John David Pittman freezes the action with five Profoto B1s
I made this image as part of a personal project in collaboration with Profoto and the North Little Rock High School (NLRHS) football team in Arkansas. At the time, NLHRS was a Nike Elite team, so I wanted to show off what the Profoto B1s could do in a multi-light setup and give the team some images to showcase their custom uniforms.
We set up a makeshift studio in the field house at the high school. Four lights had strip boxes with grids, placed behind and to the side of the subject, and one light was in a gridded 3-foot octa softbox, boomed directly overhead. The shaping of this light was meant to really define the characteristics of both the athletes and the uniforms while somewhat mimicking stadium lighting.
It’s interesting how much this setup differs from my signature lighting style, which is typically very simple. I typically don’t use more than two lights in-studio, and rarely more than one on location. But, to create the look I wanted for this shot, I had to push the envelope a little and step outside of my comfort zone.
That’s the thing with using Profoto. It’s great for situations like this because I never have to question or second-guess the equipment. On this set in particular, the cordless feature of the B1s made my set much easier and safer to work on. One of the potential difficulties of this shoot was that we were creating the environment inside a tight space and didn’t want to incorporate a lot of post-production, so having an easy setup and fewer wires was really a substantial benefit. When it came to freezing the action, being able to control all of the lights in separate groups directly from the TTL Air Remote atop my camera was key.
Our football star for this shot, Tobias Enlow, had no trouble getting in the zone, especially once he put on the custom game uniform. I wanted to show him catching a pass with his hands in front of his body. Since it’s difficult to fake true athletic motion in a studio setting, I demonstrated what I wanted him to do (and got a laugh from my crew for trying to coach a talented wide receiver on proper pass-catching technique). I had Tobias face away from the camera and stutter-step to mimic being on the field. Then one of his teammates off-camera threw the ball for him to catch as he quickly turned around, and we simultaneously fired the shutter and flashes.
As a sports fan, I like this shot because it’s an image of a talented athlete wearing great gear and making a great football move. As a photographer, I like it because the movement looks believable and the quality of light is fantastic.
Tips & Tricks
TURNING CHALLENGES INTO AN OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE BEAUTIFUL IMAGES.
- HAVE A PLAN. Know what you want the final image to look like and draw a lighting diagram before you even start.
- CONSIDER YOUR ANGLES. Where would light be coming from if this were a real-life situation?
- GO SLOW. Build out your lighting setup one light at a time. There is no way to tell what you’re working with if you turn on all of the lights at once.
- UTILIZE GRIDS. Using grids on all of our modifiers allowed us to focus and better shape the light to create the desired drama in our final shot.
- HAVE FUN. Seriously. Don’t freak out. Lighting is not as hard as you think