The perfect light – well, that’s always going to depend on the subject matter and the desired effect. In this tutorial, we are going to give you a few simple tips on how to chisel out the human body using dramatic highlights and shadows which will work perfect for athletic and fitness portraiture. This is just a small facet of one of our upcoming courses covering everything to do with Fitness photography: how to light it, how to pose your subjects, and how to post-produce it to enhance your imagery – coming soon to SLRL Premium!
Photographers tend to shy away from deep shadows and hard highlights but these elements can be so powerful when they are used with purpose. Even though our model is in great shape, you can see that without properly configuring our light that his body structure and features don’t show through if not lit correctly. For the image that we want to create, what we want to do is allow the light to break across our model’s body creating deep shadows and bright highlights which will reveal his muscle definition.
1. Start with One light
Even if you eventually want to create an image with a multi-light setup, always start with just one light and then figure out if you need to add additional light sources. For our shoot we started out with the Profoto B1 as our primary light that is meant to be cast over our model’s face and body.
Although we aren’t huge fans of shooting TTL, Profoto’s system features a hybrid TTL system that is quite useful – it allows you to set the camera’s settings to your desired Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO and then simply set your Profoto Remote to TTL. The remote will dial in the appropriate exposure on your Profoto B1 and at that point you can switch the remote over to manual for it to retain the power settings previously decided in TTL mode. From there you can simply adjust up and down with micro-adjustments to modify the power of any of your lights in the scene.
2. Determine if an extra light is needed
After that one light is setup, target areas of the body that are lost in shadow and decide if you need to fill or if you need an additional light. Turning on your modeling light shows you exactly where your light will hit your subject. This is one of our favorite features of the Profoto B1 because it has a built in modeling light. The lack of chords and built in battery also make it extremely portable making it easy to set up 3 to 4 of these on shoots without worrying about having a generator on hand.
For our second light we set up 2 additional Profoto B1’s with gridded 1X6 Profoto Stripboxes to diffuse and direct the light. These two added lights help to chisel our our model’s features, especially against the darker background where we noticed a loss of detail as the body faded into the shadows.
3. Adjust model’s post and position
Once your lights are set into their basic positions adjust your light setup by adjusting your model’s pose and position. This will have a dramatic effect over how the light is falling onto your subject. Using the exact same lighting setup we were able to create all of the following images by simply moving and adjusting their pose within the set.