This past weekend I was fortunate enough to shoot the highly anticipated PSV vs Ajax game. PSV could and did seize the Dutch Eredivisie title agaist their main rival. My personal goal was to shoot a strong series of cinematic images to tell the story of this game.
Let me quickly clarify what I mean by cinematic images. A friend recently asked me this because he was puzzled, which got me thinking about what makes a photo cinematic.
For me, simply put, a cinematic image is a photo that looks like you were watching Netflix and hit pause. It is like a still from a series of film. That’s not quite specific either though. So these are some factors that make an image cinematic, in my personal opinion:
- The people in the photo are generally not looking into the camera. They are / appear to be unaware they’re being photographed.
- The photo hints at a bigger story than just what’s visible. The people in the photo have a mission or goal, there’s a scene playing out.
- The photo is shown in landscape format, preferably widescreen. A 16:9 aspect ratio at the least, but possible 17:9 or 21:9 even.
- There aren’t any very bright colours present in the image, and the colours feel slightly desaturated overall.
- The light in the photo looks natural. This doesn’t mean a cinematic photo can’t be lit, but the light has to look credible. This often comes down to motivating the light with practicals.
- The photo has been toned / color graded. This is matter of taste, but generally I feel the black tones in the image are crushed and the overall contrast isn’t too high.
Please do note that the label cinematic is highly subjective, and these factors are by no means absolute.
The PSV – Ajax game: what’s at stake
PSV had a seven point lead with only four games remaining in the season. The first of these four was the always intense clash with Ajax. PSV were playing a home crowd that were all too eager to see their team snatch the league title in a direct confrontation with their rivals. Ajax actually beat the Eindhoven side 3-0 in their home game earlier in the season. This meant both the fans and the team were looking for payback. From half an hour before kick-off, the atmosphere in the stadium was intense. Even during warm-up, the singing and cheering from the stands was unmatched. The iconic Kuip stadium in Rotterdam has a reputation for being the most intense stadium in the Netherlands, but the Philips Stadium seems to be becoming a worthy contender for this unofficial title.
Be sure to check out this series as well: I followed PSV Eindhoven’s Mexican super star Hirving Lozano for one full game.
Shooting football in a different way
Football is an extremely popular sport in Europe, and for this reason it’s covered by many photographers. I personally feel that many of these photographers are shooting the sport pretty much exactly the same way though. They focus on the peak of the action, with the player in the exact middle. They won’t tone their images, instead opting for a more journalistic approach. Which makes sense, given that their photos will be used by news outlets. Another factor here is that these photographers have to send in their work insanely fast after or even during the game. This gives them little opportunity to do major edits or spend time culling their images. While I’m not judging this approach in any way, I like to show football from a different perspective. There are plenty of photographers already covering the action, there’s no sense in shooting the exact same photos they are.
What I love showing is little moments and views that are also a part of football, but not often seen in media coverage. Of course I realise I may not be the first photographer to use this approach. What I also like to do is edit my work to be cinematic. By making my images look like a still from a film, I feel that they hint at a bigger story. It’s the little lifestyle moments and perspectives that are an integral part of the sport. I like to think that this approach shows more of the character and determination of the players.
I have more series like this coming out soon, including a special behind the scenes story of the title celebrations for PSV Eindhoven. For now, here’s the rest of this visual story!
Check out this aftermovie by PSV for another take on telling a story. Word of warning: Ajax fans best skip this one.