I’ve been told many times that if you shoot what you love, and if you shoot it well, you will be rewarded with jobs that you truly enjoy shooting. Such was the case with this advertising shoot for East Coast MMA Fight Shop. The owner of the store, Zach, saw my portrait series The NY Fighter Project and contacted me to discuss creating some new imagery for his store’s advertisements. Zach has connections with a lot of local fighters from MMA, Muay Thai, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and was able to schedule Muay Thai legend Crom (Chris Romulo) for the photo shoot to wear his “CLASSIC” t-shirt (Crom’s nickname is Mr. Classic) and the East Coast Muay Thai t-shirt. We also had Zach’s close friend Jared on board, who although is not a professional fighter certainly has the look to pull it off.
We had full access to Crom’s Muay Thai gym in Far Rockaway, NY for the shoot. It was the perfect setting for what East Coast MMA Fight Shop wanted in the images. Although the gym was just wide enough to have the Muay Thai ring in the middle, this was not too big of a problem for us to get plenty of set ups completed in the day. The day began with shooting Crom in the ring wearing the East Coast Muay Thai t-shirt. As much as I would have liked to shoot action shots of Crom shadow boxing, kicking, and kneeing at the camera or a punching bag, our art director wanted to keep the shots very simple and focus completely on the t-shirt. Definitely an understandable request so I worked with the elements of the gym and my lighting to make the images as interesting as possible. The photo above is being lit by two lights. The key light is an Elinchrom Ranger in a 53″ Deep Octa high and camera left. The second light is an Elinchrom Ranger Quadra bare bulb and way in the background to camera left. That Quadra is filling in some of the shadows in the background and creating the highlight on the punching bag. It’s also creating a little bit of a rim light around the camera left side of Crom. After all the lighting was set up it was pretty easy to get a tough look out of Crom. Something like “Ok Crom, look as if you’re ready to punch my head off my shoulders.” CLICK. Done.
Set up directly behind where I was shooting from for the first photos was a small gray seamless background. The art director wanted mostly environmental photos for this project but also decided it would be beneficial to have at least one photo on a simple background. Although we had to keep the main photos as simple as possible, I was able to shoot some shadow boxing photos which I found much more interesting. We used the 53″ Deep Octa for the key light set up high and camera left. A Chimera large strip box with a grid was set up slightly behind and camera right to Crom for separation from the background.
When we were done shooting with Crom we got set up for Jared’s photos. These photos were to be all shot with the gym in the background as well as some outdoor locations. Lucky for us the gym was only 2 blocks from the beach. This first photo was obviously created in Crom’s gym. The AD wanted to show some kind of training details in the photo while still keeping it very simple so we decided the best thing to do was have Jared in front of a punching bag and wrapping his hands as if he was getting ready to get some time in on the bags. The 53″ Deep Octa was used again as the key light from high and camera right and a white reflector was put in place just below Jared’s hands to fill in those shadows.
When we completed the first set up in the gym we headed out towards the beach. While approaching the stairs that bring you up to the boardwalk, I noticed the side of the stairs had a beautiful texture and color that contrasted really well with what Jared was wearing. I love shooting in a run and gun kind of style, looking for anything that will work well for the photos. Obviously this can’t always be the way to shoot (depends on your client) but when it is available, I’ll take it anytime. So when we got the “tough fighter” style photos in the bag, I wanted to get something a bit more different and show a happier guy in the photos. Not all fighters fit the stereotype of an animal always looking to punch you in the face, so I thought let’s show this guy smiling. I think it worked out well.
Much thanks goes out to Zach and his crew at East Coast MMA Fight Shop for a great shoot. I had an incredible time working with this team and am looking forward to collaborating on new projects in the future.