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  • Writer's pictureDave Pidgeon

Softball portraits and empathy

Updated: Jul 22, 2023

A high school softball player holds her bat.
Portrait of a high school softball player using a two-light system

LOCATION: Franklin Gymnasium, Hempfield Area High School, Lancaster County, Pa.

EQUIPMENT: Canon 5D Mark IV | EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM | Two FJ Westcott FJ400 strobes

THE STORY: One of the chief ways of building a successful portrait photography business, any portrait genre, is to accept a fundamental truth about people.

Most don't like having their picture taken. Ever.

Some hate it.

And that's okay.

What I've learned from all the weddings, families, high school seniors, and athletes I've photographed is there's a greater chance of having someone who's uncomfortable in front of a camera than it is to have someone who loves it.

A local high school softball team brought me in for team portraits. And more than one of the players told me (as they walked up to portable studio) how much they disliked having their picture taken.

Here's what you say. And mean it.

"Yeah, I don't like it either."

Clients seem to appear either surprised or relieved.

You don't need to follow it up or to tell them how great they're gonna look. You don't need to reassure of them of anything other than they are normal and worthy of respect.

Great portraits come from a genuine, human connection between the photographer and the photographed.

And one way to make that connection is to accept who is in front of the lens for who they are.

Most of the time, people don't need the photographer to try and boost their confidence or to tell them to relax.

Just let the person know - I see you, I understand you, because I'm a lot like you.

Brené Brown talks about compassion as being able to sit with someone else when they're in a valley or shadow without judgment.

Truth is, I don't like having my picture taken either. Using that commonality with clients often creates an immediate connection, and the portraits just begin to pop from there.

Dave Pidgeon is a seasoned writer and photographer from Lancaster, Pa. You can email him at

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1 Comment

Apr 21, 2023

This is interesting, Dave! Most of the “advice” for new photographers on the web says to keep talking and telling the client how great they look and how beautiful their photos are going to be. I was never good at that (for one, as a beginner, I wasn‘t 100% sure that their photos will even turn out nice) but also because it’s not me. But your point o view is more relatable. Thanks for sharing!

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