Portrait Lighting Tutorial: Cuban Boxer Erislandy Lara

When lighting for reality, I want to focus the attention on the people in my photographs – not where I placed the lights. For my photographs to be most successful, my intention is to suspend belief just a bit. If lighting is the first element the viewer focuses on, then I’ve put the emphasis on the wrong syl-LA-ble.

Cuban boxer Erislandy Lara
Cuban boxer Erislandy Lara photographed for Der Spiegel magazine
Sony A900 | Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 ZA | 1/160 sec | f/16 | ISO 200

I’d much rather light a scene in a way that makes it look like I’m just the luckiest bastard on earth who always seems to walk into the best situation with gorgeous lighting. And this was the look I was after with the portrait of Cuban boxer Erislandy Lara. Although the gym had flickering overhead fluorescent lamps that barely lit this windowless industrial warehouse space, I wanted viewers to believe that I just happened to walk into a gym with a giant wall of north light windows.

Cuban boxer Erislandy Lara

The shot was lit with a pair of Profoto AcuteB 600 packs. The main light used in this shot is a Profoto Beauty Dish side lighting him from about 30 degrees in front. The light is closer to the subject than the background, creating a natural falloff to the light.

Cuban boxer Erislandy Lara

A second Profoto Acute 2 D4 Flash Head with a Profoto Zoom Reflector on a small Manfrotto Mini kit stand directly behind the boxer aimed up at the flag adds just a kiss of light. It under-lights the ropes and highlights the flag. If you can keep this ratio fairly close, the light will blend nicely and appear natural instead of screaming, “look at me.”

Gear List:

Sony A900 camera (Amazon | B&H)
Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 ZA (Amazon | B&H)
Profoto AcuteB 600 (Amazon | B&H)
Profoto Acute 2 D4 Flash Head (Amazon | B&H)
Profoto Beauty Dish  (Amazon | B&H)
Profoto Zoom Reflector (B&H)
Avenger Alu-Baby 35 Stand with Lazy Leg (B&H)
Manfrotto 156BLB Mini Kit Stand (Amazon | B&H)

Come See Me October 31st at PhotoPlus Expo!

Portraits on Location: Capturing Personality and Place
Friday, Oct 31, 2014 – 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM
Speaker: Brian Smith

Great environmental portraits capture both personality and place. Miami celebrity portrait photographer Brian Smith has spent the past 30 years photographing noteworthy and notorious celebrities in the locations where they live, work and play. He’ll show how he photographs subjects on location so that the environment adds another dimension to the shoot, with examples of how he approaches location shoots whether it’s a large production with a famous subject or an individual he encounters on the street while traveling. Smith will also discuss location lighting and offer tips on selecting the best setting to add visual interest to your photographs.

HUGE THANKS to PDN for having me and to Sony for sponsoring this talk! You can also find me speaking twice a day at Sony Booth 519 on the PPE Expo floor. Please stop by and say hi!


Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Photographs of the Famous and InfamousIn case you can’t make it to PhotoPlus Expo 2014, you can still get the behind-the-scenes celebrity portrait stories in “˜Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Photographs of the Famous and Infamous‘ from New Riders Press. The book draws upon the lessons I’ve learned over the last three decades photographing portraits of the rich and famous. The book blends lavish celebrity portraits of a coffee table book with technical how-to insights with a side dish of behind-the-scenes celebrity stories.

Secrets of Great Portrait Photography takes you though all the stages of a portrait shoot from pre-production planning through posing your portrait through perfecting your shot in post-production. Loaded with details about three decades of portrait photography, each chapter of this 264 page book, is packed full of tips to successful portrait photography sharing all the details of lessons learned from each shoot.

[booberry”_blank” style=”” class=”btn_red” link=”http://bit.ly/PortraitSecrets” target=”_blank”]ORDER YOURS AND SAVE 35% WITH CODE: BRIANSMITH


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