Home Photography Ideas: Take Great Sports Self-Portraits!

Watch Video: Home Photography Ideas – Take a Great Sports Selfie

The current situation of self-isolation makes it difficult to indulge in two of our favorite hobbies: photography and sports. Luckily, you can scratch both itch with this creative photo project – it’s a great reason to get out your lighting kit, a great way to practice your Photoshop skills, and a great excuse to dust off your golf clubs!

Here, we’ll show you how to take and combine a series of images into a striking composite photo worthy of an iconic sports magazine cover. The goal here isn’t necessarily to make it ultra-realistic, though; we’ll take a more fantastical approach and enhance the image with some effects and a lightning bolt or two. After all, if you’re lucky enough to look like a sports god, why would you hold back eclairs?

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(Image credit: James Paterson/Digital Camera World)

Some might think that an image like this is all about Photoshop skills, but that’s just the last nine – the shooting stage is just as important. Composites are much easier to stitch together if the lighting and camera angle are kept fairly consistent, so we’ll start by covering how to capture a set of images for a composite, before moving on to the editing tips you will have to pull off.

Along the way, we’ll explore key skills like using flashes, cutting and combining images in Photoshop with selections and masks, and how to add special effects like lightning and rain. !

Exterior lighting with flashes

Remember that Photoshop can make combining images easy, but it can’t work miracles. When shooting a composite, consistency is key. Light things from the same angle, try to keep a consistent depth of field across all images by using the same aperture everywhere, and set the focus point a similar distance from the camera each time.

01 Flashes and triggers

With two strobes we can create a simple cross light setup. You don’t need expensive flashes for this, as they just need to have manual control and an optical slave, and even the cheapest flashes offer this. Our bare flash strobe has a wireless trigger attached.

02 Set as slave

Our second flash is set to optical slave. This means it will fire when it detects the other flash fires, as long as there is a decent line of sight between the two. Aiming the flash at a silver umbrella will soften the light.

03 Prepare a winner

Position a flash in front to illuminate the face. We attached a silver umbrella to the front light to spread it out, while the rear flash was left bare to create a hard-edged light on one side of the body. Set both to manual, with the front flash at ½ power and the rear at ¼ power. Using a colored background or hanging colored foil (green or blue, depending on what you’re wearing) will allow you to cut out the figure better later.

04 Find an exhibition

Set your camera to manual. Before turning on the flashes, expose to the existing ambient light, then slightly underexpose by increasing the aperture or decreasing the ISO. Now turn on the flashes and adjust the power until you are happy with the light on the subject. We shot at 1/250 sec, f/8, ISO100.

05 Photographing a background

Once you’ve captured the subject, the next step is to photograph a likely background, sky, and anything else you might need. Again, keep everything consistent: camera height, lens focal length, focus point, and lighting. We also captured a golf ball close to the camera, which will add an extra element to the final shot later.

06 Select subject

Open your portrait in Photoshop, then grab the Quick Selection Tool and start painting to select the subject. Click Select and Mask (Refine Edge in older versions) and paint over blurry areas like hair to enhance the edge. Choose Output: Layer Mask and press OK.

07 Refine mask

Zoom in closer, highlight the layer mask thumbnail in the layers panel, then grab the brush tool and press D to set the colors to black and white. Paint black to hide parts of the layer or paint white to reveal them. Spend some time perfecting the edge of the cutout.

08 Add the backdrop

Open your background image, then return to the cutout. Use the Move tool to drag the cutout to the background; press Cmd (Mac) or Ctrl (PC) + T if you need to resize the layer. Once done, make a selection of the sky and Alt-click the Add Mask icon in the Layers panel to mask it.

09 Make it rain

Open the sky image and drop it with the Move Tool, then drag this layer to the bottom of the stack. Then open the rain image and drop it. Change the blending mode to overlay, add a layer mask, then paint black to hide any parts of the rain that look too strong.

10 Do Like Zeus

If you want to add a serious vibe, source an image of love at first sight. Drag it, change the blending mode to Screen, then mask out any unwanted areas. Duplicate the effect around the image to build it. Now cut out and add any other elements you like, like the ball and the mud.

11 Change tones

Finally, merge a copy of all layers with Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+Alt+E. Now apply some toning effects to this layer using the Camera Raw filter (Filter > Camera Raw Filter). Increase clarity, increase shadows, decrease highlights, reduce saturation, and add vignette to darken corners.

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Stewart C. Hartline