Pan"Tone" - Sports Photography Project With a Color Twist

Pan"Tone" - Sports Photography Project With a Color Twist

When a D1 collegiate athlete becomes a photographer, you should watch out. Zach Ancell is a commercial sports photographer from Portland and has been shooting for almost 10 years now. As any self-respecting creative, he does his own personal projects between the commercials he shoots. Pan"Tone," which is one of Ancell's recent shoots caught my attention, and he kindly agreed to share all we want to know about the set.

Usually, the studio shoots Ancell does end up being on black, grey, or white backdrops, but not earlier this year, when he shot a project for Nike Baseball. All those images were set on a red background and the results triggered an urge to make something vivid and fresh. Ancell's bright colors also became more likable to his audience on Instagram.

Ancell had just finished a personal project "Get Out & Run" shot outside, but the weather was still horrible in Portland this winter. Not to waste the precious time awaiting for a good weather, Ancell decided to shoot athletes on different color backgrounds and have their clothing match the same color in studio. 

It did not take a long time for Nancy Wright, the stylist of the set, to get the wardrobe together. She was in charge of the styling, makeup, hair, and finding outfits that were similar enough in color and tone so Ancell could easily edit in post.

All was shot in two days on white background, to keep the cost lower. The post production involved changing background colors, matching wardrobe colors and skin cleanup.

Lighting diagram of Pan"Tone" series provided by Zach Ancell.

The setup was super simple. One big octabox and two lights for the background. Simplicity was key for this concept. Ancell didn't want to go crazy with lights and knew he could get desired results with a single light source. Everything was shot on a Nikon D810 DSLR with a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II Lens.

The three most difficult images were the black, dark green, and red images. Ancell tells that the black image was just a mistake on my end. He had access to a black wall and should have shot the model on it to save himself from unnecessary additional retouching. 

The red and dark green images difficult because he shot blonde hair on a white background. This is a big time consuming issue, if you have to cut out your model from a white background and later put on a darker background. A lesson was learned and Ancell says he will at least turn off the background lights next time he is about to shoot something similar.

I asked Ancell if he will continue shooting Pan”Tone” series to have a wider color variety, and got a reasonable answer. He doesn't think what doing three, six, nine, or even more colors would add to the concept, so the set is more or less complete. However, he is looking forward to explore more ideas where color is a main factor.

Ancell is pretty happy with the outcome of the project. Amazing how a project, which was really just something to keep him occupied turned into one of his most popular projects ever. In addition, Ancell met some incredible women, who were delighted with the outcome and surely would be happy to collaborate on upcoming personal projects or commercials.

You can follow this bright artist at his Facebook and Instagram pages.

Images used with permission of Zach Ancell.

Emma Grigoryan's picture

Emma Grigoryan is an award winning Fine Art/Fashion photographer based in Armenia. She enjoys styling and creating her own sets and looks: be it a conceptual shoot or a beauty look. Her biggest inspirations are diversity, color, water and geometry. Since 2012 she is a contributor for Art+Commerce and Vogue Italia.

Log in or register to post comments

This is seriously so freaking cool!!

What an awesome project.

I like it, it's nice and simple. Nothing on fire, nothing cliche.

An awesome project combined with some awesome shots

Thanks everybody! I really appreciate it! I'm still a little surprised that this little simple project that I did without much thought has been so popular. Now, on to the next (hopefully) great thing!

go for it !


I love this!!!! Very inspiring!

Thanks for sharing. It's inspiring and makes me want to try it.