I got some great comments and feedback from my most recent athletic shoot. I also got questions about my lighting setup. It wasn't easy and I knew that I wasn't going to get the look I wanted in camera, which I prefer. I knew I was going to have to go into Photoshop, I didn't realize how long it was going to take.
I have to give credit to Joel Grimes for this process. I am a fan of his work and he has definitely influenced my style. He's known for his HDR compositing, but he goes for a look that is more artistic than realistic. I'm choosing to go with a more realistic post processing style.
Here's the before & after shots. I made sure I had proper exposure on Christie and didn't worry about the sky being blown out. Sun was behind Christie on the right, which created the nice hard rim light that works really well for these kind of images. I had a 580EXII on full power just to my left to add enough fill light.
Camera settings were ISO 200, f/7.1, 1/250 shutter speed. I shot several poses and when I was satisfied with enough good shots, I took a series of shots of just the background. Since I was shooting on a tripod, overlaying images later would be easy.
As you can see, I shot several images, adjusting only the shutter speed to get various exposures. I also turned off the autofocus. wanted to make sure that the background depth of field would match the ones I shot with Christie. I then exported all the images into Photoshop to create an HDR image, giving me greater detail in the background. I was careful not to over process, because I wanted the image to still look realistic. I've seen a lot of HDR that looks fake and has a glow around edges.
I still wanted some clouds in the background to add some texture to the image. I remembered that I had shot some clouds while on a photowalk the previous day. I was lucky enough to capture the sun behind some clouds generating some wonderful rays of light that would work perfectly for these shots.
I was so happy with the clouds, that I'm now going to make it a point to shoot clouds and build up a library for future use.
Here's what the final background looked like once I layered the clouds and HDR background.
Once I had the background done, I just needed to layer Christie over the background. This is the part that took a long time. I created a layer masked and removed the original background, to reveal the new background underneath.
Here's a look at another setup from the day.
I went through the same process.
Final HDR image with clouds layered in. I also used the same cloud image, but had to create a duplicate layer and then flip it horizontally and blend the 2 cloud layers so that I could get a larger layer and position the rays so that it works with the rest of the composition.
In this last setup, I didn't shoot a sequence of multiple exposures. Instead I created a duplicate layer and adjusted the brightness & contrast. I still had to create a layer mask to separate Christie from the background and add the clouds to the background.
Because Christie was on a separate layer I could also apply different post processing techniques that would match up to the background. I applied a hi-pass filter that added some sharpness and edge to Christie.
Although there was a lot of post processing involved, it was definitely worth it. I think you always run into the danger of doing too much post processing. As I've heard before, just because you can doesn't mean you should. In this case less is more and I think these images turned out great and based on the comments I've received, looks like you agree.
Looking forward to doing more of these. I think I've found the kind of images I want to be creating. I'm very critical of my own work and time will tell how I feel about these in a couple of months, but I'm already considering getting 16x20 enlargements mounted on foamboard.
If you have any questions about my process, feel free to post them in the comments sections.
If you're looking for a portrait photographer in the Atlanta area, visit my portfolio.