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|| News Item: Posted 2010-12-07

From Russia With … MMA
By Tim Mantoani

Photo by Tim Mantoani

Photo by Tim Mantoani

Mantoani photographed Fedor Emelinanko in Stary Oskol, Russia and Randy Couture in Las Vegas for EA Sports.
For the past 20 years, I have made my living as a photographer, with much of my subjects being professional athletes. This year, I was given a unique opportunity to shoot the cover for EA Sports new game MMA.

The shoot would involve location work in both Las Vegas with Randy Couture and another shoot in Stary Oskol, Russia with Fedor Emelinanko. The assignment would involve shooting dynamic actions images, portraits, and b-roll stills and video.

In addition to myself, a videographer, Jeff Wiant, would be on set shooting behind the scenes and video interviews. Jeff was shooting with the Canon 7D and I was shooting with Canon Mark IV. In both cases, we were given about 3 hours with the athlete for stills and interviews.
Students often ask me how I get these types of jobs and my answer is that photography is just a part of it. As a commercial photographer, being able to produce this type of work is equally important.

Photo by

Shooting portraits of Randy Couture at his Las Vegas gym. A Profoto beauty dish was used as the only light source. A black seamless background was placed in the Octagon, behind the fence.
The shoot in Russia required finding a producer in Moscow that spoke English, hiring a stylist, a local assistant, renting equipment and getting it all to a small mining town 12 hours away by train from Moscow.

In addition, I needed to ensure that the client, art director, my assistant and myself had ground transportation from the airport to the train, train tickets, hotel rooms, there was food for the shoot and that we had place to shoot. I also needed to take into account the cash flow that would be needed to produce this job and the need to wire money to Russia to cover expenses in advance.

In order to even compete for this project, I needed to figure out all of these costs in advance for the estimate. I process that took many hours of time and research. Keep in mind the shoot in Las Vegas required a similar crew and also had to be researched and estimated.

I began the process by looking online for equipment rentals in Moscow and found a great rental house that spoke English. They were able to secure the equipment and a driver that could take it to and from the shoot. It was good fortune that the rental house recommended a producer that ended up being amazing and helped me pull together a tight estimate and eventually a solid production.

Once we returned from the shoots, I was asked if we could produce a game announcement trailer using the imagery we had collected. Since we had a limited amount of video assets, Jeff and I worked together to utilize my stills by reshooting them on video. I made a series of 8x10 prints that we reshot with a variety of lighting and camera moves.

Photo by

Several options of both action and portraits were shot for possible covers. In the end, the client opted for a classic fight poster design for the game box while action images were used for other marketing needs.
In addition, we found a friend to write the music and worked with EA’s copywriter and their voiceover talent to record the script. Jeff then worked with both the video assets we shot on location and the imagery created in my studio in Final Cut to edit together the final piece.

The advances in DSLR cameras allowed me to produce and complete this type of project. There is no way, only just a few years ago, that I would have felt comfortable or had the resources to take on this type of request.

Tim Mantoani is a freelance editorial and commercial photographer based in San Diego. You can see his work on his personal website: and his member page: He is also on the faculty of the upcoming Sports Shooter Academy Lighting Luau.

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