Freezing Action for Sports Photography Portraits

During a photoshoot with Mexican soccer player, Rafael Marquez, photographer Jay P. Morgan took the opportunity to make a video tutorial covering the lighting setup required to freeze fast paced action when taking sports photography portraits. Morgan’s setup goes up rather quickly, as he says in the video, but it does include a good amount of equipment. Have a look at the video below, then we’ll walk through his setup to see what we learned.

Now, let’s break this setup down.

  • Morgan used a medium strip box with a grid attached on camera left to give Marquez a nice Rembrandt effect on his face. Morgan, a fan of Hensel products, used a Hensel speedlight in the box, saying, “Since we’re going to be doing a lot of jumping and kicking, the speedlight will freeze action. It really has a short flash duration.”
  • Morgan then added a the rim lighting, another Hensel speedlight, this time used with an open faced octodome. The rim light was positioned so that it would be effective when Marquez is standing upright or doing a horizontal kick.
  • After noticing that Marquez’s legs we’re still a bit shadowed, a monolight with a grid was setup on short stand. The monolight brightened his legs, giving them some separation from the background.
  • To brighten Marquez’s legs while doing kicks, another strip box was moved in to further highlight them and also brighten up his face.
  • To brighten the overall appearance of the photos, thus making post easier, two large umbrellas were setup on either side of Marquez which mainly brightened the white background.
  • A large fill light was placed behind the camera for safe measure, ensuring that the images would be bright and sharp.
  • Finally, Morgan suggests that you set your speedlights to -1 stop to shorten the flash duration.
sports photo portrait

Sports Photography Portrait

This may seem like a decent amount of equipment, but we must remember, lighting is one of the most essential aspects of photography. Especially when taking high action sports photography. Not only should your setup be capable of producing studio quality lighting of your subject, but the space must also be bright enough to allow you to shoot at higher shutter speeds.

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