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Long after a season is over, the team photo brings back all the great memories made during rainy – or even snowy – practices, weekend tournaments, and come-from-behind wins. Sure, you’ll have lots of action shots from throughout the season, and parents and players might even share these on your TeamSnap team page, but having one, official team photo worth framing is worth the extra effort.
Some leagues have an official ‘Photo Day’, when they contract with an outside sports photography company to take set, formulaic shots of each team and each player. While these are nice, maybe I’ve been spoiled by always having a parent who is a very good – or even professional – photographer on my child’s team. Hands-down, the team photos that I frame and my kids cherish are the ones taken by a parent. Just the fact that the kids know the parent and feel comfortable with him or her relaxes the kids and everyone has more fun.
While you may not have a professional photographer on the team, just a few helpful tips can make the difference between a passable team photo and a great one. Here are a few suggestions to make your team picture stand out:
- Take the photo before a practice or on a free day, not a game day.
It’s really important to take your team picture on a day that’s not influenced by game-day emotion, either before or after the game. Before the game, everyone’s anxious about getting warmed-up and after the game, well, if the team loses, you can have a bunch of miserable kids—and coaches.
Ideally, find an hour before a weekly practice where everyone is relaxed and has time to change from the team uniform into practice clothes. Obviously, if it’s simply impossible to get everyone together for a photo before a practice, then an hour on an off-day is still preferable to a game day.
- Scout your location early and give yourself plenty of time
Another reason to take the team photo on a practice day or off-day is the element of time. Rushing your team photo means less-than-stellar results. Make sure you scout the location well in advance (your practice field, another field, or gym) and have a good idea of where you want the team assembled (read on to points #3 and #4 for more information). If you’re taking an outdoor shot, don’t forget to pay attention to the weather report in advance and be prepared for Plan B – another day or an indoor backup – if weather dictates!
- Minimize visual distractions
Oh, the challenge of finding the right perspective for your team photo, especially if you live in an urban location! There’s a fence in left field with a train track just beyond, and a dumpster off in right, clearly, this field creates a significant challenge for a team photo. You want the players and coaches to be the center of attention, and not have the viewer’s eye drawn to something in the background.
The best perspective is when your depth of field allows you to sharply focus on the team and have a uniform, soft background (trees, more greenery) that doesn’t distract your eye from the energy and enthusiasm of the players! This is easier to do if you can position the players a distance away (e.g., 50 feet) from the background, so that your camera focuses on the players.
- Check your lighting
Lighting is often the trickiest part of the team photo, especially for outdoor sports, but a digital SLR camera with a fill-in flash (the one in the camera) can make you look professional even if you’re not.
Definitely avoid taking your photo between 10am and 4pm, where the sunlight is strongest and most direct. The best situation is one of ‘open shade’, where you have a large area in which the lighting is consistent and not mottled. Look for a building or a house casting its shadow onto the field and see if you can fit the entire team – and the background into the shot – without mottled or contrasting light (e.g., team in shade, background in sun or vice versa).
- Leave time for individual candids
The best photo anyone has ever taken of my daughter was snapped at a team photo day by a parent (caveat: she’s a professional photographer). The sheer joy in my daughter’s face as she balanced the soccer ball is priceless. You just don’t get that from the standard formulaic shots – sit here, face this way, put the ball or bat here – that the photo companies take. Sure, you get a nice refrigerator magnet to hold up the school lunch menu, but it’s capturing your child’s personality and love of the game – whatever that game is – that makes a great team photo.
Has your team taken a great team photo? Post it on our Facebook page and show off your shot!
Special thanks to Meghan Zimmerman for sharing her photography knowledge for this blog.