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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Lighting For Success

Text & Photography By Tom Bol Published in Shooting
Lighting For Success
Lighting athletes is different than lighting executives. There's one theme you have to remember about athletic portraits: edgy. Athletes like their muscle tone and definition to be highlighted, and that requires hard-edged light sources like standard reflectors and small softboxes.

Also, while a business headshot works with your subject seated, athletes look better holding weights, footballs and bats, and you have more choices in posing them. I regularly bring a water spray bottle to add some "sweat" to my subjects and sometimes even use smoke machines. It just depends on what the client or subject wants.

My favorite lighting setup for athlete portraits uses three lights. You could use two lights and one reflector for this shot, but being able to independently control your lights really helps with creating edgy highlights.

My main two lights are Elinchrom 35-inch strip banks. Strip banks produce controlled, edgy highlights from the head to the waist. You can use umbrellas here, but the light is harder to control and isn't as edgy. Many times, I add a grid to my strip banks to further narrow the spread of light. I place these lights on either side of my subject, both set at the same power.

THE BEAUTY PORTRAIT

Strip banks create strong shadows from the side, great for highlighting muscles, but this doesn't look so good on my subject's face. To soften the face shadows, I use a third light placed in front and high above my subject. The purpose of this light is to reduce the shadows from the strip banks; think of it as a big fill light. I use a small softbox on this flash to soften the light.

You have a lot of options for backgrounds with athletes. I like to photograph athletes where they work out—gyms, ski slopes, football fields—but if I photograph them inside, I'll use gritty backgrounds like the Lastolite Urban Background to contribute to the feel of the shot.

The Beauty Shot. Who wouldn't want a picture taken of themselves when the sole objective is to make them look gorgeous? Okay, I'll admit I know both women and men who dread getting their picture taken, but I can't count the number of beauty shots I've taken for clients through the years.

Sometimes, these sessions are given as a present (birthday, Valentine's Day, prom), other times, aspiring models want new shots for their portfolios. Whatever the case, be ready to shoot beauty and glamour shots for a number of clients.
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