Photographing a Golden Gloves Boxer and MMA Fighter. - KAG

On the Road to the Golden Gloves

Elisabeth "Liz" Jagger is a boxer on the way to the Women's National Golden Gloves tournament in Florida.   I've watched Liz progress at our gym for several years, and I can tell you she is tough, dedicated, fast and powerful. As with all up and coming pro fighters, Liz needed a professional headshot and video for her sponsors. In this post, I'll explain how we created the shot, and the thought process behind the decisions.


Photographing a Female Boxer and MMA Fighter

I've photographed a number professional male fighters and pro sports figures, but this was the first time I've photographed a professional female boxer and MMA fighter. For this sports photography portrait, I wanted to create an image that showed her toughness and determination but also her beauty. 


Behind the scenes, natural window light and LED lighting

Trust - The Key to a Great Portrait

Capturing a great portrait requires trust between the photographer and the subject. It can be awkward getting in front of a camera. People can freeze up or be uncomfortable and that can show in a portrait. In this case, I had a few things going in my favor. Liz and I already knew each other and had worked out together a few times over the years. I think that made Liz comfortable and willing to trust me, photographically.  If you don't know your subject well, get to the shoot early and get to know them. Find out about their likes, dislikes, fight record and style so you can have a comfortable conversation before shooting. 


Boxing and MMA Experience Helps You Photograph Boxers and MMA Fighters. 

Additionally, because I have boxed and trained in MMA and Krav Maga for years, I am familiar with  training routines, proper hand position and chin position for fighters.  Photographically,  hand position is a little bit tricky because you want the boxer to look like they know how to cover themselves and punch. One of my pet peeves is seeing a boxing or fitness picture with a thumb stuck out in the wrong position, where you wold jam (or break) your thumb if you actually hit something. It's a dead giveaway that your model doesn't actually fight. On the other hand, you don't want your subject to completely cover up their face. If you are using side lighting you have to be mindful of the shadows that high hands cast on the face.  Liz has piercing eyes and a strong jaw line so I wanted to be sure the lighting and hand position accentuated her jaw without covering it up too much.


Lighting-The Beauty of Battery Operated LED's

For this portrait I used a combination of LED lighting and natural lighting. Since there was a large window to camera left with big beautiful light, I took advantage of it. I also turned off the overhead lights. Next I added a Manfrotto Lykos LED light. LED lights are great for portraits because you can see how the light is falling on your subject, and dial the lights up and down. I put the light on a tripod as you can see above. The LED also put a light into Liz's eyes, which otherwise would have looked dead.  The lights also subtlety lit up the cage behind her which adds to the grittiness of the image. Initially, I thought about using two LED's but decided to only use one so the light would fall off on the (camera right) side of her face, making the image even more dramatic. While we were photographing the power kept going on and off due to the utility company installing new street lights on the block. I was really glad I had my battery operated LED's and back up battery! 


Camera Settings & Post-Processing

The image was captured with a Canon 7D Mk II, and the Tamron 24-70 f/2.8, 60 mm at f/5.6, 1/50th of a second.  I turned Tamron's Vibration Compensation off because the camera was on a tripod. Tamron techs recommend turning it off on a tripod, but keeping it on when hand holding shots. My tripod of choice for a portrait is the Manfrotto 055 CF tripod and Manfrotto ball-head, a rock steady combination that works well for me.  I post-processed the image in Lightroom with a quick roundtrip to photoshop for light retouching. In Lightroom I decreased the highlights and blacks, upped the clarity and vibrance, and added a vignette and some dodging and burning. Finally, since I photographed in raw, I added sharpening. 

Final Image After Post-Processing

About Elisabeth Jagger

Elisabeth is a boxer and MMA fighter who trains out of Triton MMA Gym in Redondo Beach, CA. She competes in the Golden Gloves in July in Florida. In her own words, her goal is to "come back with not just a belt in my weight class but also the understanding of how much competition there is in her weight class outside of Los Angeles. I want the experience of going into completely new territory and dominating that area. I'd like to catch the attention of people and let them know I'm climbing to the top."  You can follow Elisabeth on her journey to the Golden Gloves on Instagram HERE.


About the Photographer

Kevin Gilligan is a professional landscape, portrait and sports photographer from L.A's South Bay. Kevin is a Manfrotto Ambassador and Tamron Pro. Kevin's work has been published nationally and museum displayed. You can read about his exhibitions, publications and guest podcasts by clicking on his bio HERE.


You can follow Kevin on social media, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest @photosbykag. Email Kevin about collaborating on a project. Thanks for reading, if you enjoyed this post, please share it on social media! 

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