Creating that Edgy Dramatic Sports Look

We’ve seen the shots, those heavy retouched glowing shots of the star nearly every sports shooter or TV show overlay promo has been using them for the last couple of years.

I first became aware of the “style” through Dave Hills extraordinary and inspirational work.  A Google search will give you lot’s of recipes.

The following image is somewhat in this direction.  


Queensland’s “King” Wally Lewis and NSW Hard man Mark Geyer – eye up again – a reinactment of this classic State Of Origin moment.

Creating High Contrast Black and White Portraits

I’m continuing to experiment with trying to create or increase dramatic impact within my portraits in black and white post production (ie lot’s of tone and sharpening experiments) BUT I always remind myself even though you can do so much in post – a good image nearly always begins with with your initial lighting; pose, wardrobe, stylist and makeup and of course the photographer and model.

Following is my current approach to creating these type of images.


Lighting setup.  These were shot with just a single standard Canon Speedlight 580EXII with a Beauty Dish modifier shot at 45 left and above and about 1m away.  We’d darkened the room so that no other light sources interfered.  From my memory the strobe setting were at 1/32 power; Camera ISO 200; 105mm; f/9.0 at 1/100 sec.  I shoot everything in Manual mode. The back wall (about a meter behind the model) was dark but also slightly reflective which help create some rim lighting.  I shoot RAW file format as it gives me much more control in post production.  I’d also previously custom colour balanced using my X-rite Color Checker.

Post Production 

I’m currently using LightRoom 4.4 as part of my workflow and use ProPhoto RGB profile as it gives me the widest tonal range spectrum.  

The first thing I’m looking for is correct exposure.  With this shot when I clicked the Auto Exposure it gave me +2.45 (which is a lot – my bad).  Looking at the histogram I’ve no clipping.  I set contrast to ‘0’

I move the Highlights slider to -100 and the Shadows to +100.  This creates a pretty horrible HDR type of look but what we’re trying to do here is fill out all the shadow and highlight information to create the widest tone range to work with.

Now holding the ALT key down I move the Whites slider across until I get the first indication of where it kicks it.  I then do the exact same process for the Blacks.  The result is I’m getting the most range in the skin tones.

Skin softening

I open up the image in Photoshop and then I use OnOnes Perfect Portrait for my skin softening – there are lot’s of programs, plugins and actions out there.  My primary goal is to remove any blemishes, smooth the skin, sharpen the eyes and mouth.  How much smoothing depends on what you’re trying to create.

Save and back in Photoshop

I sharpen the mid tones using burning (around 8% opacity) and dodging of a High Pass Filter.  

Save and then back in Lightroom

I now convert to Black and White.

Do some adjustments with the tones; clarity; add a vignette; a final sharpening and then a final noise reduction.

The final result is quite strong – with better expsoure next time I should be able to reduce a lot of the noise that was introduced when I had to boost up the initial exposure.  Anyway, I feel like I’m getting closer to what I envisaged. 

Actor and Modelling Portfolio Photoshoot – Bella

Bella – there are times when you press the shutter and you know you’ve got the money shot.  Simply one of the best shots I’ve taken so far.


Breaking Bad – Aimed for a poster type effect on this edgy shot with Bella

W - 2Photo by Scott Maxworthymaxymedia


Picking Up The Thread. This image just grabbed me – a sort of candid behind the scenes image which I thought would look great as a high contrast black and white.

B - 3Photo by Scott Maxworthymaxymedia

Actor head-shots are different than your normal portraits – your audience for these images are Agents, Casting Directors, Creative Directors etc who want to see what the talent naturally looks like before they walk into a casting call – that means no heavy makeup; styling, photoshop retouching or creative lighting etc. The lighting should be flat and even. It’s these shots that most often determine if you get a call request.


A Day In The Studio.

At lunch last week with some old work friends we talked about whether social media marketing actually generates sales or is more a brand awareness activity?

Their businesses are B2B so therefore online channels such as LinkedIn; their own websites; industry portals and other SEO strategies are more relevant than say consumer online channels such as Facebook.

Like most businesses they are trying to refine their niche offering and determine the most effective way to connect and engage with potential new customers.

At the top of their marketing funnel they are just about to do some PR activity and one thing we agreed on was the need for professional portrait photos to be included, you see, a key point to understand is that there’s also competition for PR, that is, Editor attention – your article has to connect with their readers and a good photo can get help get attention and make life easier for the Editor.  

Creative Concept

We’ve a couple of different shots to do – some standard portraits and then some creative advertising shots. The big difference between these types is lighting setup and the subsequent effect of lighting on post production processing needs.

From a creative perspective the composite type images are inspired by Dave Hill‘s outstanding work.  I love these images – they tell a story and push the whole digital photography thing to a new level (beyond the Instagram filter mindset).  Mastering these techniques, or a least having some of the skill set, should help evolve my own client service offering.  There’s a whole discussion on long tail learning investment which I’ll have to write about later.  

Note: I’ve found great YouTube photo manipulation technique tutorials by Andrei Oprinca from PSDbox 

Two days later the studio is booked, well actually just one of the rooms at the local Sailing Club where I will setup all my gear for the day.  (I like my setup to be portable so that I can shoot anywhere around the country quickly)

Shoot day 

8AM – setup takes about an hour before our talent arrives – green screen; I’m testing some constant LED lights; my strobes and assortment of diffusers; cameras and computers. 

I’m going to shoot some of the portraits against green screen which will then be used to create composite images – this is where you combine photos that otherwise would be very difficult, if not impossible to shoot.  The main reason for shooting this way is that we want to create something unique for the advertising shots and also, it’s been impossible to get all the Directors in the same place in such a short time.  

Corporate PortraitPhoto by Scott Maxworthymaxymedia
Note: We shoot on green (or blue) background as the green is not found in skin tones and therefore the most easiest to key out or extract the image from.

For the standard portraits then you want to do most of the lighting variations in the studio (reducing post processing) whereas the composite shots you want to shoot very flat lighting and add the lighting (shading etc) effects in post production (maximised post production processing).

For standard corporate portrait shots then here are a few tips

  • Who is your audience?  In general your look and wardrobe should mirror your target audience – if your clients are wearing suits and ties – wear a suit and tie – it’s about creating trust.
  • Smile – a 1/2 smile usually works best but again it depends on your audience – I don’t want to see someone in banking laughing with my money – it’s about establishing a connection. 
  • Sadly no to black and whites – this is not a Adore Noir 1950’s Hollywood film set (I love shooting these type of shots but they’re not for corporate profiles)
  • Shoot shoulders up and closer – the eyes are the most important.
  • Uncomplicated backgrounds – it’s about reducing distractions.
  • Keep photo effects to a minimum.  This means keeping it as real as possible.  By all means remove that pimple but let’s leave the heavy skin softening and glow effects for the glamour shots.

Next well look at the composite shots.


Five quick tips on how your actor head shots can convert more visitors #StarNowBlogger

The objective of all marketing is to build your brand so that your customer doesn’t want to look anywhere else, but, as we all know that takes time and you need to start somewhere.

Today, before you receive that first email or phone call, most of your new acting or modelling jobs will have begun on the Internet via Google or an actor or modelling industry directory or portal such as StarNow, AT2 or model mayhem.

In StarNow, the Casting Director or Creative Director fills in details of the project, posts it and then you as an actor or model can repsond – the Director then receives your reply.

For example, in a call out we did for an urgent Fashion shoot we had over 75 replies in less than 24 hours.  

Short Listing

Today very few Casting Directors have lots of free time to go through hundreds of portfolios in detail, so, for the first run through, the quickest way to shortlist is by main headshot first impression. 

Tip 1. The Importance of a great Headshot

It’s a cliché but “first impressions count” – your head shot has to immediately connect with your viewer.  If it doesn’t, you’ve lost the opportuity before you even know it.

The following tips aim to help you determine what shot to use as your main headshot and what to include in your portfolio to get the job.

Tip 1b. Choose the right photographer for your headshot

From a model or actors portfolio – decide what type of jobs you’re interested in and then find a photographer whose shots you like.  If your look changes then update your headshot.

Remember it always helps to put yourself in your potential customers shoes  – by having an idea of your customers needs and wants you can better tailor your product, service or price. 

So for example, say you’re a photographer and offering a new, inexpensive (but high quality) professional headshot photography service for actors, models or business people in Sydney City, St George, Sutherland Shire and Eastern Suburbs?  

What would be the Actors or Models wants and needs?

  1. Getting great quality, professional portrait headshots and shots that get results.
  2. Not paying a fortune for expensive studio space and overheads.
  3. Not having to wait weeks for the shots.
  4. Local area and easy to get to.  
  5. Having flexible times
  6. Professional and always on time .
  7. Good industry and client connections.

Always ask yourself what is the customer looking for?

Tip 2.  “If your not selling to the end customer you’re selling to someone who is” 

Once you have your shots – it’s important to understand who is your actual viewer? Are they just viewers? influencers? or the potential buyer and decision maker?

For Actors and Models the person you’ll need to impress with your shots will be an Agency Casting Director or Marketing Director (who then will short list you) for the eventual decision marker.

But today you can build your brand online. Today Pinterest is one of the fastest growing social image bookmarking sites being used amongst Agencies and interest groups.  Tens of millions of Internet users are creating pin-boards around every conceivable subject matter – which all link back to your profile.

Find and post your relevent best photos to these boards.

Tip 3.  What Types of Shots do Casting Directors want to see? 

Types of Shots – Actor or model head shots for Casting Directors are a little bit different than your standard portrait photography as they are deliberately kept very natural so the Director can easily see what you look like without photo manipulation. That’s not to say you don’t have retouched and creative shots in your book – just that your main profile headshot should be kept simple (but professional).  Remember if you’ve changed your look then update your headshot.  You need to walk into the interview looking like the person in the photo. 

Again – the amateur, “I-phone selfies ” of you knocking down a few shots on Ibiza to show that you like to party – doesn’t work – get rid of them.

Tip 3. Sadly, black and whites are now considered a bit old old hat for the modern digital headshot. (Note to self – update my portrait shot!)

Tip 4. Smile (at least once).  Actor or Models, your look-book should have a mixture of no smile, semi smile, big smile. Also simple close ups, 1/3 body, full body.  You can add character shots,

Tip 5. Finally – Reputation is Everything.  

Every customer wants painless transactions – that means quality, reliability and professionalism.

Your reputation is everything – positive customer word of mouth has and will always be the best form of advertising.  It is human nature that your customers will return to people they trust and enjoy working with.

So, once you’ve received the call and have the audition booked – TURN UP on TIME.  Being on time is the single biggest differentiator over most of your competition. 

All the best



My StarNow Photo Profle



Unlocking The Dancer Within

In today’s digital age business is very much about how quickly you can respond and deliver to your clients needs. As Gerard Manion, founder of TodayCorp and Workstar once told me – it’s no longer the big eating the small BUT the fast eating the slow.

Jess is a highly talented Australian choreographer and owner of 100% Dance – she needed some portrait shots ASAP. We shot yesterday, delivered edit pictures this morning. Test successful.

At the recent #istrategy conference in Melbourne,  LinkedIn’s Australia Managing Director, Cliff Rosenberg highlighted that a professional portrait photo is fundamentally important to your online business profile.

What do you think?  Does your portrait photo need a makeover? 

Portrait Photography

A small collection of my portrait photography.  

These images have been used as personal gifts for family and friends; for corporate, social media and website profiles; for actor and model portfolios; school gradulation photos to happy couples and family photos.

Either on location or studio photography 


Interested in a shoot? 

Please give me a call on 0414 702 072 or contact us via web form.