There’s something that’s always drawn me to portraits that capture the blood sweat and tears athletes put into crossfit events. I want to be able to work the lighting, angles and post-process the images in a way that does these moments justice.

I’ve been taking photos with my Canon 600D for a few years now but never really displayed them in such a public place before – it was time to take it up a level and see what’s possible!

Break the Resistance is all about grabbing the moment, going with the flow, learning new tricks and having fun while you’re at it. And on top of that – I like killing two birds with the one stone so when I heard my mates were competing in the Andfits 3’s, I packed my Canon and made my way to the box.

Andfit Crossfit Box in Mount Eden Auckland

Setting the scene at Andfit 3’s

Challenges I knew I’d be facing

I hadn’t tinkered with much Portrait or Sports photography before and knew I might be limited by the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens (although a good tradesman never blames his tools). I knew there would be some obstacles to getting decent shots:

  • Low light
  • Distance from the subject
  • Tradesmans tools

I thought if I could keep the shutter speed fast and the aperture as wide as the lens would allow then I would surely come away with some gallery worthy shots.

I took 500+ pictures in a couple of hours, it could have been twice that but I found the next obstacle: storage space. I only had one 16GB card and wanted to save space for photos of my mates in the last WOD.

I reviewed the images as I took them, trying to ensure any quick movements like double unders and box jumps had a fast enough shutter speed set, checking the histogram to see sunlight through the windows wasn’t clipping any of the picture. I was gaining confidence from the results and couldn’t wait to put them through Lightroom.

Post-Processing

When I finally imported the pictures into Lightroom the smug smile quickly faded! I had completely forgotten to set any ISO settings or even check the automatic setting after I had taken a picture. My 500+ photos were noisy and so my post about the picture perfect crystal clear crossfit photos quickly turned into a “Don’t make the same mistakes I made” post.

To have any hope in salvaging the photos I needed to remove the noise from the picture while keeping it sharp. The photos were so noisy that this wasn’t possible when using the Noise reduction feature in Lightroom by itself, the photos started to look like paintings when i got the noise to an acceptable level. I decided to remove the noise from the background leaving the main subjects alone which would keep the subject sharp while also adding a blur effect to the background, almost tricking people to think I had a wider aperture lens / focussing the subject.

I had to paint a mask over entire photo with the brush tool and I used the erase brush to remove the sections that I wanted to keep sharp and in focus (the athlete and judges). Once I had the mask I was looking for, I increased the noise reduction in the mask and also reduced the sharpness to add more blur.

The two images below are before and after Lightroom processing. The image on the right highlighting the background noise reduction and blur. (If you look close enough you can see I could have masked with a finer detail, getting close to the subject outline).

Unedited noisy photo

Before – with Noisy Background

Edited photo to remove noise

Background blurred and Noise removed

Rob's 60kg Clean and Jerk

Attempt at keeping Rob sharp while removing noise the sections that didn’t need the detail

Final Thoughts…

Although this post didn’t turn out to be the post I had intended it to be, i’m happy with what it’s taught me and I’ve already lined up the next couple of Crossfit comps. I want to get closer to the action and be even more snap happy. Would love to hear your thoughts on any of the above or please highlight any other tips to make the progress quicker. I’ll be working on ISO settings and reviewing images in general so hopefully will have improved results for the next comp! I’ll be counting the pennies in the next few weeks and plan to invest on the next lens – currently thinking a 24-70mm F2.8 by Sigma or Tamron. Suggestions more than welcome.