Boxer photography: punch up your portraits with off-camera flash

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My photographic journey began in 2018 when my career as a musician ended and a family member gave me a DSLR. I needed something to fill the creative void in my life, and the camera I received (a Nikon D50) became my new obsession.

I started taking her to the gyms I frequented to learn how to take the amazing dynamic shots I saw on social media, in books and magazines. I was particularly drawn to combat sports and CrossFit, as I was fascinated by the discipline and effort required to compete at a high level.

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I read every article and watched every YouTube tutorial I could, and when that wasn’t enough, I started reaching out to professionals on social media. I was amazed at how many responded with advice or compliments. In the end, I learned the most by doing it. I found myself adapting to different environments and the people who inhabited them. It sounds cliché, but I really want to tell a story and I hope that comes through in my images.

Top Tips for Shooting Fighter Portraits

(Image credit: Sacha Wiener)

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1) More flash, less money

I was once told, “If there isn’t enough light, create your own.” Gyms are often dark, dingy places, so using flash seemed logical. However, taking an expensive studio kit to these places just wasn’t practical, so I found the cheapest flashes. (opens in a new tab) I could on eBay (from Yongnuo). I then set about experimenting with where to place them.

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(Image credit: Sacha Wiener)

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2) It’s always prime time

I’ve tried just about every lens on the market and always come back to my “nifty 50” (currently using the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art (opens in a new tab)). I prefer to get as close to the action as possible to allow the viewer to feel the impact or at least feel like they are there. Also, prime lenses are sharper and I often need a shallow depth of field to gather as much light as possible (gyms really are always so dark!).

(Image credit: Sacha Wiener)

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3) Working with the environment

The power and position of the flash is essential to the style of your image and the appearance of the boxers body. Ideally, you want to light from the side or at 45°: this should bring shadow, form and depth to your images. You can also provide additional lighting for your background. Avoid full front lighting: save it for corporate portraits instead.

Sacha’s advice for successful shots

(Image credit: Sacha Wiener)

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Shooting in “live” environments is a challenge. You quickly learn where your limits are and what people tolerate. One of the biggest challenges I had when I started was getting people to ignore me. Social skills are especially important in these situations – you need to communicate effectively and explain what your intentions and processes are. The last thing I want to do is annoy or get in the way of training.

However, it doesn’t always go to plan, so make it fun. I once dropped a speed light on UFC fighter Mason Jones’ neck, which startled and hurt him, so I told him his “situational awareness” needed help. be worked. We all laughed – luckily! Developing relationships with your subjects is essential to making them feel comfortable. If they feel comfortable, the closer you can get.

Finally, I would say that you really only learn by doing. Shoot as much as you can in different tough spots and always have a plan of what you want before you start. This way you can assess what went well and what didn’t. Next time you’ll be a little better

(Image credit: Sacha Wiener)

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Play with light

Ultimately, photography is a process of manipulating light. Flares, strobes, haze, mirrors, smoke, and prisms are simply tools of the trade. I love experimenting with the way light bounces through a prism (especially with flash) because you never know what kind of magical rainbow highlights you can get. Of course, too much of the same gets boring. However, once in a while, I pull out my prism and just have fun producing a series of shots.

For more works by André, see his instagram (opens in a new tab) to feed.

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