Lighting Fitness Bikini Pro Ashley Pfaff by Photographer Alexis Cuarezma

Alexis Cuarezma is a San Francisco – based sports photographer, who specializes in both on-location and in-studio portraiture. In this video Alexis walks us through his photo shoot with IFBB Bikini Pro, Ashley Pfaff, providing a great sense of the process. He begins with the mood board and guides us to the final result, explaining his lighting choices and techniques.

Alexis traveled to Vegas to meet with his client and conduct a photo shoot. He was on a very tight schedule the day of, as Ashley had to fly back to Florida that same evening. Alexis worked fast and did not allow the time constraints to influence the result. He traveled from location to location creating strong and picturesque shots.

Fitness athletes train extremely hard and also have an extraordinary dedication and commitment to their craft and a very strict diet. Photographing Ashley the day after the competition was such a great opportunity. She wanted to shoot inside City Athletic Club in Las Vegas, which I was familiar with, as I photographed Janet Layug and Phil Heath there for Gifted Nutrition last year during Olympia.

I planned out a really ambitious mood board with a lot of different looks. I drew ideas and inspiration from other shoots I’ve done in the past. I was really excited because once you know what you’re going to create, you have a solid foundation for your day and can progress forward with executing your vision. I knew we would shoot outside (with no power) and also indoors later on, where we were to shoot in about 3-4 different rooms in the gym. This all played a factor in the gear I decided to use.

Personally, I am mesmerized by the use of the canned haze and water in spray bottles. What a wonderful effect it creates! It immediately adds so much depth and mystery to the image. Not to mention some great lighting skills Alexis possesses. I particularly note the up lighting, which emphasizes the character and adds a flare of surrealism. 

You can find more information about this shoot on Alexis’ blog.

For more work, you can visit Alexis' website.


Images used with permission of Alexis Cuarezma.

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Revecka Natalia's picture

thank you for sharing! Lighting is great!

Alexis Cuarezma's picture

Hi Revecka, glad you like it! thanks so much

Leigh Smith's picture

That uplighting is doing weird things to her nose / lip.

Alexis Cuarezma's picture

Leigh, lighting is certainly subject to interpretation. A LOT of people don't like lighting from underneath. I certainly don't have a problem with it and think it's quite beautiful. It provides a different look which I love, and in this case to you it's weird. Thanks for the comment, cheers!

Leigh Smith's picture

I have no problem with uplighting if done right. But what its doing to her nose in some of these is just not right at all.

Alexis Cuarezma's picture

"I have no problem with uplighting if done right", as I mention above. "done right" in your opinion. Not sure what you want me to say. "You're right, I'm wrong"? I certainly had/have no issues with it, and lit the image like that on purpose. And the client that hired me liked and used the images knowing my style.

Not too fond of the uplight either, mostly because of what it's doing to her nose (shadows on side)

Nice video, tnx.

In the last yellow shots, do I understand you used CTO on every flash? Why not setting the color in Photoshop, if all flashes have the same color temp? I only use CTO in combination with normal flashes to get an extra yellow light, or to mix with ambient light.

Alexis Cuarezma's picture

Hi Mike, thanks for the comment. No, they weren't all CTO. I was combining CTO & CTS gels to get the tone/look I wanted in camera. Cheers!

Anonymous's picture

more diagrams are included in the earlier article

Michael Bartello's picture

Really great photos and lighting. The pace of the video was frustrating, though. It seemed like you were stepping on your tongue trying to describe all the shoots and keep up with the images. I'd rather have seen half the images in the same time frame — breathe a little...

Alexis Cuarezma's picture

thanks for the feedback, cheers!