University Marketing & Communications

May 3, 2013

How to light an athlete (or two)

By Katherine Turner

We’ve all seen plenty o’ photos of the brick monoliths (also known as “the stacks”) on Red Square. Stacks in the rain, stacks in the sun, stacks in the clouds, stacks in a puddle, stacks stacks stacks. I’m guilty of photographing just-the-stacks too.

This is the first time I’ve seen ’em from this vantage with people in it. And it’s AWESOME.

two men propped off their feet between the brick monoliths on red squareby Eric Cheng via UW Student Life

It’s a well-executed and creative approach to photographing a very boring (yes, I said it) campus landmark. That right there makes it a winner. But that’s not all.

The coolest thing about it is the light on the subjects. The monoliths restrict the daylight to a traditional lighting pattern for athletes: key lights at 90 degrees right and left. (Eric’s photo also has a backlight creating the neat rim light on the fist-pumping arms.)

Here’s how it’s done:

lighting diagram, two key lights 90 degrees
Directional. Hard. Side. Rim. Athlete.

Don’t believe me? Check out these sports portfolios from photographer Joel Grimes:

Sports – Men

Sports – Women

I know you see the lighting pattern. I know you do. And it might be a light-nerd thing, but it’s really exciting to see a studio lighting pattern naturally occurring in monstrosities the field.

So it could be the fist-pumping superstar duo-portrait lighting was serendipity, or well-reserached and purposefully planned by Eric, but either way it’s supercool.