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  • Melanie K

Difficult Decisions


Have you ever been faced with a decision that you literally cannot get off of your mind? It may not even be a life altering decision, but it's still pretty heavy and consumes your every thought? Enter Sports Team Photos. So far in 2022, I have had the honor and privilege of working with 52 Gymnasts, 212 Cheerleaders, 46 Baseball Players, and 77 Softball Players.


There is nothing I love more than capturing Sports Teams. After all, photographing my kids playing sports is what made me fall in love with my camera. It's what made me want to learn PhotoShop and do endless research on current trends and designs. I love making athletes feel like they are a badass at their sport and hearing them say how tough they look in my photos.


But with all of that comes a lot of behind the scenes stuff that I don't think many people realize is involved. There's that research I mentioned in the previous paragraph. There's scouring the internet for new inspiration and poses that are edgy and cool. There's watching countless YouTube videos and reading dozens of articles on proper lighting, equipment, and tools. There's asking my friends to give up their time in the evening/weekend/morning hours to come be my assistant. There's reviewing photo labs to make sure their quality matches my vision and the products they offer are vast and encompassing of everything a parent could want. There's setting up payment options and website ordering and marketing campaigns. There's fielding questions from coaches and parents. There's coordinating make-up days for the athletes who couldn't attend on the main day. There's preparing for a photo day the night before so I can double check that I have everything I need and batteries are charged. There's the actual day-of events from arriving early and setting up, to making sure everyone's hair is in the correct place and their jersey is laying just right, to losing my voice from directing athletes in their poses, to cleaning up and driving home and then soaking in a hot bubble bath because my body is sore from the constant movement of photographing a dozen or so athletes. There's the post-shoot things to do, like backing up my images, culling the hundreds of photos to the 8-9 usable images per athlete, preparing backgrounds and banners and memory mates (oh my!), and doing the initial edit corrections. There's triple- and quadruple-checking that names are spelled correctly and their jersey number matches the roster. Then comes the (somewhat tedious) task of extracting the athlete from the background and plopping them in their final edited image. And lastly, there's uploading the final images to each team's gallery and saying a silent prayer (or 10) that everyone will love them and the names are matched to the correct athlete and OH CRAP, did I remember to change that jersey number to a 78 instead of a 1 because her uniform isn't in yet??


So, I hit "publish" and hold my breath. I can honestly say that for the most part, any feedback I receive is positive and uplifting and makes the stressful events that I just described disappear. I love watching as Facebook profile photos quickly change in support of the athlete and/or team. I love hearing mothers gush about how old their 14-year old baby looks and how dare I make her grow up so fast! I am relieved that the families are as proud of their images as I am.


But then, just when I think it's safe to stop stalking social media for those sappy moments, it happens. Someone isn't happy with something I've done with their photos. Whether it be the font that I used, a color that doesn't match perfectly, or an awkward smile on their child's face, I get an email or a text that takes my breath away. The VAST MAJORITY of these are very polite, sincere, and almost apologetic. I put myself in their shoes and try to imagine how I would feel if I received a product that was less than I was expecting (which I do while I'm editing, to be clear). I respond after I've given myself time to take my emotions out of it, and we come to a solution and everyone is happy. Great, right? Right. Except, it eats at me. I beat myself up because all I ever want to do is make 100% of people happy 100% of the time. I'm learning that this is an impossible burden to put on myself, but nevertheless, it's who I am.


And oh yeah, did I mention that I work a pretty demanding, full time job while all of this is going on? Sure, I get breaks to catch up on emails, texts, and Facebook messages, but while I'm at work, that is where my focus is. I don't bring my personal computer into the office, so for a solid 10 hours of my day, I'm without my lifeline to my photography business. And, when I'm done with work, I'm a sports mom. I will never, ever miss one of my kids' games, so a lot of my weeknight evenings are spent in the grass in foul territory of a baseball field. By the time we get home, make and eat dinner, take showers, and get ready for tomorrow, it's already 10:00. So that leaves me sitting down at my computer at close to 10:30, completely exhausted from the day, my husband already in bed. I start clicking away, giving myself a goal of at least 4 athletes when the next thing I know, I'm jolted awake by my own snoring at about 2:00am, my finger still holding down the left mouse button. Crap. What did I get done? Oh man, only half of one athlete!? At this rate, I won't be done for another week. Alright, Mel. Power through. You can knock out the rest of these in no time. Before you know it, it's 4:00 and I'm gingerly climbing into bed, only to wake up at 6:00 to start all over again. All the while still scheduling my regular photo sessions and making sure those get the attention they need and deserve.


So, that's a really long-winded way for me to get to my point. After much reflection and discussion with my family, I am going to take a step back from Sports Teams. I'm not 100% certain what this means just yet. The only thing I can say for sure is that after my teams that are currently on the books are finished, I will not be adding more for summer of 2022. I'm going to take some time and really look at what I want out of this. I want to reflect on what is giving me a good work/work/life (yes, I said work twice) balance and how that relates to my quality of life. I want to feel what it's like to be on a regular sleep schedule again. I want to climb into bed with my husband and chat about our days as we drift off to sleep. I want to stop wearing an indentation of my butt in our couch from the late nights. I want to remember the joy and the butterflies of getting the opportunity to photograph Sports Teams.


I couldn't be more humbled by the support I continuously get from all of you. It's truly remarkable and something I'll never be able to fully wrap my head around. I want to make sure you are getting the Mel you know and deserve.


Much love.

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