How You Shot It is a series where you show us how you shot an image. Many who use our presets love to share their special processing recipes. You can join the SLR Lounge Textures and Presets group on Facebook and share your favorite images and recipes as well!

Today’s post comes from Gurminder Banga.


Barstarzz is an extraordinary international work out team who come together to inspire each other and others to workout through Creative Calisthenics. While I was in New York on an internship with Kareem Black, a commercial photographer, I had reached out to Barstarzz about having a photo-session. Coming from a wedding and portrait photography background, this was the first time I ever shot fitness athletes, so it definitely was a challenge for me to take on this new project.

It was 6:30am on a cold winter morning in Washington Heights, and my idea was to get as many images as possible on the rooftop of a 37-story building during sunrise…before we got arrested for trespassing. Once we got on the rooftop, I asked Vertical, the Barstarzz member in the image, if could do a handstand in the corner and he excitingly agreed! After many attempts and through trial and error, we got the shot!

The Gear I Used

How I Shot It

The first thing I did once we arrived at the shoot location was scan the area to figure out the best way to make my vision come to life. Once I found a location on the rooftop, I asked Vertical to demonstrate how the handstand would look, this way I could figure out the placement of lighting and where Vertical needed to be positioned.


Afterward, I asked him to stand on the ledge as I set my camera settings to how I wanted the background to look and then manually adjusted my flash outfits to balance the natural light. I took my first test shot of him standing to see where the natural light would fall, however, I noticed that my angle was too low and I was not getting the right lighting, as well as I could not capture the buildings and its gradual drift into the horizon.

In order to overcome that challenge, I tried to stand upon my Pelican Case, however, I still wasn’t high enough. So, then I stood on another Barstazz Member shoulders and yet, I still couldn’t get the right perspective. Finally, I had him stand on the Pelican Case as I was sitting on his shoulder and we finally got the right angle. Pretty crazy, right? Once we overcame that challenge, it was time to shoot!


Additional Tips

  • Dress warmly
  • Persistence – you won’t always get the shot on the first attempt, but continue to encourage yourself and the subject to push your limits further
  • Arrive early – when shooting during sunrise, you have a small window to get the shot with the nice warm tones, so arrive early, set up and just wait for the right moment
  • Vision – keep your subject engaged and motivated throughout the shoot. Share the vision you have in mind so they can help make it come to life
  • Photoshop-layer on one mask at a time
  • Risk – Do anything it takes to get that shot & just have fun!

How I Processed It

For my previous projects I would use Lightroom for my colour grading, dodging & burning and then Photoshop for any further post-production. This is actually my first ever photo that was entirely edited in Photoshop.


  1. Raw file (unedited)
  2. Camera Raw – Increased white balance to give the image a warmer tone, added a bit of contrast & clarity to help make the image pop
  3. Sky – Sky was overexposed and distracting the image as a whole. I took these steps (on separate layers) to achieve the mood I was going for.
    • Added a custom gradient over ¾ of the image starting from the top left corner
    • Added a warming filter to the entire image that helped balance the right side of the sky with the left side
    • Created a lens flare to help emphasized the existing flare and tweaked it by adding a curves clipping mask. (In image 5, I enhanced the flare even more)

Colour Grading


  1. Brightness & Contract – Reduced the brightness significantly and added a bit of contrast to the overall image
  2. Colour Balance with a Mask – Added a blue tint to the aluminum ledge and on Vertical to show the colour contrast between the orange sun and the winter cold

Final Touches


  1. Liquify – Slimmed down his waist, straightened out his jeans and reduced the size of his right shoe
  2. Burning – Darkened the area underneath his head & some areas in the background
  3. Dodging – The right side of his body
  4. Blur Tool – Reduced the presence of some of the rooftops and cars on the ground

Final Image


I learned about the wonderful ways this group has changed not only their lives but also the lives of others. Through Creative Calisthenics and the positive environment they have built, people have stopped using drugs, beat depression and have gained a healthier outlook on life. What I loved most about this whole experience was how everyone picks up this brilliant culture of learning and is always striving to better one self. Everyone is happy during their workout because they are not fixated on getting to the end, but the actually enjoying the process and journey to get there.

What inspired me to do this completely risky shoot was Barstarzz’s unique ability to awaken inner strength and confidence, and I wanted to portray that same ability though my image. Vertical represents Creative Calisthenics and himself as he is facing the sunrise, which represents the awaking of self-worth and inner strength.

Through this experience, I have gained a new love for capturing people who strive to inspire. People who set goals and stop at nothing to achieve them; these are pretty much regular people doing extraordinary things. And that is what keeps me motivated to keep going.

About the “How to Shoot It” Series

This educational series highlights amazing images from our writers as well as our community. The goal is to not only feature inspirational work but to provide valuable education for our photography community. If you would like to submit your work, please click here for more info on writing for SLR Lounge.