Why should you consider properly lighting your fight show.

Basic boxing ring lighting info

Lighting is a massively important feature in the production value to your show and shouldn't be neglected. I've tried to put together some basic points to consider for promoters so that you'll be putting on the best show for your audience and also has the nice effect of creating a better environment  for your photographers and videographers to record a higher quality product for you.
All of the action that happens in the ring is of course the most important part of the show and so presenting this in the best possible light for your audience should be a primary concern.  Fortunately it isn't particularly difficult to understand the basics, nor is it very expensive to rent or buy basic lighting to achieve great results.

Using the existing, standard lighting in the room.

"So why can't I just use the lighting that's in the room? When I flick the switches, it looks bright enough, it'll do."

Without beating around the bush, compared to a properly lit show, your show will look flat and lifeless because you’re not separating the ring from the rest of the room and helping to  truly set the stage for the action. Also, I can't stress this next bit enough... to photograph and film a boxing event to a high standard under these conditions, there simply won't be enough light to do the job justice!

Without proper lighting, your photographers and videographers  will be making massive concessions to try and keep their shutter speeds high enough to capture the action smoothly, resulting in lower quality recordings and photographs. Lighting will most likely be uneven, and even though you won't notice it, you'll probably have dark spots in certain parts of the ring, which again is another hurdle for photographers and video guys to have to deal with.

In most cases using existing room lights, both your audience and your boxing ring will be lit with exactly the same lights which completely detaches your audience's attention from the show. Remember, the real focus should on the fighters.

A very light technical explanation before we move on...

More wattage = more light

  • A standard light bulb kicks out anywhere between 40 and 100 watts of power.
  • Common spotlight powers range from, 250, to 500 to 1000 Watts.
Let's be generous and say that your room is nice and bright and has plenty of halogen lights, those lights are usually around 50 watts each, so say you have approximately x20 of those standard lights over and around the ring. This set-up means you only have 1000 watts total lighting your boxing ring, no doubt unevenly distributed and poorly targeted (straight down from above with no angle to light faces).

1000 watts of total distributed light is not even close to being enough to properly capture the action at a fight show.  This would be true even if that 1000watts was divided into four and focused properly at the ring, but in this example, considering we're using lights that are designed to spread out and light the whole room, you're not going to be getting anywhere near enough light on your stage to capture the action.

Bearing the above in mind, this leads us nicely onto the next option...

Using a basic, rented spotlight set-up

Using even a basic spotlight set-up is a BIG step in the right direction.

This is something that will cost you perhaps a couple of hundred pounds to do and will dynamically transform the atmosphere and people's impression of your promotion.

The most cost effective lighting solution for a smaller show would be to use x4 1000 watt spotlights with freshnells and barndoors, mounted high up on stands on every corner of the ring (you can step the stands back a few feet if needed). This way, you'll have 4000 watts of lighting on the ring and with added barn doors, you should be able to point these to light the ring relatively evenly. In this case you would divide the ring up into quarters and with each light pointing to the opposite corner whilst using the barn doors to ensure that light isn't spilling off the sides and into the audience. It's worth noting that you can add dimmers to these so you can control the lighting if needed.
Here's a diagram for you:

This is by no means an ideal setup, but it is a huge step up from using ambient room light and will allow you to dim the ambient lighting where the audience are, focusing attention on the show.

A few things to bear in mind…
Chose a venue with a nice, high ceiling if possible - you'll need to mount your lights around 8-10 feet from the foot of the canvas so that the light doesn't shine into the participants or the audience faces. Also, freshnels can run quite hot, so if you have a venue with a low ceiling they could present a fire risk - your venue probably wouldn’t allow you to use spotlights if their ceiling height is quite low.

If you're setting up the lights yourself, make sure you test them, have a walk around inside and outside the ring, try to make sure that the lights aren't going to glare into the boxers or your audience's eyes.

N.B One thing that I think is worth pointing out is that those 500 watt builder’s floodlights you can get from DIY places won’t cut it, so don’t even think about those. They’re not bright enough for the job (and won’t have the all important freshnel lens to truly focus the light). I’ve seen these used to light MMA cages and boxing shows before. They're just not good enough because they’re simply not designed for the job at hand.

Renting or buying lighting
Renting lighting is surprisingly very inexpensive. I did a quick Google search and easily found a local company who could rent lighting and if needed, would even send a guy to help set them up. Pricing I found was approximately £100 to hire x4 freshnels with stands and barn doors for a full week! That's a bloody bargain. Fill your boots and make your shows look awesome!

You could even consider buying your own freshnels if you promote regularly, they're not massively expensive - I personally think it would be perfect if guys who rent out rings could also buy a set of x4 (or definitely more) 1000 watt freshness with barn doors, stands and a small mixing desk (for controlling the lights) to rent out along with the ring - I think it would be a great opportunity for them to offer this as an extra.

The more light, the better (as long as it is evenly spread)
If you feel you can afford more lights, then don’t let me stop you - just ensure that they’re set up to light up the ring evenly. Eight lights should be more than enough for a small show - you can divide the ring up into sections and point a light to each - go to twelve lights if you want, fill your boots, although I’d get an expert in to help set them up for you if you’re starting to step up to more complex set-ups.

No matter how many lights you have, make sure you point them all individually to cover the ring evenly with nice, sexy light - no shady spots, please!

If you're at all unsure, ask the experts - pro lighting guys will be able to offer you loads of options, including nice, coloured lights to add that extra layer of interest to your show.

Using existing venue lighting.

I've shot at lots of shows where house lighting is used and got some great shots, however there are still a couple of things to look out for that can help you create a better production and make things easier for your shooters. 
Most big 'stage' type venues (town halls etc) will have some nice 1000 watt stage lighting already set up for you to use, quite often with a lighting desk so you can dim lights where you need to. The only thing to look out for in this case is your boxing ring positioning relative to the fixed lights. 

Ideally you need the lighting to be even across the canvas, so where possible you'll need to look to place your boxing ring in a central area in relation to existing lighting and again try to divide your canvas evenly in terms of where you're pointing the lights. I know this isn't always possible and house lighting is infinitely better than ambient light, but it's something to consider that dark spots on a ring look almost unnoticeable to the human eye (especially if you're not looking for them) but even the very best camera equipment is rubbish compared to the human eye and struggles to pick things out even if the light drops off slightly in one corner or one side of the ring. Your photographers and videographers will be having to compensate for these darker areas.  

Again, the devil is in the detail, it all affects your final production. 
  • Ask your venue manager if their lighting tech can reposition the lights to your needs.
  • Where possible, position the ring so that it’s central to the existing lighting
  • Ask the house lighting guy to point the lights so that they are lighting the ring as evenly as possible.
  • If you need, or indeed want to add extra lighting, then go for it. As long as it’s cool with the venue owners and you have space, go for it!
  • Some venues may even have a movable spotlight for you to use - these are perfect for lighting up fighters during their ring walks.

I'm promoting a big, televised show and will have lighting techies doing all of this for me. 

In these cases your lighting techs will be able to tell you far more than my limited knowledge can, but again, the main thing us photographers and videographers look for, is nice, bright, even lighting across the whole canvas from the floor up to about 7 or 8 feet. I found a nice forum posting (here) detailing how a lighting guy here divides the canvas up into 9 zones and points lights from each side of the ring to each zone so that all the angles are covered and the light is even across the board. 

Again, in this case your lighting guys will be able to tell you more than I can, but everybody is human, it is better for you guys to be armed with a little bit of knowledge so at least you can let them know what you are looking for in your lighting, rather than leaving them just to get on with it, especially if you’re paying for their services.  This is especially useful if your lighting guys aren't typically used to setting up for boxing shows.

To summarise

I know that with some shows, budget are restricted and as a photographer, I'll always  do my best to get great shots whatever the conditions, but with only a small investment, even a smaller promotion can create an atmosphere that is much more conductive to a boxing show whilst offering your media team the best opportunity to record your show to a higher standard which in turn improves the outward appearance of your promotion and will definitely encourage more people to come and see your shows in future.

I hope this has been useful.


Manchester based lighting company http://www.nstage.co.uk/ 
Advanced lighting discussion http://forums.creativecow.net/thread/47/857046
Advanced lighting diagram download  http://f1.creativecow.net/1520/sample-boxing-light-plot

If any lighting techs would like to contribute to this, I'm all ears. This certainly isn't supposed to be a definitive guide, more a point in the right direction for people who hadn't considered lighting as an important part of their show before.


Popular Posts