The Basketball Diaries, or how I learned to love a big softbox with a grid.

One of the parents of a high school football player saw some of my action photos and asked if I would give her a price on an individual/team photo project and it got me to thinking.

I haven’t done team and individual photos before, but I was really excited to take on a project that would involve team and individual photos. It turns out there was no way I could even come close to the budget she had set for the project, but I still wanted to venture into the realm of individual sports portraits so when I saw an opportunity I jumped at the chance.

Due to image theft, all images have been removed from this blog post. Sorry.

I didn’t really have a lot of time to put this together and I wanted to see some examples so I ventured on over to Dustin Snipes web site and his blog. Dustin Snipes is well-known for being very good at sports portraits and I have seen his work in the past so I knew to check his blog for examples. You can check out the story and examples on his blog here: . Now I don’t have anywhere near the experience with lighting or working with athletes as Mr. Snipes, nor do I have that much lighting gear, but I thought I’d give it a try anyway.

To see the rest of the story, click on the more link below.

I sent a quick email to my friend Michael O. to see if he could help me out with my lighting and wrangling the athletes and whatnot and thankfully he agreed. So off we went.

When thinking about this in my head beforehand I remembered that there is a very large Arizona State Sun Devils “Sparky” logo painted on the wall at Wells Fargo arena so I thought I would set up in the hallway in front of the big logo and try to make that work.

It turns out that may not have been the best idea I have ever had, in a lot of the shots I ended up cutting off parts of the logo and it just became a more cluttered background element to try to work around. Like I said this was my first go at this kind of individual posed sports portraits.

I set up my lights figuring on shooting one player at a time, but when the players starting joking around or standing in groups of two or three, all bets were off and I was just winging it and hoping things worked out for the best.

I really had a great time working with the athletes of the Arizona State University Sun Devils basketball team, they were very patient with me and willing to work with my instructions. I tried to give them some freedom to express their individuality in their poses or their look so it wasn’t such a grind for them posing for all the different groups of photographers.

Some of the younger players are new to the team and all the attention given to them by the local media seemed to be a little much while others were rock stars in their own right, both on and off the court and knew exactly what to do. Everyone was very helpful and my friend Michael O. gave me some good pointers and helped me out a lot during the few hours we had to shoot these athletes.

With a lot of the shots I wanted to get real tight and use dramatic lighting, but when the height of the players range from 5 foot 11 inches to almost 7 feet tall for college basketball players I was really hoping my lighting setup would be generic enough to fit all the players into without moving any of the lights during the shoot.

I tried to shoot a good mix of portrait and landscape oriented shots so the images could be used in a variety of layouts depending on what was needed.

In some cases I got two very similar shots, like the above examples. The lighting on the player’s face seems better in the shot on the left, but I liked the framing of the shot on the right. Either way, trying to work that logo into the background added another element of complexity that I could have done without. I learned a great deal by taking on this project, the need to work quickly and not take up too much of the athletes time is very important and adds a level of complexity to this type of shoot that is not for the faint of heart.

In a lot of the shots the logo in the background was really working against me. I didn’t anticipate how difficult the big logo would be to work with and how it would hurt me, only how it would help me. In the end, I guess it’s my inexperience with these type of shoots that lead me to using the wall with the big logo on it as a background, I guess now I know a simple backdrop would have been so much better. It might have been a bit less interesting without the logo, but less work for me.

Players like Trent Lockett (24) of the Arizona State Sun Devils have done these type of media circus events before and knew just how to pose and work his magic in front of the camera.

I saw the “players in mid-air” shots that Dustin Snipes did and wanted to give that a try also, some worked out well, others not so well.

Pierre Newton (left) and Keala King look great in this shot, however I wish I didn’t have half the logo in the background. Because it’s more of a posed portrait I don’t believe it’s inappropriate to retouch the image, but honestly I’m just not that good at processing (especially around the hair) that I would just end up messing up the images. Live and learn. Next time, etc.

Many of the shots I liked and I am proud of the work I produced, I did however, learn several things to avoid next time I undertake a project like this.

How do you light a guy that is this tall, and can jump so far out of the lighting . . .

And how do you tell Jordan Bachynski that I can’t really see the ball in the shot, can you do it again for me please?

A great shot of Chris Colvin, but that logo is killing me in this shot.

Keala King gave me some great looks and some great poses. I guess there are a number of “standard” basketball poses that most basketball players know, and now I know a few of them too.

Some of the “fun” images turned out great because the players were relaxed and just joking around with their teammates. I really liked several of these shots.

It ended up being a bit of a game with some of the guys, “lets all jump on the big guys back and toss-up the pitch fork sign.”

Overall I had a great time working with Keala King (21) (left), Chris Colvin (2) (middle) and Kyle Cain (5) and the rest of the Arizona State Sun Devils basketball team. I learned a lot about team and individual sports photography and I am very excited to produce team and individual photos for football, baseball or soccer so if your team needs photos, please give me a call.


2 thoughts on “The Basketball Diaries, or how I learned to love a big softbox with a grid.

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