I enlisted the help from my son Alec to gather a few friends for a creative sport portrait shoot. We were experimenting on different ways to backlight fog with red or blue gels. The goal was to produce the final image in camera with zero help from Photoshop. We failed more times than we succeeded on our way to How I Got the Shot.

Quick Settings Overview

  • Nikon D700
  • Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens
  • Aperture f/6.3 to f/8
  • 1/125 sec shutter
  • ISO 200
  • WhiBal White Balance Gray Card

We met Superheroes and Villains

During a break, we stepped outside the studio just in time to see over 100 Superheroes and Villains walking the streets of Downtown Melbourne. We laugh and waved to the group as they walked by. Two characters stood out. I asked them if they would like to join us in the studio for a quick shoot. This was the moment of truth. Would the same lighting set up for sports work with a cosplay outfit. We chose a red gel to compliment their yellow suits. They started posing, I started ripping shots. Their entire shoot took only 4 minutes!

Lighting Setup

We lit the set with 3 lights on a grey background. Two strip box lit the subject from the side using grids to control where the light fell. The third light backlit the fog using a speedlight with a built in wide panel to spread the light. We took shots lighting the fog with no gel, then added a red or blue gel.

What We Learned about Fog

Fog is very unpredictable, it has a mind of its own. You have to do the best you can. Short burst or buffs seemed to work best. Starting from the top and quickly moving down outlining the subject gave more character to the fog. In the end, we had to use Lightroom’s adjustment brush set to a minus exposure to “paint out” and shape the fog. Red gels gave fog more texture when converting to black and white. Blue looked cool in color.

Bonus Tips

  • Network with people to help fine tune your skills.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment.
  • Get in contact with sport teams, cosplay or medieval groups to photograph.
  • Buy a good fog machine and liquid.
  • Use the speedlight’s built in wide panel to spread light when backlighting fog.
  • Buy a good set of gels for your lights.
  • Read: Talking to Strangers for ideas on how to approach strangers.

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