Behind The Scenes : The Saints

First blog post! heehee.

 2014 NZ NBL Champions! 

2014 NZ NBL Champions! 

Earlier in 2014, I was commissioned by  the Wellington Saints basketball team to do their marketing images - They turned out to be the NBL Champions for 2014!!

The shoot was done with much help from Val Cabadonga and Ryan Christie with assistance for the directing, shooting and lighting. 

This was a really really rushed order with no specifics. "Get them looking awesome with some individual images and group shots" within 30 minutes at the Wellington Girls College auditorium was basically it. No time to bring them to the studio - it was straight up quick photoshoot.

In this post, I will be writing about how we got the shoot done with some of my personal comments about what I learned from it.

I did the photography for the Saints in 2013 as well, with my associate photographer Kent Chua. 

Here's what we got back then:

1. First we began by arranging our portable lights and testing the light.

Light plays a major role in photography. Being able to control the light to suit the project's vision is a very important skill to have as a photographer.  For this shoot, we used a Grimes style three point lighting method which works really nicely for commercial photography of athletes.

The image below demonstrates our lighting set up. We wanted to see how far we can push the boundaries on a tight schedule, budget and the gear we had with us at that time.

I will write another blog post in the future about off-camera lighting :)

Strobist Info:

 Strobist  diagram.

Strobist  diagram.

Key light: Yongnuo YN560II at 1/2 power in a Chinese eBay 120cm Brolly Octabox, held up on a monopod by Val
Rim light (left): Yongnuo YN560II at 1/4 power in a Phottix 60x60cm softbox
Rim light (right): Yongnuo YN560II  at 1/16 power, bare (we forgot the modifier in the boot)
Triggered with Yongnuo RF-602.
Camera: Nikon D3 + Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G: f/8, ISO200, 1/125th, 70mm.

By having two smaller light sources on each side for the rim light, we were able to highlight the edge of the body to really show off their physique. Using rim lights like this can also help when it comes to masking the athletes out from the boring background.

2. Get shooting..

Shooting with professional basketball players isn't like your ordinary corporate shoot. They're really chill, quirky and sometimes a bit shy to begin the shoot with.. :)


Damien Ekenasio:


Corey Webster: 

Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa & Dion Prewster:

3. Cut them out in Photoshop using layer masks 

Cutting people out is the really boring and time consuming part. Shooting in a proper studio environment with a clean background would really help in this process..

4. Layout of the athletes to prepare for the group shot

Chop chop chop, cut copy paste. Far out, getting their height in proportion is quite hard. For these kinds of shots, using a tripod would be a smarter idea.

5. The comp

 It is important that the light source in the background is consistent with the portraits. If the background image is showing a bright orange sun coming towards the camera, it should also cast orange light on the subjects of the comp.

It is important that the light source in the background is consistent with the portraits. If the background image is showing a bright orange sun coming towards the camera, it should also cast orange light on the subjects of the comp.

One thing a lot of commercial photographers really screw up on with these kinds of composites, is to have un-matching perspectives and lighting.

I was no exception - In this image the background image was shot with a wide angle lens (24mm) while the portraits were shot at 70mm and arranged like a panorama.

Without matching the perspective, these tall basketball players can end up looking much smaller. 

What I should have done was to photograph a panoramic backplate at the same camera height and focal length as the portraits. Lets not make this mistake again.

6. Final grading with VSCO on Lightroom 5

There we go, that was it. I will aim to do it better next time.

Here are a few of my thoughts, just about the image:

  1. Perspective isn't matching: 70mm panoramic vs 24mm single image backplate = athletes look small and.. hard to look at.
  2. Inconsistent poses. Some athletes don't look so enthusiastic.
  3. Rushed art direction: that backplate image has nothing to do with the Saints. Perhaps if they were called the "Wellington Sunsets" or something like that, it would fit the context better. 
  4. Athlete height. We didn't use a tripod. I literally just guessed their height on photoshop. 
  5. There's only 9 of them. Two of the athletes uhh.. wagged the shoot apparently? 

Hope this blog post was helpful for those who are interested in how I light my subjects and do my editing. 


Leave a comment below and let me know what you'd be interested in seeing in my future blog posts.