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From Sports to Portraits: My Journey as a Utah Photographer

Becoming a successful portrait photographer in Utah wasn't always in the cards for me. My photography journey took an unexpected turn when I crossed paths with a fellow photographer, Rick Parker, back in 2015. Rick was a sports photographer for a local online news center, and his invitation to tag along and learn the ropes at one of the upcoming games changed the course of my photography career. Little did I know that this leap into the world of sports photography would be the foundation of my journey into portrait photography and, eventually, into commercial work for Utah State University.

Sky View and Logan High lacrosse team playing a game
Erin Holmstead Photography

The Humbling Start

My first experience shooting sports at a local high school game was nothing short of humbling. I left the event feeling defeated, having captured countless out-of-focus and missed shots. The frustration was overwhelming, but my determination to improve only grew. I confided in Rick about my struggles, and he graciously offered me more opportunities to learn. It took about six games before I finally walked away with a single good image.

Patience and Practice

Each sports venue presented unique challenges – different lighting conditions, varying playing styles, and the need to adapt to different shooting positions. The unpredictability was a rush, and I found myself utterly hooked.

A few months later, Rick recommended me to his boss, and I became the newest sports photographer for the Cache Valley Daily. I hadn't initially planned to venture into sports photography, but the rush and adrenaline it provided were addictive.

Utah State football player celebrating a touch down with the crowd cheering in the background
Erin Holmstead Photography

No Excuses: Maximizing Gear and Workflow

Sports photography, typically a male-dominated field, often features photographers with the largest and most advanced gear. I was an exception - a blonde, blue-eyed girl with a Nikon D90 and a kit lens of 55-300mm. The stares and occasional laughter from peers were a challenge, but I was determined to prove myself. I knew the key was to master my equipment, pushing it to its limits.

Shooting games required a quick turnaround. I aimed to deliver a gallery of 25-30 captivating images to my editor within an hour of the game's end. The challenge was even greater because my camera lacked Wi-Fi capabilities, so I edited in my car before heading home.

I learned to optimize my workflow by creating presets for each school's gym in Lightroom, cutting my editing time in half. Timing myself during editing sessions helped me improve my efficiency. Utilizing Perfectly Clear's noise reduction became my secret weapon.


Within my first year, I saw my work published as a sports photographer and expanded my reach to other sports news sites across the state. This transformative experience altered the way I approach photography, shaping my purchasing decisions, teaching me that the best gear isn't always the best solution, and guiding me to create captivating galleries with a limited number of images.

What does this mean for you? It's a reminder that sometimes, stretching beyond your current skill set can open doors to unexpected opportunities. My journey from sports to portraits, and eventually into commercial photography for Utah State University, demonstrates that the lessons learned in one niche can help you thrive in others. As you navigate your photographic path, consider how you can expand your skills and optimize the tools at your disposal.


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