Why I’ve Stopped Paying for Sports Photos

We have entered into a new phase in this household: recreational sports. With two growing boys, ages 5 and 6, we have, collectively, under our belts 2 seasons of tee-ball, 3 seasons of baseball, and 5 seasons of soccer. With each season comes expenses such as registration fees, uniforms, club fees, cleats, gloves, shin guards, snack days, coach gifts, and of course, professional photos.

I grew up playing recreational sports myself, softball and basketball. It was fun. I also enjoyed {and still enjoy} looking at the team photos as well as my individual photos. You know the ones, those wallet-sized pictures divvied out to a handful of relatives, sometimes with an awkward pose at the park. It was always a nice, unassuming photo with a bat or a ball in my hand, dressed in my uniform, with a smile – or the occasional grimace – on my face. My parents always cherished them and now my own kids enjoy looking, even laughing, at them. They served a nice purpose and captured a very fun, real, and simple time for me.

But, now, I feel the recreational sports photo game has taken quite the turn. The photos are not simple, they’re not real, and they’re definitely not cheap. Photoshop and graphic images have opened the door for photography, and so many opportunities are there to express one’s creativity, but I don’t necessarily want my 3 yr old tee-ball player to appear as if he’s a villainized professional — posing in front of a simulated professional stadium with lightening striking in the background and dark ominous clouds hovering above. I find this unnecessary and unrealistic. It almost defeats the original purpose of what is supposed to be a sweet photo of my sweet little boy. The photos were supposed to freeze time for me, not re-image my boys into a world that jumps ahead of time. I want innocence, I want awkward poses, I want simplicity in a world that is already so complicated.

What these exaggerated photos end up doing is redirecting focus. When I look at these photos, I am completely distracted by the lunging tiger in the background, or the hurricane that is about to hit the fake stadium. I notice the purple clouds or the lightning striking before I notice the goofy grin that is my child or the cute dimples that make me melt. This rerouting shouldn’t happen. Why am I paying for images that draw my attention away from my child? Why am I paying for something so fake? This bothered me.

My solution to this, as of today, has been to forego paying for professional sports photos (with the exception of the team photo – because, well, friend-memories) and take the photos myself. Using my own camera, I can take a very modest photo of my boys in their uniform with a ball or bat. I get the natural light, I have the grassy park in the background, and I have the central focus of the picture – my child. That’s all I want, and that is all I need.

When I pay for photos, I want to capture a special moment in time. I want to have a keepsake forever of my sweet, innocent little boys who learned how to swing a bat, dribble a ball, or score a goal. I want to be able to look at the photo and first see his goofy grin, not the intimidating cloud cluster forming in the background. This photo isn’t meant to have any intimidating factor. It’s meant to depict a phase that will never be again and to provide comfort, happiness, and the memory of a what will have been a simpler time.

Jennifer Gonzales
Wife to my high school sweetheart, Ross, and mother to 5 children: Trip, Conner, McKenzie, Piper, and Sutton, I am a born and raised Southern Louisiana Lady. I am a graduate of Mt. Carmel Academy, received my Bachelor’s in English with a concentration in Secondary Ed. from LSU followed by my Master’s of Education from UNO, and for the past 15 years, I have been outwitting high school boys as an English teacher at Holy Cross School. When I’m not grading papers, driving to baseball practices, or making grocery runs, I can be found cheering on my LSU Tigers, cutting up with my girlfriends, and attempting DIY projects around the home. I’m all about sippin’ some wine during the sunset while the kiddos play in the yard and the hubby works the grill. I’m living my best mommy life these days and am always happy to share the journey with others!


  1. This is much of why I became a professional photographer. Bravo to you for wanting to maintain the simplistic environment that your children experience. I couldn’t agree with you more about the exaggerated graphics in youth sports photography. I find it distracting and out of character for the subject’s age and facial features. I’d much rather showcase their real environment in a fun and memorable capture.


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