Every year on assignment for the Orlando Sentinel, I am tasked with taking portraits of the area’s top football prospects. It is a challenge, to keep things creative and interesting year to year, as time constraints dictate an assembly line approach. After shooting portraits on a plain black backdrop with edgy lighting previous years, I arranged to shoot the portraits on the roof in the mid-day sun this year. My idea was to frame the athletes against the buildings of the Orlando skyline and a dark blue sky.
To achieve this, I used a circular polarizing filter to saturate and darken the sky. To achieve the look I was aiming for, I set the exposure 1 stop under what the light meter indicated for the sky (1/200 sec F/14). Once I had my exposure I then setup three mono-lights. Two broncolor minicom 80 mono lights were setup at 45 degrees rear angle from the athlete using the standard reflector and a 10 degree grid at almost full power. This created a strong rim light. A third Alien Bees 1600 mono-light was setup with a 48″ silver umbrella behind me pointed directly at the athlete to give a nice fill light and round out the exposure of the ambient and rim lighting.
In the next frame you can see the full exposure.
Although mid-day is usually not an ideal time of day to shoot portraits, with a little planning and creativity you can use the light to your advantage for dynamic effect.