Feeding the Crave for Photography with Profoto

Our friend, Leonardo Carrizo, is a multi-media storyteller who travels around the world capturing the story behind the destination.  In this stateside blog entry, Carrizo takes us behind the scenes of a very powerful shoot featuring local Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu athletes with Profoto gear!


I’m always thinking about what to photograph next. It’s like an addiction, if I’m not planning to photograph something, anything, I’ll get antsy. I need to feed this craving with a constant dose of photography. So, I look for opportunities to make images when I’m not teaching, doing workshops or leading photo expeditions. Commissioned work is always great but at the same time, you should always try to work on personal projects and collaborate with other people in the industry. This can be a one-day photo-shoot or a long-term personal project. The idea is to keep your skills sharp, to experiment with new techniques or equipment and most of all to have fun. Getting in the habit to be constantly making photos will only make you a better photographer.

For me, portraits are my quick fix to feed the crave. Portraits offer many creative options and are very satisfying. Think about everything you can do with lights and consider how many choices you have in your subjects. You can photograph men, women, young, old, craftsmen, without props, with props, any location etc. The possibilities are endless. So, I brought together a group of exceptional people to collaborate in a sort of fitness and fashion photo-shoot, each bringing their own unique skills. The best part is that we all did it for fun and I had the opportunity to play with portable Profoto B1 500 watts lights.

Let me present you to the team:

Model: Laura Hallock, a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at Ronin Training Center, ranked in the top 25th female competitors in the world, a NPC bikini competitor and personal trainer. She leads a women -only BJJ class and has taught several national women-only self-defense workshops. Just don’t underestimate her fighting skills, she can choke you before you know it.  Just remember to tap out fast or you’ll be going to sleep.

Model: Vitor Oliveira, a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. IBJJF World Champion two consecutive years. Head coach of the GFTeam in Columbus, Ohio and Co-owner of Ronin Training Center where he opened the gym for us to do the photoshoot. With all his achievements and world recognition in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu community you could image him being out of reach but that’s not the case. He is a very humble guy with a passion for helping others not only in the gym but outside as well. And he is also an avid photographer!

Make-up and hair artist: Amber Preston has over 6 years of professional work. She was amazing. If you think you don’t need somebody on set to do make-up and hair- you are mistaken. There is nothing better than having another professional during the photo-shoot with attention to detail looking at and retouching make-up and hair as you go. It’s something very easy for the photographer to forget since we want to concentrate on the lights and poses.

David Bernstein was my photo assistant on the set. This is funny to me because I’m usually assisting him. He is one of the best photographers I know and a great friend. Visually we see the world totally different yet we have mutual respect and passion for photography. David and I are embarking on a new adventure leading photography workshops abroad starting in the Galapagos Islands.

Finally, without the support of Midwest Photo it would be impossible for me do this shoot. As always, they support our community of creative people and provided the Profoto B1 500w/s lights, beauty dish, stands and other gear for us. How many photo stores do you know would be so encouraging of creative people and collaborating with them? Not many and that’s what sets them apart. They have a great inventory of rental gear from top brand names so you can use pro-gear anytime you want. At the end of the post, I’ll have a list of all the gear used.

With a team this good, the only thing I had to do was to press the shutter button. Ok, maybe I did a bit more so let me show you some images and tell you about them.

The first look I wanted to create were high-key beauty shots like the ones you see on magazines for make-up ads. Clean and simple on a white background with light all around the model’s face. These images emphasize the model’s face, eyes, lips and hair. This is why having a good make-up artist on site is very important. Also, for this look you want to avoid shadow as much as possible.

To achieve this look, I used three lights. The main light, was a Profoto B1 head with a beauty dish modifier, it was on a C stand with a grip arm. This light was higher and pointing down directly to the model’s face. I chose the Profoto B1 lights because… well it is Profoto! Actually, I was attracted to the B1 because they are powered with lithium battery packs and are great for shooting on location without worrying about a power cord. Since, I knew we were going to be moving around the gym a lot, I wanted the flexibility of going anywhere and changing the light setup fast. In addition, the lights come with a nice backpack, charger and an extra battery pack.

I had two Profoto B1 heads facing a seamless white paper for the background. By pushing the power up on these lights not only will the background be white but some of the light will bounce back to the model’s hair and body.  The beauty dish creates a very nice semi-soft light but it also creates unwanted shadows below the models neck since the light is coming from above. Therefore, the final touch to finish the look is to fill in those shadows using a reflector. I used the white side of a circular 5-in-1 reflector on the light stand with another grip. It’s actually quite simple to achieve this look.

Here are some examples. Notice the lights reflected on Laura’s eyes, the one above is the beauty dish and the one below is the reflector.



Laura has beautiful red hair so I knew I wanted to emphasize it throughout the photo-shoot. Therefore, we agreed with Amber to start with a slick look and allow it to get messier as the day went on. Below are more examples of this look. Again, notice how even the light is around her face and the lack of shadows.




“The Profoto B1’s are very easy to use and practical for shooting anywhere. The packs came with an extra battery that lasted for a good amount of time before I had to switch them.”

The image above shows the set-up. The Profoto B1’s are very easy to use and practical for shooting anywhere. The packs came with an extra battery that lasted for a good amount of time before I had to switch them. Even so, I was impressed by how fast those batteries recharge. Before I was done with the second battery, the first one was recharged and ready to go. There is no doubt that Profoto makes high-end quality products. The lights were able to keep up with my happy trigger finger and recycle extremely fast. The only thing that slowed us down was the tethered connection with Lightroom.

Now, shooting tether is a great option when you are working in a studio with clients, art directors and other people since they can see the images while you shoot. Also, it’s a much better option when you are reviewing the color and sharpness of the photos on a computer screen than the back of your camera. It can also help you position the lights as you change looks on set. It’s nice to show the model some of the awesome images you are making together to give them more confidence and energy during the shoot. Another fantastic advantage of shooting tethered is that you can quickly do post-production. With a few minor adjustments on the spot or using Lightroom presets, you can see the final images in seconds. Of course, these are only proofs and you should take the time to do proper post-production later but everybody is happy when they see awesome photos right off the camera.

Next, we did a few wardrobe and location changes. I have worked with fitness athletes before and one of the great qualities they all seem to have is confidence. They put a lot of work and sacrifice to be able to achieve such high fitness levels for competitions. Laura, exemplifies the years of dedication to become such an athlete. Confidence is empowering and you can see it in her expressions and poses.


Next, to add more texture and to show more of the environment, we moved to a wall where I used the punching bags as props. I like the idea of showing the lights and light stands on the photo. For this shot, I wanted everything to look edgier so I only used the beauty dish and allowed the light to creates harder shadows and pick up the texture from the wall.

One of my favorite images from the shoot is the low-key image below. For this photo, the setting is the same as in the first beauty style images minus the white background. Since the gym is very large, I don’t need to use a black background. I can just cut all the ambient light by setting the camera at the max sync speed and turning the studio lights off.  I really like how messy the hair is and how it contrasts with the background. I’m showing two side-by-side here. Choose the one you like best

This one is my choice! But I actually like both.

The last images we made were more of the fitness-figure style shots. I find that black and white is a great way to create emphasis on the muscles. The strong contrast makes the figure stand out more from the black background. The hair light on these is very important to add a bit of separation from the background.

In between shots of Laura (and to give her a break) I photographed Vitor. There were a few types of portraits we wanted to do with Vitor. This included photographing him with his two IBJJ gold metals, some casual outfits and some with his jiujitsu uniforms (AKA Gi)

Vitor can be a very intimidating Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitor, that’s why he is a two times World Champion. But as I said, is also very nice guy so for his portraits I wanted to show those two characteristics. The set up for the lights was a bit different for Vitor’s portraits. I had two lights behind him with vertical/long soft-boxes towards him to light the side of his head, shoulders and arms. The lights on the soft-boxes were not Profoto because I forgot the adapter ring but lucky my awesome assistant David brought a second set of lights (always have a backup plan!). I used the Profoto light with the beauty dish to trigger the two soft-boxes.  The beauty dish is pointing down from above his head.

The first outfit we did was a formal look with Vitor wearing a sport jacket, dress shirt, khakis and of course his two medals. The pose on this image is formal but not stiff and Vitor’s smile completes the look. You clearly see the light from the soft-boxes on both side of his face and the effect of the beauty dish picking up the texture on his face.

On this image, you can clearly see the soft-boxes behind Vitor and his game face. Notice that there is a power cord on the left softbox. This is very distracting and can be fixed in post depending on where you’ll use the image. In a commercial photo shoot that would be expected without causing any ethical dilemma.  This image would also work vertically if you don’t want to show the softboxes.

As I said before, I like the messy looking images showing the set-up and lights as props. In the following image I was doing high-key portraits and just stepped back to include the entire set.

Below is the high-key photo









Finally, when you have somebody as fit as Vitor, you have to show off the muscles just like we did with Laura’s portraits. Using the light to create high-contrast helps to define the muscle with the shadows.

This was a long article but hopefully you enjoy the variety of portraits, light settings and got inspired. Working with the Profoto B1 500 lights make it very easy to move the lights around to create new looks and the firing was very reliable. I want to once again thank everybody who participated on this photoshoot: Laura, Vitor, Amber, David and of course Midwest Photo. Keep feeding the crave!

If you want to learn more about doing portraits of athletes and using Profoto gear sign up for the May 12 Profoto Lighting Workshop I’ll be teaching at Ronin Training Center. We’ll have two professional fighters modeling for us, multiple lights and setting in the gym for you to create great portraits. Register here

Gear list: 

Profoto B1 500 heads (3x)

Profoto Air Remote

Profoto Beauty dish (white)

Profoto 8″ reflector “New Style”

Profoto 10 degree grid

Profoto 3′ Octa softbox

Behind the scenes images:

Midwest Photo

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