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Tips on Boxing
Clay Carson, Photographer, Photo Editor
Little Rock | AR | | Posted: 11:44 PM on 03.25.04
->> Going to shoot boxinf Saturday night. I have only done this once an I think it was in 1982 and I have slept since then...

It is a TV deal on HBO for some sort of middleweight championship, so it is a semi big deal. I am curoius what you folks think on several issues.

Do these things usually have shooting positions away from the ring and slightly elevated so you can use a long lens? Seems like that may be preferable to ringside. If you shhot ringside, What is the ideal lens with the 1D crop factor. I am guessing a 24-70mm would be ideal, and a 70-200 on another body. Or do I need to go wider?

I have strobes set up in the arena. Do ypou think I will be allowed to use them or will HBO have a stroke. I would guess they get to set most of the rules since the promoters will go along with whatever they want because of the exposure.

I realize I am asking some specific questions that may be different here than other venues, but anyone with simialr experience might give me some useful insight. The local arena folks have only said no tripods, tight wuarters and we can't go in early to check out the set up.

Thanks in advance for any help
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Jordan Verlage, Student/Intern
Edmonton | AB | Canada | Posted: 11:55 PM on 03.25.04
->> I shot boxing once before......recently...... and found sucess at ringside both with a 50mm and a 70-200mm. The 70-200 was tight all around the ring. I don't know about the lighting though.
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Jordan Verlage, Student/Intern
Edmonton | AB | Canada | Posted: 11:57 PM on 03.25.04
->> Strobes rather.....
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Bob Levey, Photographer
Richmond | TX | USA | Posted: 12:02 AM on 03.26.04
->> Clay... I shoot boxing here in Texas regularly. Texas Boxing Commish does not allow any sort of flash or strobe.. I will tell you this..if its a HBO will have plenty of light to shoot with. I shoot ringside and use a 50mm 1.4.... here is an example...

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Robert Hanashiro, Photographer
Los Angeles | CA | USA | Posted: 1:22 AM on 03.26.04
->> Having shot a boxing match or two ...

Ringside obstacles:
- The ropes getting in the way.
* Bring black gaffer tape to either tie up the ropes to give you more room and and to tape over light or colored ropes that might get in the way

- Shooting up, into the lights.
* This is tough because there is no standard to which the arenas or promoters use in determining how high the lights are above the ring. If the arena/stadium is fairly steep, the lights might be set higher. But generally count on having a lot of frame affected by shooting into the lights.
* I heard this from another veteran boxing photographer: remove your filters to help cut down on lens flare when shooting into the lights. Also bring black wrap along with that black gaffer's to fashion make-shift lens hoods. I do remove the filters, but haven't compared it to frames shot with a filter to see if flare is reduced. But technically it makes some sense. I don't make lens hoods out of black wrap ... the newer (large) Nikon and Canon hoods are fine for me.

- Amateur bouts.
* Non-professional fights (like Golden Gloves and Olympic fights) the boxer wear protective head gear. Be careful with your exposure because when they cover up or look down, you will lose more light than if they were not wearing the head gear.

- Pissed off fans/celebs/morons sitting behind you.
* Depending on how high the ring is and how tall you are, you will invariably attract the ire of the high-rollers how paid big $$$ to be close to the action. (And they will remind you all night about how much they paid ... and how you didn't ... to see this fight.) There is not much you can do about it and security or someone with the promoter MIGHT come over to ask the ringside shooters to get lower. Be prepared and have thick skin.

- And lastly stay out of the way of promoters, body guards, wives/girlfriends of the principles, hangers-on, etc.
* When climbing onto the apron at the conclusion of the fight to shoot the decision being announced, you wouldn't want to get bounced off the ropes by one or several of the above mentioned ... and tumble embarrassingly to the floor at the feet of the rich & shameless (who paid all of that $$$). Be prepared because the post-fight mayhem can be dangerous.

Lenses ringside:
- When I first started, zooms were not used much, so "prime" lenses like a 24mm (the knock down lens), 35mm, 50mm, 85 - 105mm and the 180 where the lenses we used.

- Then zooms got faster and we started using the 16 - 35 and the 28 - 70. The 70/80 - 200mm were ok for shooting the corners and action across the ring on FILM cameras ... but on digital, they tended to be too long.

- Now I kind of flip back and forth between prime and zooms. I like the speed of the prime lenses (f/1.8 or f/2 verses f/2.8) and they tend not to flare as badly as zooms and are a bit more contrasty. But the zooms certainly are more versatile. I bring both and see how bad the lights are, how much I'll have to deal with flare ... and go from there.

Lenses overhead:
- Sometime overhead is the place to be (like when the ringside lights are too low), but the photographs tend to all look "the same" because of the distance and angle. The ringside photographs tend to be more "intimate" --- look more "in your face" than overhead. That is especially true if the overhead spot is too high and you're looking down at the action too much.

- Decide first if you want "tight" ... waist up (horizontal) or "loose" (full body). If you're there to make "the photograph of record" --- meaning get the knock downs and report what goes on, then loose is the way to go. If you're after IMPACT, then obviously "tight is right" (Hanashiro-ism #1) ... getting that tightly composed photograph of the glove colliding with the opponent's head. (This is also true to some extent ringside). However, follow - focusing, timing and having a sense of place is more difficult to record when shoot very tight.

- However the advantages of overhead are many:
* It's a "safe" position because you can see everything and you will not get blocked or have the technical problems with lighting (i.e. lens flare or backlight).
* One lens covers the whole ring. You can shoot with the 400mm or 600 and not have to worry about zooming or switching cameras. I have also used a "twin plate" on a tripod and mounted both the 400mm and the 600mm to give me more flexibility ... the 400mm (or maybe a 300mm) being my "Knock-Down-Ali-Liston" lens.
* Overhead you won't get blood or spit on you like you could ringside. However dunks spilling beer on you is a possibility.

The Decisive Moment:
- Personally (and I say this in all of the presentations I make on sports photography) the HARDEST shot to make in sports photography is the classic glove - meets - the- face - sweat - flying - distorted expression image. For it to really look like a winner, it lasts for less than a nano-second. Timing AND LUCK is everything. You can shoot 12 rounds of boxing and not get this frame.

- Guys who tell you they "time" the boxers' punches by watching their shoulder for movement ... are bullshitting you. You can't reliably time a fighters punches by a twitch of a shoulder muscle. And if you're watching a fighter's shoulder for a twitch ... you're missing a helluva lot of action! Boxers have a rhythm and if you watch and study them long enough, you kind of get a FEEL for what they do and how they do it. A shoulder twitch can be a good tip off ... but a jab takes a shorter amount of time to connect (if it does!) than a hook. Or an uppercut. Don't guess, but don't rely on something like that totally.

- Don't just lean on the motordrive! As stated above, the glove flattening the face is only a nano-second and if you have it, it's usually that first frame. I have noticed that leaning hard on the motordrive is NO substitute for good timing. When you just blindly push on the shutter release, ripping off 8-10-12 frames, there is no guarantee that the punches/connection occur as those frames are made. You WILL get frames of the arms swinging ... but they won't necessarily be captured when it connects or for that matter, be even close to the opponent's face.

- Have a wide of some kind close at hand around the neck or on the shoulder. When a fighter goes down ... possibly right in front of you ... be ready!

Other Considerations:
* Get there early. Check your spot (for the concerns I have noted above). Check the lights and color balance.
* If you're ringside, make nice-nice to the people sitting behind you that paid all of that $$$ to be up close and personal to the action.
* Also if you're ringside and next to one of the judges scoring the fight: give them room. If they think you will interfere with their scoring, they could cause you lots of grief. Usually there is enough room and they are generally veterans of lots of fights so should be used to a photographer being close. But be courteous because they are important and essential ... and basically, you're not.
* Don't bring a lot of extraneous crap ringside with you. There is little room to work, let alone bring a laptop, three camera bags and a take-out plate from the media buffet line. Sometimes there is room under the ring to store stuff, but now days more often than not, there is a ton of TV stuff under there.
* Don't take a break or chimp between rounds. Sometimes there are great photographs to be made of the boxers and their handlers in the corners. This is the time when a longer lens is useful. Tight face photographs of fighters are their trainers talk to them or tend to a cut or injury and make a telling image.
* Bring lots of film/memory cards. Fights will eat up LOTS of frames. You can shoot hundred of frames and get only a few GOOD ones ... that's par for the course. But there is no time between rounds or bouts to open up the laptop and clear off some cards onto the hard drive. Come with plenty and leave the laptop in the work room.

Have fun and good luck!

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Daniel Tunstall, Photographer
Pearland | TX | USA | Posted: 7:54 AM on 03.26.04
->> Robert, this has to be on eof the most informative threads on sports shooter. Great info.

Lighting at a fight promoted by HBO, Showtime, Miller Lite and the better promoters, will not be a problem. Of the local fights I have shot in the past, I can't remember anyone using strobes.

I primarily used a 17-35 for ringside, but may leave you short when the action is on the other side of the ring. A 70-200 will work great for getting tight shots in the corners.

There is not much I can add to Robert's list. But, what he said about promoters, body guards and fans is wise information. Here are a few he missed. Watch out for body fluids, all kinds. Don't forget your lens cleaning gear and I carry some of those towelletes for myself. I don't know about you, but I don't want that crud on me either.

Drunk fans. Watch your gear. Most likely you may be next to a judge when shooting. When you get there early, introduce yourself and be friendly to them. (I am not saying you wouldn't) Some are friendly and will bullsh&% between rounds with you, some won't and want to be given lots of space. Figure that out before the fight so that it does not cause problems during the fight...that would be bad.

One promoter here in Houston only uses the house lights at a local hotel. Big chandalliers. As Robert stated, watch shooting intop the lights.. I found these chandalliers to be distracting in the wrong place in your image...

Have fun.
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Bill Taylor, Photographer
Westerville | OH | USA | Posted: 9:58 AM on 03.26.04
->> Robert,

We all should have to send 25.00 just to read that one thread. thank you very much I printed it out and it will remain in my notebook, ill never have to ask how to shoot boxing again.
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Clay Carson, Photographer, Photo Editor
Little Rock | AR | | Posted: 10:21 AM on 03.26.04
->> As always, thanks to all. SS is a tremendous resource to all. I only hope I can be as helpful in the future.
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Bill Ross, Student/Intern, Assistant
Colorado Springs | CO | USA | Posted: 10:23 AM on 03.26.04
->> Post a few photos of the boxing event... If you can!!!
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Joe Cavaretta, Photographer
Las Vegas | NV | USA | Posted: 11:34 AM on 03.26.04
->> Add to Berts:
Whatever you do, dont use your lights! Boxing is all about TV and you will be tossed pretty quick if they even see a test!
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Alan Stewart, Photographer
Corydon | IN | USA | Posted: 12:04 PM on 03.26.04
->> Echoing what Daniel said, bring a towel and some rubbing alcohol...the amount of bodily fluids spread around a six foot radius from the punchee is incredible.

Shooting up into the lights is a bear, so chimping while the ring announcer is giving his schtick is acceptable.

So is shooting the ring girls ;)
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Ramin Talaie, Photographer
Brooklyn | NY | USA | Posted: 12:04 PM on 03.26.04
->> if shooting ringside, watch out for being splashed with sweat, blood, and all kinds of body fluid....sp heavy weights fights.
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Ed Mulholland, Photographer
Pompton Lakes | NJ | USA | Posted: 6:10 PM on 03.26.04
->> Clay,

All I do is shoot boxing. Seems like you've gotten quite a few good tips here. I shoot with a Canon 24-70 2.8. Flash is a no-no, however HBO lighting is the best in the world of boxing, so you will have no problems whatsoever as far as that goes. You can use flash for celebratory shots of the fighters with the refs after the fight.

You can use the ropes to your advantage. You can shield the lens with the ropes to cut on lens flare. You'll see what I mean when you get there. In all likelihood when you get there, your spot will be assigned to you and you're name will be on the ring. It should be pretty crowded ringside, the two fighters in the HBO features are Jermain Taylor and Dominick Guinn, both are from Arkansas and quickly rising in the sport...If you have any other questions, feel free to give me a call, my info is in my profile...Good luck and post some shots.

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Clay Carson, Photographer, Photo Editor
Little Rock | AR | | Posted: 3:14 PM on 03.28.04
->> Again, thanks for all the tips. Boxing was tough and the light was weak. I shot at a 400th at f2.8 at iso 1250. When they were looking down they are tough to work with. The shutter speed was not fast enought to stop some of the action I wanted. The stuff from up top with a 400mm was OK, but lacked the "intimacy" of ringside. Ringside, however, was much tougher to shoot. Everyone was very nice. I introduced my self to the scorers seated next to me and asked them to let me know if I was causing them any problems. They appreciated that and never complained and even helped me understand what was happening. It pays to be nice and treat people with respect.

I got a couple of acceptable shots, managed to get one published, and posted several if anyone wants to take a look. They are at

Again, thanks for all the help.
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Wade Aiken, Photographer
Bradford | Pa | USA | Posted: 6:17 AM on 06.09.04
->> I remember when i shot boxing that i introduced myself to the ring girls. Lighting was so poor in the arena that i didn't get many good shots of the boxers though.
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Thad Parsons, Photographer, Student/Intern
Oxford | UK | United Kingdom | Posted: 6:20 PM on 02.07.05
->> I just wanted to say that the tips helped me to cover boxing for the first time. I did get one good glove on face shot and a couple of other nice frames. Hopefully, it will be a sport that I will get to shoot more.

If you want to, the photos are currently on my page.

Again, thanks for making such a wonderful resource.
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Andrew Smith, Photographer
Tain | Ross-shire | United Kingdom | Posted: 3:58 PM on 10.06.07
->> Thanks for your post Robert. I want to get into shooting boxing matches so if the opportunity ever comes along then I'll be back to re-read your advice!
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Thread Title: Tips on Boxing
Thread Started By: Clay Carson
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