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In the world of photography, one of the most important aspects of a good portrait is the quality of the lighting. When it comes to sports portraits in particular, there are often a variety of environments you may be shooting in, which all come with their own lighting sources. Today, we’ll discuss two main categories of lighting that you’ll likely encounter in the world of sports photography: ambient and studio lighting.

Ambient Lighting

Ambient lighting refers to the light that is already present in a space. Whether your light source is rays of sunlight or harsh gym fluorescents, a photographer usually doesn’t have much control over the ambient lighting. You’ll often encounter ambient lighting if you’re shooting portraits directly on the field or court or photographing a live game. However, depending on the light’s quality, ambient lighting has its own pros and cons. One benefit of ambient lighting is that it’s completely free and requires little-to-no effort on the photographer’s part. However, on the flip side, ambient lighting is difficult to control. If ambient lighting doesn’t create the look you want, it’s tough to harness it into something usable.

Studio Lighting

As opposed to ambient lighting, studio lighting is entirely set up by the photographer. Studio lighting may include flashes, diffusion, or a background. Thus, studio lighting can be used to create the exact look that you want, whether you have a more dramatic or natural style. Indeed, it’s infinitely customizable, allowing you to tell exactly the story you wish to tell. Because it can be completely controlled, it’s much more reliable than ambient lighting when creating high-quality photos. However, studio lighting requires not only expensive gear but also plenty of knowledge about how to set up studio lighting, as it can be quite complex. In this way, good studio lighting tends to require a professional with a sufficient amount of experience.

Choosing the Perfect Lighting Setup

The lighting setup you choose ultimately depends on your photography style and logistical factors such as available equipment or space. Ambient lighting can be a great choice if your style leans more natural or organic, capturing players right on the field or court for a simple, documentary-style effect. However, if you’re looking for a more dramatic or professional look, studio lighting is the way to go, with the potential to create high-intensity portraits or group photos that focus on the team’s mascot, colors, or other branding elements. 

Perhaps, you find yourself intimidated by studio lighting. With over ten years of sports portrait experience, I am skilled in using studio lighting to create portraits that are stylistically unique and that capture the individual personality of every athlete. If you’re located in the Vancouver, Washington, area and are looking for a photographer for your athlete, team, or sports program, don’t hesitate to reach out for more information.


Author Dbs

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