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Lighting Secrets Revealed: Alex Styles

Posted on Jun 5, 2017

Find out how Alex Styles lit this shot of 200m sprinter Julian Thomas.

Words by Jemma Dodd


Knowing how to work lighting for different subjects and different situations surely makes you a master of light, and it means you’re prepared for any almost any type of subject and client request. Alex Styles shoots everything from portraits to weddings, commercial work and even cars. “One day I could be photographing Tinie Tempah, the next day an Aston Martin. I think as a professional photographer, it’s great to be able to shoot so many different subjects or products and try and challenge yourself to always create a stunning image,” he says. Having been taking photos since he was 15 years old Alex has shot for the likes of McDonalds, Bentley and Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club.
“I love the speed of Profoto lighting. It is an essential piece of kit to capture high-end sports portraits or even hair shoots. I also love the quality of the light, along with the power you can get out of a head anywhere in the world.”

We take a look at one of Alex’s punchy images to reveal his lighting secrets.

What was this shoot for?
We shot this image for Julian Thomas (200m sprinter). Julian is an amazing guy and he wanted to create some action packed shots that he could use for his new brand, Julian Thomas Personal Trainer. We decided to shoot the portrait on location and showcase Julian in action sprinting out of the blocks. He used to train at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham so we thought it was the ideal location to shoot the portrait.

What equipment was used to create this image?
There was a team of around five guys helping out on this shoot. We shot it with a Hasselblad H3D with a 80mm lens. For the lighting set-up we used three Profoto B1 500W heads (two as rim lights and one with a beauty dish). The rim lights were positioned to give the shine around Julian’s body and a beauty dish was used as our main light.

Did you have much time to plan and prepare your lighting?
We luckily had a couple of hours to set-up the shot, which is usually very rare as most clients require ‘x’ number of shots within a full day. However with Julian he wanted quality over quantity which gave us time to test the lighting to make sure it was bang on before we went ahead.

What sort of challenges were involved in this shoot?
It wasn’t massively challenging if I’m being completely honest. Luckily I had a great team of guys with me who know lighting inside out and we have used this set-up a few times before to create dramatic portraits.

How many attempts did it take to get this shot?
Because of the time we had to make sure the lighting was bang on by testing it on each other jumping out of the blocks. It only took us a matter of maybe 10-15 frames to get the shot of Julian we wanted to use. We didn’t quite realise just how quick he was out of the blocks, but luckily with Profoto and shooting with a Hasselblad it gave us the option to shoot with a shutter speed up to 1/4000sec to capture him pin sharp.

Was there much post-processing involved for this image?
To create this lighting effect we needed to shoot around 15-20 different frames and use Photoshop to layer this final image. We shot the scene as it was without any lighting at different exposures. We then went round and shot bursts of flash all over the stadium seating/floor/background pretty much everywhere so we had enough light spills to use to create the final image. It is impossible to create a shot like this in camera due to the dynamic rim lighting you need which has to be positioned close to the subject.

See more of Alex’s work at

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