The secret ingredient to produce the sports-grit look is to light the subject with harsh light. Harsh light produces strong shadows for a powerful photo. It sculptures the subject in such a way that when applying the Lightroom preset, the grit look is achieved.

Style the shoot to change the mood

I’ve been happy with the look for the past few years, but I felt it was time for a slight change. I wanted to create a different mood. Adding tape to the athlete’s fingers and wrist symbolized injuries. Applying eye black added to the tough look. At this point, the athlete looked like he was preparing for a game. Although it looked good, it didn’t capture the mood I was after. I wanted to show what the athlete would look like after the game. By adding dirt to his face and arms and making sure the white tape got dirty, the style was completed and the mood was set. He looked like he just walked off the field, working through his pain and injuries to capture a hard-fought victory.

Pulling emotion out of the athlete

Athletes are known for being intense when they play. To capture this emotion, have the athlete relive one of their favorite memories of a game or create a do-or-die game winning moment. The goal is make them look intense. This short video demonstrates how I pull emotions out of an athlete during a shoot.

Lynda Awesome Sports Portraits

Extra resources

3 part Sports Portrait Composite

Shooting Awesome Sports Portraits: The Sports Grit Look

Awesome Sport Portraits Course on