Environmental portraits are most often shot in expected places. Chefs are pictured in kitchens, artists are photographed in their studios, and athletes are captured during their competitions. To increase the impact of their images, however, commercial photographers sometimes look for ways to photograph their subjects in unexpected settings. In this light-hearted concept shoot with some of Austria’s best winter sports athletes, photographer Markus Berger and his crew created elaborate indoor sets and gimmicky special effects to highlight each individual in action:
Though the shoot took place inside a fairly ordinary studio, it was no ordinary setup. The experimental photo shoot made creative use of ropes and pulleys, fake snow, ring lights, patterned glass, body paint, and layered scenery to orchestrate fun, three-dimensional portraits.
Because each set was so large, using a backdrop that was 4.5 meters tall, Berger required powerful studio lights and tall light stands to properly illuminate each scene. He used a variety of lighting equipment, including Broncolor Para 88 FB Reflectors with Broncolor Minicom lights, strip softboxes, and a beauty dish. He also included a ring light in several of his portraits, which reflected interesting catchlights in the athletes’ eyes.
To achieve many different looks, Berger used a Leica S-System camera with three prime lenses for this shoot. He utilized a Leica APO-Tele-Elmar-S 180mm f/3.5 CS telephoto lens for closeups, a wide angle lens for action shots, and a Leica Summarit-S 70mm f/2.5 ASPH lens for including the environment in the frame without distorting the image.
Though equipment played a crucial role in the images, the key to the success of the photo shoot was including the world-class athletes in the planning and decision-making process. Berger drew up sketches of his concepts to show before the shoot. During the shoot, he showed the images he captured to each athlete to get immediate feedback. Input from the athletes helped him narrow down his final picks to images that included realistic poses that the subjects liked.
While Markus Berger could have gone outdoors and photographed the winter sports champions doing what they do best, his conceptual studio shots turn heads and deliver a stylized set of images that go together for his commercial clients.
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