Yorkshire Rams American football

The Yorkshire Rams American Football Team

Shot from May 2016 to 4th March 2017 and written 23rd June 2017.


The Rams and I have been working together since the middle of 2016. The idea was to apply some of my creative photography skills and create a brand image for the team. If you want to promote an amateur sports team, you need a professional, punchy and classy look. Something you would see on an NFL teams' page. This should make them more attractive to fans and sponsors alike.

The first attempt took twenty minutes in a locker room with this result.

Yorkshire Rams American football

1. Shoot in May 2016, the mist in the background is talcum powder. It did make a sweaty changing room smell a bit nicer. Two flashguns were placed behind Andrew to light the 'smoke' and one in front (Westcott Rapid Box) and the left of the photographer to light the subject.

The second shoot produced shots like photo 2. I also did work with the Leeds Chargers in between (July 2016), but I was still using talcum powder rather than smoke pellets. I discovered the talc had a habit of forming small clumps instead of a fine mist. These 'clumps' were a pain to edit out. It also meant you had to brush off the players after a shot. This was made worse because their kit is black and purple.

Yorkshire Rams American football

2. Shot in September 2016 in Roundhay Park, Leeds in the evening. This time the smoke was created by a smoke pellet. It was lit using the same set up as the first photograph except yellow gels were placed over the flashguns and a 150cm octobox was the main light to the left of the photographer. Many thanks to Lauren for creating the smoke. It is far more defined.

A small step forward to say the least and more of the look I was looking to achieve. The yellow gels compliment the team colours and branding.

Yorkshire Rams American football

3. Shot a few weeks later once again in Roundhay Park. There was a strong breeze that evening so I used a small building to act as a wind break. The brick work can be seen in the smoke. I think this adds to be effect. Many thanks to Kayleigh for providing the smoke.

Fast forward to March 2017 and their boot camp outside of Barnsley. I am continuing to develop a professional look for the team, but this time for the players' roster or profile photograph you would on a bio. I decided a black and white gritty look was in order. Here are the results.

Yorkshire Rams American football

4. The gold flashing on the jersey were colour popped at the request of the team captain, Adam Cowley. It is not something I like (I think it often over or inappropriately done), but it works for the Rams. A single wide strip softbox was used for this shot and a black background as it was shot in a scout hut. A large white reflector was placed to the left of the photographer.

Yorkshire Rams American football

5. One with the helmet on. Again the horns are gold. Notice the 'catch lights' (reflections of the light source) in Tom's right eye. Without them the left eye would disappear in the shadow.

Yorkshire Rams American football

6. The same lighting set up, but shot in landscape format.

Yorkshire Rams American football

7. More of a fun shot with Jeff.

In the evening I tried to reproduce photographs 2 and 3, but it was very breezy. The only sheltered area also acted as a funnel blowing the smoke towards me. The smoke needed to travel across.

You cannot give up, you make the best of the situation. What follows are a series of shots of Jeff. When I looked at the results on the night, I was at a loss as to what I could do with them. With a bit of post processing know how these are the end product.

Yorkshire Rams American football

8. A flash of inspiration. The spots under Jeff's left elbow are rain drops. In another version of this, I added a yellow halo to the edge of the light flash.

Post processing

The initial processing was performed using Lightroom to adjust the exposure, the black and white renders and a bit of cropping. Photoshop was used to brighten the eyes, increase the highlights, darken some shadows and enhance the detail in the smoke.

Yorkshire Rams American football

9. Oops, no smoke, but I love the results.

Yorkshire Rams American football

10. A trail of smoke and complete serendipity. I had to remove a lot of the clutter in the background during post processing to achieve this look. There was a fire escape behind Jeff. When I look at the results, the hard work has paid off.

Technical details

A full-frame camera with one lens throughout the portrait session. This was my much loved 85mm f/1.8. The camera was set to manual with a shutter speed of 1/125s, ISO 200, f/4. For the smoke ones, a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens was used to give me wider flexibility.

A yellow coloured gel was used to change the colour of the smoke. The three light set-up was used for the outdoor shoots. A single light and reflector set up was used for the portrait shoot.

Yorkshire Rams American football

11. We were able to achieve the look from other shoots in the end. But the conditions did prevent many being taken.

Yorkshire Rams American football

12. Combining a number of shot resulted in this. It forms a pleasing triangle shape. The bottom three players were shot separately using the same lighting set-up and then combined into one image.

Conclusions and thanks

I hope you can see how the photography has evolved in a short period and how it can promote the team on many levels. Even though some situations were tough to work in, the end results speak for themselves. I have enjoyed working with the team taking ideas and concepts in my head and making them a reality.

I would like to thank David Pawson (the head coach), Pids, JP, Robbie, Spencer, Kayleigh, Lauren, Jeff, the Tom Toms, Simmy, Jack, Cheesy, Adam Cowley, Mark Gaze, a number of the Carnigie Chargers: Lil, Beth, Sunshine (for making the introductions), Tracey, Emma and Gaby (nutters the lot of them).

Special thanks to the Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers and Alison Carlino for teaching me these photographic techniques.

Your thoughts


Please leave any thoughts, comments, questions or just say, "Hi!" (not literally) below. I really do appreciate feedback. E.g. What is your favourite photograph and why?

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