Alexis Cuarezma is back again sharing the "hows" and "whys" behind one of his latest shoots: fitness portraits of IFBB bikini professional Ashley Pfaff. He has graciously included a very in-depth video where he explains how he set out to accomplish these shots, and he also provided his mood board, gear list, and lighting diagrams along with extensive commentary on the "whys" and "hows" of it all. You absolutely don't want to miss any of what he has to say! Start with the video and then dive in below!
Cuarezma has shared with us some other incredible behind-the-scenes sports portraiture how-tos in the past (Shoot Two Completely Different Lighting Setups with One Push of the Shutter Button | Alexis Cuarezma Explains the 'Whys' behind His Sports Illustrated World Cup Preview Issue), but this time we get to learn how he shapes light around a female subject. It’s quite a similar process, although he does incorporate more female-flattering clam shell styled lighting in some of the last of the set-ups he shot.
Alexis isn't afraid to travel heavy at all, but he does it with clear intention as he explained here:
For my creative process I always follow this: I try and give myself no limit, no boundaries to what’s needed to execute what I have envisioned (e.g. 15 Lights, 2 assistants, stylist, HMUA, Fog/Rain Machine, 8×10 View Camera, MF Camera, etc. or bringing $100K+ worth of lights like I did HERE). In other words, I put my vision first and that dictates what gear I need (not the other way around). Then, after assessing the situation/shoot, the time frame, and budget, I start making a list and seeing what’s best-available and work from the top down. If your vision is really important to you, and you figure out what you need first to make it possible, you’ll be amazed at how resourceful you can be and hone in to get what you need and make it happen. Also if you share your ideas and can clearly & quickly articulate your vision, people will want to help make your vision a reality. A lot photographers work the other way around, or even worse, they can have a favorite lens, or camera, or light. There’s nothing wrong with having a favorite lens, camera or light modifier, but when you do, you have to be very careful to not let that piece of gear dictate your vision.
Once I figured out everything I needed, I locked-in the gear. Since we were on a tight schedule (I was flying in Saturday night, shooting all day Sunday, and flying back Monday morning), I had to fly with all the gear. One HUGE key factor that made this shoot work that’s not listed above is Morgan. Having an assistant with you is an imperative asset which no amount of gear can replace. We both flew out from Oakland Airport and he was tremendous help which I needed because here’s all the gear we took:
Take a look at some of his behind-the-scenes set-ups before I show you some of my personal favorite images he created and see if you can imagine how the finish photograph could look:
Here are some of my personal favorites of his finished photographs - from outside to indoors, he killed it with edgy yet flattering light. Check 'em out:
You're definitely going to want to read through everything Alexis has to say about this shoot at his original blog post. He writes in a very clear but conversational manner that explains very complicated ideas yet is easy to digest.
Images used with permission.