Feature | Using Profoto strip softboxes by Nyla Sammons image

My go to light modifiers in general are a beauty dish or an octabox, which are generally the first types of light modifiers photographers buy after they have experimented with umbrellas and soft boxes, because of the nice quality of light those light modifiers produce. Recently I got to photograph Muay Thai boxer, Lawrence Brown and when I started planning the photoshoot, I knew I would want to light Lawrence with a four point lighting set up, which would include two strip boxes.

Why you may ask… well I knew I wanted to have the side Lawrence’s body illuminated and not lit in a flat way with one big light modifier. So I rented out two Profoto 1 x 6′ strip boxes. The long shape of the strip box, creates a unique light fall-off, which gives a soft, but dramatic light.

In controlling the spread of light and how it falls on the boxer, I created more of a dramatic mood. I did have a grid which I could have used, to control the light fall off even more, but when I did the test shots without the grid earlier on, it seemed to work perfectly. Although I didn’t need to use the grid, I do recommend you bring it on set, just in case you need to contain the spread of light.

When I set up lights for a photoshoot, I always build the lights one by one, so I started off with the right strip box and then the left strip box to get the right exposure for the sides of his body. I had the strip boxes in the boxing ring originally, but found that I didn’t get a nice light fall off, so I moved the strip boxes outside of the boxing ring. Once I was happy with the look of the light on the sides of Lawrence, I then exposed correctly for the back light and then the main light. Below is a photo of just the use of the strip boxes.

© Nyla Sammons 2018

I used a reflector as the light modifier on an Elinchrom light for the back light, to add light to his hair, so it wouldn’t get lot when I made the background darker in photoshop. I flagged the light at the bottom of the reflector, to reduce the light that was spilling onto his shoulders. I used a beauty dish, with silver on the inside, for the main light. I choose this light modifier to give a slightly contrasty look. I didn’t want to use a soft box and make the light too soft. Below is a BTS photo so you can see my lighting set up.

© Nyla Sammons 2018

The result that I was after, are shown in the photos below. A combination of dramatic lighting, but soft and flattering. The 1 x 6 long strip box, was a great choice as it pumped out enough light that reached some of the shadows, this allowed the transition between light and shade, more soft and gentle.

If you have time and access to a venue where you are doing a photoshoot, it’s always a good idea to check what the location looks like before the day of the photoshoot. Unfortunately I was unable to see the gym beforehand due to lack of time. So when I turned up at 7am, I was faced with a busy gym and a lot of boxers training. This then limited me to using one side of the ring away from people but I faced the problem of having the ropes of the ring next to a wall cluttered with posters and signs. At that point I made the conscious decision that I would darken the background in photoshop, to eliminate the distracting wall. Below are the retouched images.

© Nyla Sammons 2018

© Nyla Sammons 2018

For the next set of photos, I wanted Lawrence sitting down in the ring, I moved the lights to the other corner of the ring, because I wanted to get the look and feel of Lawrence in a boxing ring that was in a gym. This was the corner that would have me facing the problem of people walking behind Lawrence. I cut the ambient light quite a bit using high speed sync, but I didn’t want to kill off too much light, so I kept an eye to see when I could photograph safely. For this set up, I changed the colour temperature in camera to give a more cooler tone to the image. Again I used all four lights with the strip boxes working their magic on Lawrence to produce a dramatic and contrasty look.

You can see the retouched photos below.

© Nyla Sammons 2018

© Nyla Sammons 2018

To see more of Nyla’s work, have a look at her website here – www.nylasammons.com


Video: Nick Blackburn | Music: ‘I dunno’ by Grapes 2008 – Licensed under creative Commons Attribution (3.0)


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