My friend and neighbor Jeff had the grand idea to put together a cool panorama shot showing all the members of the John Marshall High School girls’ basketball team. His daughter is on the team, and I think he enjoys photo editing and the challenge this would entail.

Jeff stopped by a few weeks ago to talk over the concept and pick my brain for hints. He had someone lined up to take the shots, then Jeff would do the photo editing to extract the girls and insert them into the pano over a background. He already had a good start on the background, and he had some nice posters of the U of Mn team to serve as an example. I gave him some ideas and showed him some details on the university’s poster that could have been done better.

A bit later, Jeff asked if I would mind doing the shoot. No, I didn’t mind. I thought my green screen backdrop would help with the extraction, and I used a couple speedlites to light the affair. It was a fun, if high energy, shoot, and the girls were great. I connected my camera to my laptop and shot tethered to Lightroom. This helped the girls review their poses, sometimes leading to trying a different look.

For the shot above, we thought having the ball in mid-flight would be cool, but it was easier said than done. The big problem was the carpet below the green backdrop. The ball just wouldn’t bounce, so timing the exposure was tough. We tried several times with little tweaks, but not so good.

But, Jeff’s going to be extracting the girls from the background anyway. Why try to do it all live? Without the ball, we could concentrate on a good pose. This one does the trick. Now we need a good shot of the ball.


Jeff obliged. I had him hold the ball with a minimum finger overlap toward the camera to make for an easy extraction. This shot was just what the doctor ordered.

After the shoot, I did some quick clean-up and color balancing in Lightroom then exported full res JPEGs for Jeff to use. The 5D MkII files are huge, my laptop isn’t the fastest on the block, so this took a while. But that gave us time to tear down the setup and drink a bit of my payment.

Back at home, I just had to play with a couple of the images myself. Looking at the shots above, you can see one of the problems with shooting against a green screen. Unless you have tons of room and very careful lighting, there’s always some green spillover onto the subject. But Photoshop has plenty of tools to help with both the extraction and the cleanup.

The ball-in-flight shot looked to be the most challenging, so that’s the one I decided to tackle. Extracted the two images, created a simple, if cheesy, background. Then set about adding some flair. Cleaned the green contamination, added reflections, a bit of shadow (two lights, two shadows). What to do about the ball?

It was just too static. In fact, had I shot it truly in flight with the strobes, it would generally be tack sharp. The strobes stop the movement. I could have pushed the shutter speed, if there was sufficient ambient light, and show some motion. But I wanted something more realistic.

I ended up adding a touch of  motion blur. This helps but needed to be masked or erased a bit to give the ball direction. Otherwise, motion blur makes it look like it’s vibrating.

This is the image I ended up with. There’s probably more I could do, but I think I’ll stop here. For now.