AD4803 Studio – Shoot 2 – Flash Lighting

On Wednesday 6th April, I shot Brett Johns, an MMA fighter who has just been accepted into the UFC and had his debut fight in November, which he won. Brett was who I had hoped to shoot for this module, so I was happy that he was available for the shoot.

I decided to shoot using flash lighting to contrast the shoot on the day before, and to give more options. As well as this, I think this style would fit in in Men’s Health, my magazine of choice, as it tends to portray athletes as powerful and in some cases, intimidating. We met in the gym he trains in which I know well, and he agreed that we could turn off the lights to make the room as dark as possible to avoid ambient light spoiling the effect of the flash.

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


The other two shots missing were blank as the flash didn’t fire.

Unfortunately, a number of these images are half black due to the 1/125 shutter speed I was using which I have now realised is too fast for the use of flash. However, while on shoot I accidentally changed the shutter speed to 1/60 which enabled me to get 7 shots without the black.

Generally, I’m happy that I decided to experiment with flash as I think some of the shots are successful, and had the shutter speed been correct and my focusing skills been better, I think the use of flash would’ve produced a very successful shoot. I wanted to create harsh shadows on the wall behind Brett as well as on him to portray him as powerful and intimidating which is how MMA fighters are often shown in the media.


This was my plan heading into the shoot. I planned on shooting Brett with similar framing on all of the pictures, but with the flash being shot from different angles. I also considered using props such as his UFC gloves, T-shirt, and title belts he’s won to make the portraits more visually interesting.

This was the setup I at the start, used but the lights were turned off. Brett stood against the white wall as I wanted it to look more like a typical studio and I knew that the shadows I wanted to achieve would project better on a plain white wall. Although the flash is facing into the umbrella here, I eventually turned it so it was turned on Brett as the flash wouldn’t have been strong enough otherwise. I found it even more difficult to focus in the dark, so I asked another MMA fighter to hold the flash light on my phone on Brett’s face while I focused, and then turn it off just before I shot. This made it considerably easier to focus on Brett’s eyes.

Both images need to be flipped in post production to make the UFC logo the correct way around

These images are both unsuccessful for different reasons. The image on the left is out of focus. This is disappointing as I think if it was in focus, it would’ve been a good portrait. I think the flash has worked well and the shadows being created, particularly on Brett’s face are effective at making him look more intimidating.

The image on the right is slightly out of focus, but it’s also over exposed. I would assume that this is because I used too wide an aperture, or that the flash was too close to his face.


The lighting worked more successfully in this image (in comparison to the top 2) but the focus is off again. I think it would’ve been more ideal if I had a bigger light to use while focusing as I find it difficult on film anyway, so trying to focus with minimal lighting made it more difficult. However, I like the shadow cast on the backdrop here as well as on the side of the nose. I think the use of the UFC gloves as a prop distracts from Brett’s face which is what was meant to be the focal point. If I was to re-shoot, I would try and lower the guard more. I think the UFC gloves along with the UFC branded t-shirt, the image looks a bit over-crowded.

The below image was inspired by Ross McRae’s image shot for the group portrait task which I mentioned in my ‘Shoot Plans’ blog post (Link to post):



I liked the use of shadows and thought it would be effective at making my subject look ore intimidating which is typical of Men’s Health magazine, as well as in the general portrayal of MMA fighters. I think the shadow had the desired effect. However, I think it would’ve been more successful if I had used a wider frame so the top of his head was included in the shadow. This would’ve been more difficult to predict as I couldn’t see how high the shadow was projected onto the wall without shooting on DLSR which I wasn’t able to do as I didn’t have a hot shoe adaptor. I think the shadows being cast onto his face work particularly well as he looks intimidating and threatening. However, the main reason this image is let down is because of the lack of focus in my opinion.


This image is focused correctly (on the eyes which was my intention for all of the images), but I used a shutter speed of 1/125 which made it too fast for the flash to sync with it.  However, I think the lighting has worked well (the flash was to the right of the subject, the image hasn’t yet been flipped) and the shadows are working at empahasising the structure of his face.

In a previous blog post, I tried to recreate an image by David Clerihew (Link to blog post). I liked the crop on the picture and I had intended on re-creating it but found it difficult to focus so close on my subjects’ face. I think this image could be saved by using a similar crop:


David Clerihew’s Image

ShapeSilhouette059 CROPPED

My cropped image


I think this was one of two successful images of the day. For the most part, I believe that my subjects’ eyes are in focus and I like the pop of red on the shirt. The positioning of his body works better as his hands aren’t in front of him which caused a distraction in previous images. I like that the majority of the right side of his face is in shadow, as it adds element of mystery. As well as that, I think that this style of photograph would fit in well in Men’s Health Magazine which is the magazine I was shooting for.


In my opinion, this image was by far the most successful of the day. I think both the lighting and focusing work well, and Brett’s intense stare into the camera makes it more intimidating, making it fit with the style that harsh flash provides more. I like the shadowing on his face, and the lack of shadow being cast onto the wall behind leaves us as the audience to look directly at his face without being distracted by anything else.

Overall, I am pretty happy with how this shoot went. Although I was disappointed with the shots which were half black, if I had to do this shoot again, I would feel more confident with using both film and flash in this way. I also feel that as I made the schoolboy error of the 1/125 shutter speed with flash, that I wouldn’t make the same mistake again. The flash worked almost exactly how I had intended and the images would fit in if they were published in Men’s Health.


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