AD4803 Studio – Shoot 1 – Natural Lighting

On Tuesday 5th April, I shot Ben Miles, an up and coming MMA Fighter who trains in the same gym as UFC fighter Brett Johns who was my original subject. I shot Ben because I wasn’t sure if I was going to have the opportunity to shoot Brett (I did, but the next day). I wanted to ensure that I had at least one roll if Brett cancelled for any reason.

We arranged to meet in the gym I had intended on shooting in for my natural light portraits, and luckily, it was a bright day, meaning the sunlight and lighting coming into the gym from the windows worked well with the portraits.

I had 15 shots on 160 ISO, 120mm colour film, and I used a Mamiya 645:

ContactSheet-001 BEN

The first 3 images were my attempt at using flash in a dark room. I was using a shutter speed of 1/125 which I now realise is too fast on film to sync correctly with flash. This explains the half black images.  Although the images are unusable, from what’s visible in them, I think the lighting worked well and the flash was able to bounce off the walls and ceiling in the dark room.

Fortunately, the other images were a lot more successful. I like the cool tones in them which is primarily there because of the blue walls in the gym.

*None of the images on this post have been edited in post production*


This was one of the first images shot using the natural window light. The window is to the right of the subject here which is obvious because of the brighter side of his face. I think it’s just about focused, but it could’ve been more sharp with practice. I like the depth of field used in this shot as it makes the subject the obvious focus. However, I think that the boxer in the background may be somewhat distracting; but some people may argue that it adds more context to the shot.  Because of that, I think that the following image is more successful:


This has less background which means less potential distraction for the audience. Again, it could’ve been sharper but I need more practice with using film. Overall, I think the lighting in these two portraits, while successful to some extent, is a bit boring, and that the images with more shadowing on them are more interesting.

I noticed some shadows from the window frame being projected onto the wall in a corner and I thought it may make the lighting a bit more interesting on my subject:


I think this works well, and the lighting actually helps to emphasise the muscle definition in the subjects’ arm as well as the jaw line on his face. I like that the subject isn’t standing face on to the camera as it adds more depth to the image. However, I didn’t realise that his glove was in frame. I think this ‘pop’ of colour throws off the image in general as the rest of the colours are neutral/ black and white. I did consider cropping to get rid of it as I think it’s a distraction, but I think if I did this, it would get rid of some of the shadowing on his lower right arm:

ShapeSilhouette071 cropped

I don’t like the image as much with this crop. I think it’s lost a lot of the shadowing and muscle definition in his arm. I will have to decide if I use this image in my final four portraits, and if I do, I have to decide whether to crop it or leave it as it was originally.

Then we moved into a different area in the gym which was considerably darker and had darker walls which had an impact on the lighting in the portraits. I considered using flash, but I thought it would be inconsiderate to the other people in the gym as it may distract them. Instead, I tried to position my subject in the streams of light that were coming in from the two windows and skylight:


The light is coming in primarily from the skylight in this portrait, and it’s created some soft shadows on the left side of his face which I think again, highlight his jawline. Although I think this image was one of the most successful portraits I shot on that day, if I had the chance to re-shoot, I would move one step to the left. That way, the distance between the window and the subjects’ ear would’ve been increased making the window less distracting, and the black pad on the machine would’ve been less prominent.

I tried to use the same lighting for a more full length shot of the subject and the machine:


I don’t think this frame worked as well as the others. This is primarily because the lighting is mainly on the lower half of the subjects’ body, leaving his face (arguably the most important part) in shadow. The lighting has, however, emphasised the muscle on his legs which would’ve been flattering had the face been in the light too.

Then I tried to take frames of him lifting weights:


I was pleasantly surprised that this was in focus where I had intended. I think this image works, however it could then be debated it this type of shot would be considered a portrait. I think the lighting worked surprisingly well as this was the darker part of the gym. By having the subject lift the weights for the picture, it clearly shows the muscle definition in his arms. I think this kind of shot would be used in an article about a fighter, but more as a smaller, filler image as opposed to a leading or opening image.


I thought this shot would be good in a magazine as it includes quite a lot of context. I like that the subject isn’t centre in either part of the image (as he appears twice). I found this more difficult to focus as it was a wider shot which I have struggled with before. However, I don;t think that the focusing was too bad on this. While not completely sharp, it’s relatively focused on the subject which was my intention.


This was the last portrait I shot on the day, and I would argue that it’s my most successful one. I’m very happy with the focusing on it as it’s on his left eye which was my intention. I used natural lighting but again, it was in a darker area of the gym which I think helped with the lighting in this image. I think I used an F stop of 2.8 which was the lowest I could go, along with a shutter speed of 1/125 and my 160 ISO film. I think the background helps to draw more attention to the focal point of the image which is the subjects’ eye. I think because it was shot in the darker side of the gym, it’s made the colours on his face more rich which I think works well in this portrait.

Overall, I am happy with this shoot in general. It went better than I had hoped, and although not all of the images were completely successful, I am confident that I have some images to include as some of if not all of my final 4 for the module. I’m also happy that the use of natural lighting and the style of the shoot would be appropriate for Men’s Health; my magazine of choice, as this was one of the key parts of the module.


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