How to Shoot an Ocean Sunrise Portrait In an Ordinary Swimming Pool

Check out this album cover portrait photo of the Belgian indie pop band SX, shot by photographer Benjamin Von Wong. While it looks appears to show the band standing in the ocean with the sun rising (or setting) in the background, it was actually shot in a much more controlled environment: a swimming pool.

The indoor swimming pool was a welcome venue, given how cold the weather was outside, but there was the challenge of dealing with the “very ugly classic swimming pool environment.” There were large windows in the background and swimming pool lines below:

Eventually he was able to find a sweet spot that excluded both distractions from the frame.

To light the scene, he bounced light from bare strobes off the surface of the water and onto his subjects:

This would not only light our subjects as well as create the much needed reflection of the skin! Also by bouncing the light on the water, it would also make the shadows a lot less harsh and just a little bit more natural creating a natural fill light. Finally, by staggering my models just a little bit, I could ensure that each one of them was getting just a little bit of face light.

Here’s a lighting diagram showing his setup:

…and the resulting photograph:

Head on over to Von Wong’s blog if you’d like to see a more in-depth look and a behind-the-scenes video.

  • guest

    I don’t mean to be a dick, but it just kind of looks like they were in a swimming pool with a spotlight behind them, and someone later added a ‘warming’ filter at 90%

    nice photo and neat idea, but if they intended it to look like a sunset, some pseudo rayleigh scattering in photoshop would help give rise to that illusion :)

  • g2

    How to shoot an ordinary photo that looks like an ocean sunset.. sorry could not resist. Happy to see this work, but the title should be justified.

  • guest

    also, maybe adding texture to the water (someone off-camera paddling? lol) might help make it look less stagnant

  • stanimir stoyanov

    Was the vignetting achieved in-camera? :)

  • Alexander Petricca

    I actually really like this image. Good job!

  • Scott Eide

    his site is down?

  • jaime

    Texture would have destroyed the reflections.

  • AshtonNekolah

    great idea but from first glance to me it didn’t look like a sunrise, neither a sunset, sun light can’t be manipulated so easy and from shooting many times into the sun it just didnt fool my eyes. All i know that something is very wrong with this image as far as a sun shot, the people are covered from side light making it not to clear to see through, the water is a major give away ocean is never this still even if the wind is low. Great work over all thou.