Bee image courtesy of USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab
Edited from originalCreative Commons License
The Booster Club from nearby Upperman High School
hired me to create their football program cover again this year. Here's how it all came together. Concept
Upperman High wanted to feature their eight senior football players on the program cover. The team is celebrating this season with a military tribute theme, so I was asked to somehow incorporate military symbolism or something symbolizing American pride. With those guidelines in mind, I had creative free reign to formulate the shot. Planning and Preparation
As luck would have it, the only date we could find to schedule the session left little time between the shooting date and the printing date. The time crunch meant that we couldn't risk a cancellation due to inclement weather, so an outdoor setup was not a possibility. We decided to plan for an indoor setup instead.
Knowing I would only have to include eight players in the vertically-oriented image, I looked around the school for a relatively tall stretch of blank wall. My initial idea was to use the gym, but there were no blank wall spaces in there. I ended up finding a decent spot located in the entryway of the school. My only concern about the location was a large metal security shutter which might reflect my front light sources. I asked the booster club to purchase a large piece of fabric to cover the shutter opening, with a shade to contrast with the players' uniforms (light grey fabric with black uniforms, black fabric with grey uniforms).
Considering how much space there would be above the players, I decided to use my Light Blaster
to project an image of a bee (the school's mascot) just above the players. I knew that if the projection didn't work as well as I wanted that I could always add the same image in using Photoshop. To satisfy the military/American pride theme, I decided to fill the rest of the blank space with an American flag in post-production.
I found an intimidating looking bee image in the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab Flickr photostream
. The images in the USGS Bee Inventory account are licensed under Creative Commons and can be used for personal and commercial projects as long as attribution is displayed. I printed the logo onto a transparency using a template provided by Light Blaster. So that covered my mascot logo projection needs. I knew I had a picture of an American flag buried deep in my image archives, so that wouldn't be a problem. The Shoot
The cover shoot was scheduled to commence just after the team's practice (about 6pm). I arrived early to unpack my gear and set up my equipment. For lighting I used two monolights in front diffused by silver parabolic umbrellas with white diffusion covers in place and two Canon 580EX Speedlite flashes for rim light in the back (left/right). I set up the Light Blaster with another 580EX flash to project the bee image onto the wall just above the metal shutter. I fitted a Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM on the front of the Light Blaster for two reasons – 1) the focal length worked well for the distance to the background and 2) the huge aperture meant that I could project a reasonably bright image from my Canon Speedlite. I'd need all the power I could get from that flash considering the relatively narrow aperture and low ISO I intended on using.
As for the camera gear, I used a tripod-mounted EOS 5D Mark III
with an EF 17-40mm f/4L USM
. EXIF for the final image was 35mm, f/10, 1/160 sec at ISO 250.
Unfortunately, there was an issue with the background fabric that I had requested. When it arrived on set, it was both too small and the wrong color. It was the same shade as the grey uniforms being used. With no suitable background fabric available I had to concede to leaving the metal shutter in the shot.
As the players arrived, I still hadn't decided on how I wanted them to pose for the picture. I had a few ideas but nothing definitive stood out. We tried a few things – like arms folded across the chest in "V" formation – but I still wasn't satisfied. The final pose came about organically when I positioned two of the tackles in front and asked them to get down in their ready position. When those two players were in place, one of the other players suggested that the center get between them as if he were hiking the ball. After that, it was logical to have the center hiking the ball to the quarterback (who was thankfully a senior) with the other players gathered around him in a football-esque formation. Post Processing
I used Photoshop CC
to edit the image and typeset the text. I desaturated and darkened the background so that the players stood out more. While the Light Blaster did a good job of projecting the bee image, I wasn't 100% happy with it. Therefore, I decided to overlay the same bee image I had used for the Light Blaster slide in the very same place it had been projected. This gave me much more detail in the bee logo and allowed me to make it stand out in the image (using a black stroke and a drop-shadow). I used a flag image
that I captured nearly a decade ago for the top graphic. Summary
The Booster Club was very happy with the cover they received. It should be heading to the presses very soon. Feedback from Upperman fans has been very positive. Through pre-visualization and careful planning, the shoot went relatively smoothly and the cover was delivered within two days. As happy clients, I'm pretty sure they'll be giving me a call next year.