Lens Guides

Creating Sports Banners

Walking in to the gym at our local high school, you can’t help but notice the two 20 foot wide by 6 foot tall vinyl sports banners of both the boys and girls varsity basketball teams. I’ve received numerous comments on them including one person who said, “As soon as I entered the gym, I knew it was a ‘Chesler’ image.”

It’s a marketing jackpot that pays for itself over and over in exposure to other teams and high school seniors for their portrait sessions. In this blog post I will go over how I got the job, how I shot it, how I created it and the sales I made from it.

© 2015 Steve Chesler
© 2015 Steve Chesler

As one of the areas most sought after sports photographers, we cover most of the sports leagues in my hometown. The youth basketball program was one that eluded us for a while though. Having photographed a few seniors who are members of the varsity basketball team and whose mother was on the booster club board, I finally had an in with the head coach, who was also directly involved with the youth basketball program. After meeting with him, his desire was to have team banners hanging in the gym. I offered him those banners at my expense if I could photograph the youth league. It was a marketing expense I couldn’t pass up.

© 2015 Steve Chesler
© 2015 Steve Chesler

The day of the banner shoot, I set up in the school hallway outside of the gym with a two strobe set up. I had one of the strobes on a stand with a relatively small white shoot through umbrella. I wanted a smaller light source to have an edgier look to the lighting instead of soft wrap around light. I set that strobe up at a 45 degree angle to the subject as my main light with light bouncing around the small hallway as my fill. I set the second strobe up with just the reflector at a 45 degree angle behind the subject opposite the main light as my separation light/hair light. The background itself was irrelevant since I would be clipping each of the players out in Photoshop. I photographed each player individually  to insure that every player across the banner was lit equally. With a banner that large I needed an extremely sharp lens so I choose my Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG HSM lens mounted on a Nikon D7000 at f8. Sigma’s new 50mm f1.4 DG HSM Art or 35mm f1.4 DG HSM Art would also have been excellent options. The Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art lens, one of Sigma’s new Global Vision lenses is one of the sharpest lenses I’ve ever photographed with. After photographing each player in a variety of poses I had what I needed to create the banner.

As the base image for the banner, I choose the Honeycomb design from my set of Breakout Posters from Spotlight Photographics.

Using the Quick Selection Tool in Photoshop to select each player from the hallway background, I placed each player on the Honeycomb background in their own layer. I then created a layer mask of each player and painted with a black paintbrush to clean up any imperfect edges. Using the free transform tool, I resized each player proportionately for their varying heights. Be sure to hold down the Shift key while dragging the corner of the selection to maintain the aspect ratio. Once I was happy with the layout and the text was applied, I flattened the image and ran it through Nik Viveza software to complete the look with a touch of saturation and structure. The final touch was to vignette the entire image to tie everything together.

© 2015 Steve Chesler
© 2015 Steve Chesler
© 2015 Steve Chesler
© 2015 Steve Chesler

Once the image was complete, it was ready to be sent off to Colorado Timberline for printing as a 20 foot wide vinyl sports banner. The final product was very impressive if not overwhelming to try to preview in the studio prior to delivery. Once they were hanging in the gym, it was only natural for the parents of each of the players to want one of their own. Having saved the design as a PSD file, I was easily able to redesign it to fit in to an 11.25×17 aspect ratio to have press printed posters made of the team. Subsequently, we are using the same images to make 8×10 individual posters of each senior for their end of the season banquet.

© 2015 Steve Chesler
© 2015 Steve Chesler
Comments (2)
  1. Thanks for sharing your experience in creating sports banners! I think a perfect picture with amazing background color makes banners more appealing. Therefore the perfect color combination is important.

  2. I believe what you said made a bunch of sense. However, what about this? suppose you were to create a awesome title? I mean, I don’t want to tell you how to run your blog, however what if you added a title that grabbed people’s attention? I mean Creating Sports Banners is kinda plain. You might look at Yahoo’s home page and note how they create post titles to get people to click. You might add a video or a pic or two to grab people interested about what you’ve written. In my opinion, it might bring your website a little bit more interesting.

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