Renowned sports photographer Matt Hernandez has had years of experience capturing professional and high school team portraits. Through years of shooting in a variety of locations, he has perfected the group lighting setup.

Behind the Scenes with Matt Hernandez and Westcott Parabolic

To perfect the light coming from his key strobe, Matt prefers to use a reflective 7' parabolic umbrella. By bouncing his strobe into this modifier, Matt can create a beautiful light source that evenly illuminates every member of the team.

To create his dramatic signature look, Matt underexposes his background. When shooting indoors, Matt adds sidelights to the equation. Without these sidelights, backgrounds often become overly dark to due to a lack of ambient light. This becomes a problem when photographing subjects with dark clothing, skin, or hair as they will appear to blend into the dark background.

Matt places his sidelights behind the team on the edge of his frame. He typically modifies both of these lights with barndoors or a simple silver reflector. This lighting setup highlights his subjects from behind, adding the contrast need to separate them from the dark background.

In short, lighting professional and dramatic team portraits isn’t as daunting as it sounds. Matt breaks it down into a few easy steps…

  1. Underexpose your background
  2. Add a large light source
  3. Back the light away from your subjects until they are evenly lit
  4. Add sidelights just out of frame for separation and dimension
Before - Team Portraits Lighting

Without Sidelights

After - Team Portraits Lighting

With Sidelights
1/250 • f/8 • ISO 100

Lighting Gear in Action

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