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How to Create this “Fight Club” Inspired Portrait using One Light

By Gina Milicia – author of our brand new Portrait Lighting eBook.

Firass MAINWEBWelcome to Fight Club. The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club.” -Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

Australian actor Firass Dirani in my Fight Club inspired shoot @firassd (twitter) @firazzle (Instagram).

Australian actor Firass Dirani in my Fight Club inspired shoot @firassd (twitter) @firazzle (Instagram).

Most of my inspiration for photo shoots comes from Movies, art and popular culture.

Ever since I saw the movie Fight Club I’ve always wanted to do a fight Club inspired shoot.

My aim was to create a really cool, gritty, edgy looking shot. I could have achieved this look using several different techniques but opted for my new Rotolux deep Octabox with my Elinchrom Ranger Quadra battery operated light system.

For this shoot I worked with Melbourne make up artist Mia’Kate Russell an incredibly talented special effects make up artist. Her brief was to make Firass look like he’d just been in an old school fistfight – busted up but still looking incredibly cool.

If you are thinking of trying something like this then I suggest you check out your nearest school of hair and make up. Special effects make up like Mia used on Firass is taught at these schools and students are often looking for the opportunity to test out their skills.

Another version you may like to try is to just scuff the face up using dirt to give that gritty look. That’s the technique I used for this shot of Lachy Hulme who was playing a trapped minor in the TV Movie Beaconsfield.

Portrait shoot

A good Make Up artist will take your portraits from OK to amazing. This is definitely a relationship you should invest in and nurture.

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The location I chose was an old warehouse near my actual studio. I had gone out scouting a week earlier. It’s important that you always have your locations worked out ahead of time rather than hoping it will all fall into place on the day of the shoot.

Some places will incur a hire fee to work in others you may get permission by finding the owners and just asking (which is exactly what I did to get access to this amazing warehouse!)

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If a softbox and a beauty dish got married and had babies they would probably have little rotolux deep octaboxes. I love these light shapers because

They combine the softness and narrow spread of a soft box with the beautiful bone structure defining qualities of the beauty dish. It’s the best of both worlds.

For this image of Firass I converted my Octabox to a beauty dish by removing the outer diffuser and inner bevel and adding the beauty dish attachment.

I could have also just used a beauty dish but I prefer this softer style of lighting.

Here’s some visuals on how I took the shots (click to enlarge).

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For this shot I’m using my:

My settings for this shot are:

  • ISO is set to 100
  • Lens focus length is 200mm
  • Aperture is F/ 4* @ 1/200th of a second**

* I selected a wide aperture of F4 on my long lens because I wanted my background to be out of focus. I could have shot wide open at f2.8 but decided to play it safe at f4 as I find it really difficult to get my models eyes sharp at f2.8 using a long lens and focusing in low light.

** I shot at a very fast shutter speed of 1/200th sec because I wanted to keep my background really dark and moody.

This shot would also work using a Speedlight + Softbox without internal bevel.

If you want to increase the amount of shadow in eye sockets, jawline and cheekbones remove the reflector or replace it with a black cutter.

And here’s one more shot from the shoot.

Firass walking


Gina is the author of four dPS eBooks including:

You can buy one for $19.99 or grab the whole bundle for only $49.99 (save 38%) from any of the links above.

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Gina Milicia

Gina Milicia has been a professional photographer for more than 25 years. She has photographed some of the world’s most high-profile people including royalty, billionaires and A-list celebrities. Often travelling the world, Gina also runs photography workshops and private mentoring sessions. You can sign up for her free ebook on "Portrait and Post Production Essentials" and see more of her work here. Check out her podcast “So you want to be a photographer” on iTunes.

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