Capture sporting spirit
Flat daylight can be transformed into a moody backdrop for a sports portrait with the help of a couple of Speedlights, explains James Paterson
Shoot atmospheric sports portraits with the help of two off-camera Speedlights
As anyone who’s currently enjoying the World Cup will know, grey, wet weather is par for the course when it comes to rugby. However, when it comes to shooting a dramatic portrait, directionless, overcast light is the photographer’s metaphorical forward pass. But there is a solution: to add drama to a sports portrait on a dreary day, all you need are a pair of off-camera Speedlights to lift your subject. This enables you to augment the natural light and take a
Using Manual mode enables you to under-expose the sky to make it moody
shot that will rival the finest World-Cup-winning drop-goal.
By cross-lighting our rugby player here with two flashes, we recreated the dramatic look that you often see in professional sports portraits. We placed one of our flashes behind our subject, angled back towards the camera; the light from behind hit the edge of the body, creating the bright highlight that separates the subject from the dark moody backdrop. We positioned the second flash in front of him to illuminate his face and body.
In some shooting situations your Nikon’s Manual mode might seem like the trickiest camera setting to use, but here it actually makes things much easier, as you don’t want the camera’s auto metering system to kick in. Instead you want full control over the exposure. Using Manual mode enables you to under-expose the sky to make it dark and moody.
As for the flashes, Manual mode makes things much easier here too, as once they’re in position you can simply take a few test shots and adjust the power manually until you get the right amount of illumination. When using more than one flash, it helps to simplify things if you add the lights one by one and see the effect of each in turn, rather than turning them all on at once. We’ll show you how over the page.