Lighting with Flash: Sports, from Action to Portraits

Lighting notebook: Fencers in action


Lighting with Flash: Sports, from Action to Portraits

with David Hobby

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Video: Lighting notebook: Fencers in action

Okay, here we are at the last of the photo diagrams. And, and this is what I want to get in to a little bit, to make sure we have plenty of understanding before we walk away from this. first we talked about, in the in the group shot for the fencers, what it takes to get in to a situation like this. And this is the picture that I saw in my mind although frankly, not with this cool of a pose from the fencers. When I walked into the, into the fencing arena the fencing little place in the warehouse where the Baltimore Fencing Club works. And, I was picking up my daughter from a, from a fencing camp and I, I could just see this picture in my mind, but it did not look like this.
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Watch the Online Video Course Lighting with Flash: Sports, from Action to Portraits
1h 31m Appropriate for all Jun 21, 2013

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In this installment of the Lighting with Flash series, photographer and publisher David Hobby demonstrates using strobes when shooting sports—in this case, some kids playing soccer. After providing an overview of his lighting strategy, David shoots some action shots of goalkeepers diving for the ball. Next, he shoots some portraits of the soccer players, employing a compact softbox attachment as a key light.

In the second half of the course, David photographs a group of fencers, transforming the bland lighting in a gym and freezing the athletes' action as they leap. Afterwards, he shoots a group portrait of the fencing club.

Topics include:
  • Setting up a multi-strobe shoot
  • Capturing athletes in action
  • Balancing fading daylight with flash
  • Tips for using color gels and flash accessories, from cold shoes to softboxes
David Hobby

Lighting notebook: Fencers in action

Okay, here we are at the last of the photo diagrams. And, and this is what I want to get in to a little bit, to make sure we have plenty of understanding before we walk away from this. first we talked about, in the in the group shot for the fencers, what it takes to get in to a situation like this. And this is the picture that I saw in my mind although frankly, not with this cool of a pose from the fencers. When I walked into the, into the fencing arena the fencing little place in the warehouse where the Baltimore Fencing Club works. And, I was picking up my daughter from a, from a fencing camp and I, I could just see this picture in my mind, but it did not look like this.

There's jumbles of wires everywhere and the room is a fluorescent lit room and all kinds of weird things that, that are happening in reality which I do not want happening in my picture. So, we're going to go through the process of turning this room and I'm going to show you what the room really looks like or you've already seen it if you've seen the video, into this picture. So, let's start here from the beginning. And this is probably the high point of my my stick people drawing in the history of my entire life. So, I, I hope you're appreciating this, this, this (INAUDIBLE) represents tremendous effort on my part because I stink at drawing.

But anyway, here are two fencers with a little bit of a God's-eye perspective, up a little bit, looking down into the box. And this is a pose which, as you know at this point once we finished with the light, we worked with them over and over again to try to turn that good light into, good light and a really good moment. That's very important, so we, we don't want to, we don't want to mistake and forget about that. so, this is, and it's a little tongue in cheek but this is the room shot without flash. So, this is very important, we want to take that room and drop it down to an exposure where everything is going to be dark in the room.

Now if we had daylight streaming in, this would not be an easy thing to do. And this is one of those problems that you solve for yourself by, when they ask well when would you like to do this. And so well you know, any evening that's free with you guys. My first thing I'm thinking is, get rid of that ambient light. So, when we turn the room lights off or most of them anyway, we don't have to worry about bright daylight streaming in through the garage bay and the windows. So, this makes a, a very easy starting pallet for us to light this room. This is a key, taking this room and taking it to dark with your ambient exposure, is the key that allows you to create any kind of light you want with your small flashes even in a big space like this. So, this is a huge room, it's, it's 50 feet by 25 feet with a 25 foot ceiling and we're lighting this picture with two speed lights. So, that to me is just really, it's, it's a cool thing to think about. You don't need a lot of light.

If your canvas doesn't have a lot of light to begin with. Big dark rooms do not scare me. Large, bright areas scare me because I don't have the light to overcome that and work with any kind of a distance with speed lights. I have to bring out the big, heavy, expensive pro photos, not that I'm not willing to do it but I certainly like working out of a waist pack where versus having to carry a gear donkey. So, let's take a look at our, our main line as we drop it in. This is (INAUDIBLE) suspended by fishing line, which beats the heck out of a boom for portability any day, as far as I'm concerned.

Very pleased to have gotten this dart through the little triangle up there on just the second try. so we've got this suspend, we got a flash hanging in it and now what we've got is a 360 degree light source, that is going to push light out into this room from the upper center of the space. That turns this room into something very interesting. So, let's take a look at that real quick. This is our room as it exists, at a 60th of a second at 2.8 on the daylight white balance. So, this is an ugly yellowish-green fluorescent so, even to be fair to the room, I'm going to take this room and we'll correct it on (INAUDIBLE).

And put it on a auto-white balance and you'll see what the available light room would look like. This does not look epic to me. This does not look like fencing must feel. So, taking this light, removing the imminent exposure from the room. And then pushing that light into the center of the room from like a, a space and, and, uh,on the z axis right above those guys is going to take this room and completely transform it. So, this is right out of the camera. Instantly, we've got this room turned into something where the light is focused on the fencers and those white walls are muted and it's all a function of how far each thing is from the light source. So, altering that light source position is going to alter that ratio, of how bright the fencers are lit versus how bright the walls are lit. I frankly would like to bring that light source down even lower. But then I'm going to have a little bit of a logistical problem in that they might, you know, get a little pinata action on them with the with the weapons, and that's not what I want right now.

So, let's go to a split-screen picture and this to me is the essence of why you want to be lighting your pictures in one frame. We go from left to right and that's even giving them credit for the automatic white balance there so, we put the room in white. This is not the same room, as far as I'm concerned and the magic is walking into the room on the left, and in your mind visualizing the room on the right. That's what this is all about. And until you can walk in and see those pictures in your mind, you're just going to be taking wild guesses when you're trying to make your lighting and trying to design your pictures.

So, concentrate on visualizing that transformation when you walk into a space and the more you do it, the better you'll get at it. So, for our second light and it is included in those other lights but I wanted to, to be clear with it here because I've got a cutaway of it in just a minute. This is our background light, it is an SB800 it's slaved. zoom to 105 millimeter, so it puts a little bit of a, a center weighted spot on the wall back there. And this is this is going to fire when it sees the other flash fire. So, let's look at just what that light is doing. And frankly, this is not, (LAUGH) this is not a bad picture itself I, I, I'm partial to silhouettes because you know, I went to college and everybody's college portfolio has a bunch of silhouettes in it.

but anyway, here's an isolation of what that background light's doing. And that's just giving another layer of texture behind, behind the fencers. Got a little bit of a shiny happening back there that's the sort of thing I'll tone down in Photoshop afterwards or just remove from the wall, depending on how easy it is to remove. we had a flag hanging back there, we had a clock hanging back there, we went ahead and took those down right off the bat. and we, you know say, hey, you know, can I like, take you clock off the wall? Just be a little authoritative about it. Yeah, we'd really, let's g, let's get that clock off the wall back there and, and get the flag off the wall and we'll have a nice clean backdrop and you won't be bumping into things visually.

So, taking that initiative will pay, will pay off in cleaning up your background and that's assuming you have the ethical ability to do that. If you're just shooting straight photojournalism for a newspaper, that's not the kind of thing you want to do. But this ain't the newspaper anymore, so I feel a little freer about those kinds of things. Right, triggering all this we have an on camera SB800 just pointed up at the ceiling and I, I went ahead and put this on camera just in case I needed some more front light. I figure a very bright light bouncing off the ceiling in front of them, would fill them in a little bit just in case I needed it, I could pump it up to half power or so.

And definitely get some fill out of that at the aperture at which we were working. But as it turned out it worked out just fine without it. So, the only reason I was using this light on my camera was to trigger either one of those other two lights and again, if light a triggers than light b is going to see light a or vice versa. So, the flash you see on the camera is only acting as a trigger, it's running at about 116th power and pointed 25 feet up into the ceiling so, it's not contributing to this picture at all. This is a two light picture, the third light is just a trigger and it could've just as easily been a sync cord or a pocket or whatever.

I want to take just a minute and talk about Photoshop I'm not a huge Photoshop guru. Coming from a newspaper, we didn't do a ton of stuff with Photoshop, so I grew up in the school where you try to make as much of it happen in camera, as possible. That said, I'm not a purest, like I say, I'll tone down those things behind them if I need to. in my final pictures, you'll see those kind of things go away or, or whatever. and I will do some some minor Photoshop, so I'm not, I'm not a purist in that I go by straight photojournalism rules and I'm not a Photoshop guru. What I try to do is walk the middle ground and, and do the techniques that will give me the picture that I want to be able to get, with a reasonable amount of effort and not too much computer skills involved in the back end. So, this is a straight out of camera picture and I just want to run through a couple little things that I've done to it.

You know, we got our, we got our dome up there lighting them, that's on one quarter power. And that's giving me a nice thick aperture like, maybe f8, I believe? between f8 and f11. We've got the second flash, and that's only on about a 16th power, popping that wall back there. But we base the exposure on what that ball is doing, and then adjust that background light to give just a little bit of glow. It's all by touch and feel, we really don't need a meter there. We're getting a lot of light out of that flash which is going through a stove diffuser and then going through that big diffusion ball. But this is it just as it came out of the camera and this is just a test shot a little warm up shot.

And so, I want to take this through very, very simple Photoshop. Now, the first thing I'm going to do, is I'm going to put a feather around that maybe a 250 pixel feather and just darken the edges around a little bit to, to increase that epic quality to the light. And call your attention to the fencers in the middle. This is something I could have easily done with light, by dropping that light down so its going to be closer to them relative to how far it is from the wall. It's going to be closer to the floor and you're going to get that brightened area in the center versus the wall. So, this can be done with light. The problem is the light is almost certainly going to get skewered in the first 30 seconds of their, of their exercise.

So, what I want to do is raise that light up, and I know that I can tweak this just a little bit and make up for the fact that I can't put the light where I want it by tweaking this in Photoshop. So, just a 250 pixel lasso around the, around the center of the picture you invert that so now you've selected everything but the center and just use curve to darken that down. Immediately, in addition to the light on the fencers I like that light in the, on the floor, that little splotch of light that's happening on the floor. And if you notice, that's happening in front of them, it's not happening right by them and that's because if you put the light right over them, that light is really not going to light down their body.

It's just going to light down their head and shoulders and their body's going to go into shadow. So, we cheated (INAUDIBLE) behind the light just the tiniest bit and that's why that little splotch of light's happening in front. And it's also why that that little Japanese lantern is doing such a good job of lighting them all the way down. So, the next little tweak I'm going to do in Photoshop is to lasso this little center area on the ground. And I'm going to go the other way with that. I'm going to hit a lasso with a 250-pixel feather, just something really soft and I'm going to curves and pull that up just a little bit. So, now you got that little area of brightness at the bottom and it really pulls people into the center the picture. And that's pretty much all the Photoshop I did on this and this is typical not that I put the last hole around and everything dark into the edges because I don't.

But this probably typical of the amount of Photoshop I put on, on a normal picture. I may have to go in and clean up something on white or whatever but I want to, I want to stress that these are, these are tweaked pictures in Photoshop the pictures really are not built in the computer. They're built with a light while we're pushing the button. Last thing on this. You've gone to all the trouble to make the contacts and get permission to come in and, and shoot on a Sunday night. we had a lot of fun with this. As I hope you can see from the video that we just watched. this is pizza and a lot of people in a room, and some sugar and caffeine. And everybody working together to try to make some epic pictures. Now that's the other reason that I want to bring these guys into this process as far as offering them pictures after the fact. Because not only are they going to show up, but they're going to be looking to make the very best pictures they can make.

They're doing that for me and for them. And frankly these guys got a little competitive, which I was really happy to see. So, the last thing you want to, you want to remember is to not forgot to push them. Once you get this light right, just push it. Okay let's do just a few more. I know you're tired. I like the way you're, you know, you held that weapon the last time. Let's see if we can get a more extension. Blah blah blah. And you'll end up with, what we ended up with which is literally dozens and dozens of choices. So, for me it came down to, to two frames. Here were my two favorite frames from the shoot. I like this one with with, with just the extension, he's reaching up in the air /g.

And, and I love the fact that the that, that the the person on the right is, is as he dodging the bullet, he's, he's reaching in there to make a strike on his own. And I think that's very cool. if you saw that happening on film, you see how repetitive that was, and he was just jumping back. And we're really trying to to solve those small variations. But just when you look at one picture it, it gives you the feel that this was just an amazing moment that happened. And was caught just really well, you know, just a lucky shot and, and it just happened to be in this really cool environment with amazing light. But all those things are built one layer at a time. The same way your lighting is build one layer at a time, your pictures are built one layer at a time and for these pictures, frankly, the first layer was discovering these folks.

The second layer was, okay, I want to see a picture in here. The third was, I gotta reach out to them, I want to try to find a way to to photograph these guys what's in it for them and, and right down the line and you get to the lighting. You know, maybe 23 steps later, and then you go through another layered process and figure out how you're going to solve your lightning. But we've done that too, and I hope that's pretty clear to you at this point. So, so this was picture a, and then of course, the, the other picture was the photo that ended up on the cover of this set. And it's one of my favorite pictures I've done over the last couple of years, frankly. very cool to be able to hangout with a group of people, make a picture like this, and even cooler to have video cameras along for the ride to save it, cause this is going to make a neat souvenir for me too.

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