When I was asked to photograph a Division 2 college swimmer, I had visions of the Sports Illustrated magazine covers. But once I saw how attractive she was, I asked if I could introduce more of a portrait beauty style lighting to this sports related photo shoot.
To achieve a high-key commercial look on the athlete, I positioned 2 Elinchrom strobes in strip boxes, one on either side of her. I also used flags to prevent any flare coming back towards the lens. The main light, or fill light, was an Elinchrom strobe attached to a large Softbox, positioned just off camera left and set for 2 stops under the key lights.
Thankfully the cloudy day outside the pool provided the ideal flat light for the indoor pool background. A sunny day would have meant high contrast light coming through the windows, creating harsh shadows and rendering a completely different scene and mood. Using my camera’s meter to expose for the overall scene, I then added 3 stops to overexpose the windows and give the pool a soft white atmospheric mood.
The swimmer was nervous being in front of the camera with all the lights and equipment. To make her feel more comfortable on set, I placed my camera on a tripod and setup a remote trigger. This way I could walk away from behind the lens, talk with the model, and give her a chance to loosen up and relax without me peering through the viewfinder.
After getting to know each other, offering her lots of encouragement, and cracking silly jokes, I could see the beginnings of a genuine smile. The expression and emotion that would make for a captivating image soon followed.
In post-production the model’s skin was already borderline flawless, making retouching easy. And with a little desaturation applied in PhotoShop, the glowing look and feel this athlete evokes is convincing. She could double as a beauty model!
The camera settings were 1/60sec, f5.0, 55mm, ISO320