College Football Shoot Behind The Scenes Tips for sports shooters and a DIY lit backdrop build that you can make yourself

We continue our sports photography special series today and this time around we are looking at an interesting behind the scenes setup of James Quantz Jr, a professional sports photographer from South Carolina who shares some interesting tips based on his experience as well as a second video where he talks to photographer John Gress on a special DIY lit backdrop that they both created and how you can build one for your own photography.

Quantz JR has started his career shooting large-format landscapes and doing studio work before he went into sports photography and this is very much visible in his works. Like many successful photographers Quantz JR distinct itself by having a clear and recognizable style with hard lighting, deep shadows, and crisp highlights (reminiscent of many Hollywood movie posters).

A lot of Quantz JR work is outside the field (or at least not during games times) and focuses on bringing a sort of portable high-end studio to a location (this is important for a lot of professional sports since pro athletes typically do not have time to go to a studio each time they need a promotional shoot which happens quite often in the age of 24h social media.

The above video looks at a setup Quantz JR used for a College football shoot (although he uses more or less the same setup with variations for many other shoots including ones for NFL, NBA, and NHL works). The most obvious part of his setup aside from the Wescott 7′ and 43″ silver umbrellas with  Profoto B1/D2 lights are the two big Cambo Boom Arms which allows him to place the light around or above his subject with very little effort. Quantz JR actually (if you are interested in those he made a video about how he uses them back in March 2020).

The reset of his setup includes a tethered MAC/camera (Nikon D850) and some battery chargers, extra batteries, and other accessories.

Besides gear, most of this video is about what makes or breaks a sports shoot like this and here Quantz JR has a number of very useful tips:

  • Time – pro athletes have very little time, make sure you have everything ready when each athlete arrives and be quick and professional (i.e. know your gear and plan the shoot ahead to be more efficient).
  • Do your research – try and know the players, what they do, and what their position is (read/watch online if you need) and prepare shots that are relevant for what they do and direct them during the shoot (Quantz JR admits that even he after many years still do this research to keep updated on players and learn more, of course, it doesn’t hurt if you are actually interested in sports and love the game).
  • Fun – if you want your clients to hire you again, making the shoot fun for the players and the team as a whole is important, this should not feel like a chore but rather an enjoyable process you do in between games or training secessions.
  • Multiple angles – don’t stay in one place or one shooting position, try and make the most of your setup and give as many different looks to your client in the least amount of time (again knowing your gear and working efficiently – possibly with an assistant is key).
  • A team effort – although you are the photographer, taking these types of shots can be a team effort and if the player has ideas – talk to the player, listen and if possible use their input in the shoot (having a computer that is tethered to your camera can help the player see what you see), involving players in the shoot can help you get better results and create a bond with the team that will increase your chances of getting hired again for the following shoot.

James Quantz Jr talks to photographer John Gress on building a DIY lit backdrop

For more on sports photography please check out our special sports photography subsection here on LensVid.

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