Tips for Shooting More Interesting Sports Portraits

Team portraits are easy to snap but difficult to master. A lot of basic portraits stick with the obvious shots—line up the players, stand in front of them, and shoot a few times in case someone blinked the first time. But Kentucky-based photographer Matt Hernandez has some suggestions for anyone about to fall into this trap: by changing just the angle and their pose, you create a totally different feel. Here’s how:

First, a note on gear: Hernandez is shooting with a Nikon body and wide-angle 14-24mm lens, which he suggests keeping near the 24mm mark because of lens distortion. The width helps keep everyone focused in the shot, but because of the distortion, Hernandez suggests stooping down to what might feel like an ultra-low angle.

photographers pose

The stance may feel extreme, but the angle works a lot better for an intimidating sports pose:

high school varsity teams

To match the low angle, switching from smiles to serious expressions helps the atmosphere, too.

But the final touch isn’t the angle—it’s the placements. The beauty of a group shot lies in the poses. Rather than line up the players in a basic row, Hernandez strongly recommends facing them in different directions to create a more dynamic, candid feel.

In the image below, we can see the final result on the far left, with the original on the top right and the basic lower-angle shot below. The angles of the legs, the placement of the hands on the hips and the scattering of volleyballs all make for a more interesting, unique photograph.

before and after photos

“This is kind of like the finishing touch. This just really helps polish it off, and make it look a lot more intimidating and serious a sports portrait.”

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