Admittedly, sports photographers are not in the studio that often. Hence, compared to professional portrait photographers, I have a disadvantage. Don’t get me wrong, I know how to set up the lighting and how to let people pose. But just as any photographer will get some little details wrong in the arena, I lack about 10’000 portrait shots to get really everything perfect.
So how do you cope with the situation? You work with your strengths. I guess one of my strengths is that I can talk to athletes, because I was one. I know how they feel during training and competition.
So instead of directing them like models (‘look happy’, or ‘look serious’), I ask them to ‘look like you just climb the podium at the medal ceremony’, or ‘look like you are a few seconds before the start of the final’.
Also, I use poses that relate to the sport. This gives them confidence. I try to let them look strong, I let them play with their equipment, or I take pictures of the action.