One gray seamless, three lights and less than a minute with each athlete. Swim portraits.

I recently was hired to cover the PSAC Swimming Championship by a collegiate athletic department. After seeing there was a 3 hours break in between sessions I immediately decided that 1) I must get Chipotle 2) This would be great to get swim portraits of athletes during their warm up.

The athletes were great to work with and allowed me to photograph them on deck. I scoped out swimmers who looked interesting to me. The goal was to capture them in these ‘in between’ moments of what is just so routine to them. Some of them I simply told to put on their goggles, others I posed.

When creating the lighting setup, I had tested a backlight setup on myself to see what it might look like to have the only fill be from a reflector or some lighting bouncing off the pool deck. I also originally wanted to shoot these really tight of just their face, maybe a little upper torso. After a couple shots, I realize seamless I brought wasn’t wide enough for when they had their elbows out to the sides so I flipped the seamless and used gaffer tape to rig a setup and make it work. I think including more of their body made for a better image.

Swim Portraits


I was also terrified that somehow my extension cords would touch the ground and zap someone so I made sure everything was elevated and secured of the ground. It all worked out. Below you can see an extended gallery of the athletes. I went with a very small selection to not have redundancy in posing and selected images I felt shared the athletes personality.

Things I would do differently next time? I might think about adding some spray bottle action in the background and shoot a little title for some different production value. I would get a wide seamless of course. Aim for one look in terms from front fill to keep it darker (those were my favorite ones). The freezing the bucket of water action could be cool to do some additional work in post and make a composite of water splashing. For having less than one minute with each athlete, I’m pleased with the outcome. It gives me a ton of options and ideas of an editorial assignment to really up the production value.

Gear: Canon 5d MarkIII, 24-70 F 2.8, Alien Bee Strobes, Pocket Wizards, Lightroom, Photoshop

Swim Portraits