we are faced with finding good ways to share our photos. Instead of photos being stashed away in shoeboxes, now they are stashed away in hard drives.

I like to share my photos on web galleries. This way people can view them at their convenience. Baseball players and parents can see the sports photographs after a weekend tournament. Wildlife enthusiasts can similarly view photos when they get a chance. Galleries are convenient, easy to set up, and one great way to share photos.

There are plenty of other ways, too. PowerPoint presentations, iPods, PDAs, Flicker, and picture frames are just a few.

How do you share your photos?