I've been working with Otago Rugby legend John Leslie of Leslie Rugby again over the last couple of weeks. We're shooting some young grass roots players for instructional material for his coaching workshops and web videos. Soon all the stuff I've been doing for him over the last several months will be transforming the appearance of his website and online commerce.
Son of All Black captain Andy Leslie, John played 123 games for Otago and 32 for the Highlanders in the Super 12. He led Otago to the National Provincial Championship title in 1998 and then went on to play for Scotland (scoring the fastest every try in test rugby, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it 10 second effort against Wales in 1999), Northampton Saints and Newcastle falcons. He's what we call a top bloke and I love working with him to get exactly what he needs. He's got a terrific product and his coaching really works. The young players he works with are really impressively skilled and soak up his instruction like the perfect little learning machines anyone under 18 is. Boy I wish I still had that ability to learn quickly.
So anyway, some of my own students are dipping their toe in the world of lighting, so a little story from the latest shoot might be instructive for them.
I'd already shot some instructional poses the week before. They did the job, but I wasn't exactly thrilled with the result. I was using natural light only and the conditions were pretty variable. I chose to shoot natural light because a light on a stand just wasn't ideal as we had a lot to get through and there were balls and bodies flying everywhere. That'll teach me. Normally I break into a sweat at the thought of leaving the house without at least two speedlites and rightly so.
Now and again the shots were just a little flatter than I'd have liked. Lacking you know - pop. It's okay, but I really want something a little better than that for my clients. And lets face it, it's not hard to add a little light.
Our second shoot started on an even duller morning, but I came prepared to add a little pop - from a stand and a single off-camera speedlite triggered from my camera with a cheapie radio trigger, all exposure handled manually. Underexposing the ground slightly and lighting from the side helped pop the players off the background and also sculpted them a little more. The low ambient light provides enough fill in the shadows, but the speedlite is the power player here, not the sky. The difference is obvious, even when I take an unlit shot and hit the auto tone button to brighten things, our player is a little more three dimensional with some strong directional light on him.
See below: Lit, unlit with same exposure, then the same unlit photo with tonal adjustments in Adobe Lightroom.
I've learned my lesson, even if it took me a little longer than John's young players. Everything looks good when you put it in a better light.