I recently had the opportunity to photograph Jason Snoddy, who is a Master class USPSA competitive shooter, and wanted to get a gritty Sports Portrait (Sportrature?) of him that reflected how serious of a competitor he is. When I envisioned what I wanted the final image to look, I thought I’d leverage a three light setup to light his face from the front and use a flash on either side of him to add a nice bright rim light to separate him from the dark background. I really wanted moody, dark, and lots of shadows, again, trying to achieve a specific feel of the final image.
For my main light I used a silver beauty dish almost centered on his face, placed above him and as close as possible without being in the shot. If you want harsh shadows, this is the way to get them. This arrangement will not flatter your subjects, and don’t even think about doing this with the ladies since it’s just to harsh of a light setup. But again, going for gritty. Once the main light was set I added a speedlight to his left and right, slapped on a cardboard GOBO on the flash heads to keep them from spilling light into my lens.
To make the background a little more interesting I added another speedight with a grid on it, pointing toward the background with it’s zenith hitting the background just behind his head. I though this would create a nice gradient, but was a little too hot, and dropped it’s power down to 1/128.
Normally I sort of know that the lights are going to do and how to make them produce the effect I’m trying to achieve, but I have to be honest, I just floundered a bit trying to get the power settings and flash placement where I wanted them. Luckily I was, for the first time, using my new Youngnuo YN560-TX Flash Trigger/Remote Controller which allowed me to remotely control all of the settings on each flash without needing to walk over to each speedlight and make my changes on the flash itself. Super cool piece of kit that saved me a ton of time. Even more impressive when you consider they sell for $44! I put each flash in it’s own group and I was off to the races. In hindsight, I could have put both of the rim lights in the same group and saved a little bit of time setting each one identically.
So now this is a four light setup with my main light, the beauty dish, set to 1/8th power. The rim lights were both set to 1/4th power, and the background light set to 1/128th power and zoomed in to 105mm and shooting through the grid. My camera was set to ISO200, 1/125th second shutter speed, and the aperture was around F9.
I used my 56mm 1.2 lens and backed up far enough away to frame my subject as desired. I also took a knee so I would be shooting up at them which helps produce a powerful pose from the subject. Again, between the lighting and my lower position I am not flattering my subject, but I am creating the gritty image that I wanted to get with Jason.
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