Capturing The Colorful Stories Behind Three Olympic Portraits

Photographer Aaron Anderson’s portfolio includes a number of captivating and compelling portraits of athletes. Several of the athletes he’s photographed are about to compete for Team USA in the Tokyo Olympic Games. Below, Aaron introduces us to three of those athletes while explaining the lighting setups and color choices behind his Olympic portraits.

Sophia Herzog
Olympic portraits
Olympic portraits

Sophia Herzog is a Paralympic Swimmer getting ready to compete in her second Olympics. She brought home the silver medal for Team USA in the 100M breaststroke at the Rio games in 2016. I had the pleasure of working with Sophia a few years back to not only showcase her silver medal but prepare for her bringing home the Gold on her next trip to the games (*wink wink*). I remember meeting her in a coffee shop in Colorado Springs and realizing she was number one in the world at her sport. It’s incredible to me that these athletes are all around us and, most of the time, people don’t even know it.

Sophia has worked incredibly hard to accomplish her dreams. She has even taken on the role of a tour guide at the OTC to fund the dream she’s chasing. She is an incredible athlete and role model for young women all over the globe.

For Sophia’s portraits, I wanted to do something that would stand out and show some patriotic flare. We used a combination of gels and water spray to create moody portraits that related to her sport. One of my go-to gel packs for portraits like this is the Rosco Digital After Dark Filter Kit. In this shoot, we utilized the R2001 Storaro Red, R66 Cool Blue, and R74 Night Blue filters inside the kit to stay patriotic and create some variation in the color from shot to shot.

A quick tip for using water spray: make sure you backlight it so that the spray shows up on camera. You can also sidelight it, but backlighting really gives it that pop. For Sophia’s shoot, the hairlight (or swim cap light, in this case) doubled as a backlight and captured the spray perfectly.

Kara Winger
Olympic portraits

Kara Winger is getting ready to throw her javelin in her FOURTH Olympic games! Until recently, Kara was the American record holder in Javelin and now she’s in Tokyo looking to reclaim her title. Kara’s not only an incredible athlete but she’s also an amazing human who works to help other athletes gain sponsorship and support for the journey. I met Kara many years ago and we have worked together on several projects throughout that time.

Olympic portraits

It’s always an honor to work with Kara, and I love seeing her career thrive – even during times of hardship. She recovered from her second knee injury and surgery during the pandemic to not only return to the sport – but then also qualify for Tokyo!

For this photo shoot, I wanted to do something in the studio that Kara and I hadn’t done before. I wanted these portraits to have more color and vibrance than our previous shoots. Again, I turned to the filters inside my trusty Digital After Dark kit. This time, it was R3152 Urban Vapor and R72 Azure Blue. In order to get a much shallower depth of field and darker, more saturated colors, we employed the HSS feature of our strobes in the studio.

In another setup, we used the R66 Cool Blue and R3441 Full Straw filters to invoke a more thoughtful mood by using contrasting cool and warm light.

Ginny Fuchs
Olympic portraits

Ginny Fuchs was one of the first Team USA boxers to qualify for the Tokyo Games, and she is one of the top-ranked flyweight boxers in the world. She is on her way to her second Olympic games and I think her chances of coming home with some shiny new hardware are pretty high. Many people don’t realize that Olympic athletes make little-to-no money from their sport and that they’re completely self-funded most of the time. Especially in women’s boxing which is not usually aired on television – making it hard to gain sponsorship.

Our shoot was to promote her and help bring attention to her incredible accomplishments, as well as further her voice for OCD awareness and treatment. Her story of perseverance and overcoming the odds is the reason I love working with Olympic athletes. I have found that stories like hers are the rule, not the exception. I walk away from our time together not only feeling inspired by her but also knowing that others will, hopefully, be inspired by her portraits.

We had some fun with this shoot utilizing colors and long exposures to create dynamic images that show power and agility. I also wanted to create portraits that evoked a sense of mystery to draw the viewer into her story. On the long exposure images, we tapped into our Digital After Dark kit once again and grabbed the R72 Azure Blue and R15 Deep Straw filters to create color in the blur. In our moody portraits, we mixed the supersaturated look of R2001 Storaro Red with R74 Night Blue and then added a beam of R66 Cool Blue in the background to create some separation and depth.


Hopefully, Aaron’s images, and the stories behind them, have inspired you to take an interest in these three amazing athletes. If you would like to keep updated on their careers, please follow them on Instagram by clicking/tapping their handles below.

Thanks to Rosco Ambassador Aaron Anderson for sharing these portraits with us, and for also sharing the stories behind them. If you’d like to see more of his work, please visit his website: andersonvisuals.com – or follow @aaronandersonvisuals on Instagram.

If Aaron’s Olympic portraits have inspired you to add color into your portrait photography, be sure to explore the Digital After Dark Filter Kit page on our website. While this kit was originally designed for nighttime exterior & light painting photography – many portrait photographers have fallen in love with the saturated colors found inside.

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Joel Svendsen

About Joel Svendsen

Content Marketing Manager: Joel's Rosco career began in Rosco's Hollywood office in 1999 – first in sales covering the Western US and the Los Angeles Film & Television market, and then as Product Manager for Rosco's Film & Television Products. Joel's knowledge about Rosco's products and how they're used in each of our different marketplaces makes him well suited for bringing the stories in Spectrum to life.