Lions boxing club. Six boxers, one kick boxer, a great make-up artist, and two totties. Is that sexist? Probably. But it fits the sterotype 😉 Oh, and ten photographers, 25 light stands, 30 flash guns plus and unknown number of light modifiers, bags, iPads, triggers and various other devices. The club was packed, but it was a great day out with the Essex Strobists.

The club is normally closed for business on Sundays, so Danny Stoten who runs the club had let us borrow it, complete with boxers and all. We started at 10 in the morning with setting up while the girls were having their make-up done, and before long there were photographers packed in every corner of the gym. It’s not a huge gym, so on several occasions we had to be shooting across each other’s setups, but it worked.

The boxers were a friendly crowd, and the only thing they punched (thank God!) was the punchbags. A few black eyes were seen, but they were courtesy of Charlie, our make-up artist, rather than the result of sparring gone wild.

Picture of James, with a sharp flashlight burst over his right eye

This is a failed shot. The flash behind James was meant to provide rim-light (i.e., light up his hair so you can tell it apart from the background), but in order to do that, I had to make sure the flash was completely hidden behind James’ head. And I didn’t. So it isn’t the way it was meant to be, but it is my favourite shot from the entire day. I imagine this view, someone’s eye in sharp focus and blinding light around, must be somewhat like actually being in the ring.

A photographer shooting two models

A behind-the-scenes look. Here Yat is photographing Katarina and Ana. Behind the models you can see Nick who is shooting another image. And on the left, in the mirror, is a bit of our mess plus three boxers with their mobile phones capturing the proceedings.

All 6 boxers and two models

While the photographers were setting new shots up, the boxers tended to find the two twin models Katarina and Ani and take pictures of each other on their mobile phones. I noticed and offered to catch the same shot, but maybe a bit better lit. It wasn’t long before I had 9 photographers yelling at me “you stole all our models”. On the plus side, here’s most of the gang (except Chloe the kick boxer and Charlie the make-up artist).

Image with focus on an outstretched fist with the boxer's face behind out of focus

Inspired by a picture of Muhammed Ali’s fist, here is James holding his hand out. I had initially wanted to shoot it with as narrow a depth-of-field as possible at f/1.4, but that rendered the face completely unrecognisable. So here’s a compromise at f/4.5


Dan’s black eye is courtesy of our make-up artist Charlie. I wanted to try something different from the hero-look that many of the images were getting, so I got Dan to wet his hair, while Charlie sprayed his face with glycerin (it looks like water drops, but doesn’t evaporate nearly as quickly). With a point of view looking down at Dan, I hope it gives a different feel.


Traditional head-and-shoulder portrait of Thomas. The vague light shining through his hair is what rim light should look like, as opposed to the first picture of James above.


Another behind-the-scenes image. Here one of the photographers is helping the boxers grab a picture of themselves with Chloe, the kickboxing model, on someone’s mobile phone.


Ali warming up by having a go at the punchbag.


Chloe, our kickboxing model. This is another “failed” shot. As well as the magenta light on the wall, there was meant to be a bright white light aimed at Chloe. But I was shooting quicker than the flash could recharge, so by mistake got a silhouetted shot. As it happens, I like that better than the ones where all the light fired.


Be afraid. Be very afraid. Katarina is striking a protective pose behind her gloves.


Normally I’m not a big fan of fake black&white conversions, but I think the stark contrasts here work with the subject matter. And I had to find a way to not let the bright blue and red of the punch bag steal the attention away from Ali’s concentrated face and the tight muscles in his biceps.

All in all it was a great day. Many thanks to Danny for letting us use the club, to James, Dan, Thomas, Ali, Danny, Katarina, Ani and Chloe for modelling, to Charlie for make-up, and to Yat and the Esses Strobists for making it all happen!