Bare Knuckle Boxer

In a recent shoot at CDIA, we were all shooting fashion models in glamour, fashion, and your basic "All-American" type styles. By contrast, one model showed he had a tough, serious side which gave me the idea for a classic boxing shot that you might have seen 30 or 40 years ago.

Using hard, split lighting from two 20 grids mounted on strobes on either side I was able to produce some dramatic light bouncing off his shoulders and cheeks, while a 18" dish above him provided a hair light and kicker. In fact, this was the same light I used on this very different shot here, and yet the results have very different feels.

At the dollar general store across the street, I found a squirt bottle and a roll of sports tape to help prepare the shot. I wrapped the tape around his hands the way boxers do before putting on gloves, pressing it into the knuckles to make it look worn and used. Still the tape didn't have that look and feel of the real thing because it was so white and shiny. Luckily, with a little improvisation, I found some leftover chocolate cake nearby which had a rich brown color, so I convinced the model to let me rub some of it into the tape. Wiping off the excess, it perfectly matched what could have been some dried blood and dirt.

For the final touch, we squirted him down with some (warm) water. Luckily he was really getting into the idea, so he didn't mind (that much!). The lights kept drying out the beads of water on him, so we had to keep spraying him down from time to time. With a little coaching on where to hold the hands and how far to bend forward, soon we had had our sweaty prize fighter ready to go in front of the camera.

As I was using a wireless file transmitter (Canon WFT-E1A) on my 30D, we were able to see some fantastic shots come directly out of the camera and onto my laptop screen set up next to me. The visual feedback allowed us to make some minor adjustments, letting us nail every one.

For post production in Lightroom I applied the Nostalgic Preset from Matt Kloskowski, and that was it before round tripping into Photoshop CS3 for some selective adjustments. There in PS, I first made a new layer to do some basic heal / cloning to remove some acne. I opted not to do any beauty retouching because I wanted the rough, athletic look to the skin rather than a smooth glowing look. In fact, I ran a Hi Pass filter over the image, a technique that sharpens edges and make the image pop in a 3D kind of way. Finally on some adjustment layers I added some red to the knuckles and brightened up the eyes.

This was my pick for the best shot of the series because he had that one eye staring intently right into the lens, which I think makes the viewer feel that sense of intimidation that makes the photo work.

View the large photo on Flickr or on my Photoshop Express People gallery.