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Question: Lighting for muscle definition?
Old 10-01-2007, 10:41 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Hello.

This question should be a softball for most of you guy's, but I sure could use an answer.

My beautiful wife has been training for several months to compete in a bodybuilding "figure" competition. Weekly she needs to have progress photo's taken to share with her trainer and nutritionist. The point is to detail any changes in her body and highlight for them areas that will need attention.

I am charged with taking those shots and, so far, do not think I am lighting her correctly to show the details best. Her abs and arms are coming in fantastic. Ideally, each set-up should be the exact same week to week in order to best illustrate the progress.

Somehow, I just hate to back her up against a living room wall and blast her with a camera mounted flash. As much as I would love to try my hand at making these glamour shots, the actual purpose is almost like...(gulp) medical/anatomical photography

So the question: How best to set this up week to week? Does outdoor light provide better details than flash or tungston?

My equipment consists of:
Canon 30D
Canon 24-70 2.8L
Canon 430 EX Speedlight
2 white umbrella's,
2 light stands with umbrella/flash adaptors
1 tripod

I am not opposed to purchasing some additional tools if necessary.

Thanks in advance for any lighting/position ideas.
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Re: Question: Lighting for muscle definition?
Old 10-01-2007, 12:34 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Its a crude idea, but if you use a 300w shop light (or what is called a hot light) put the light just above her head 15 feet (or so) away and if her angle to the camera is 0º it should be at 50º or 310º pose her, go stand in front of the camera and decide what looks good what doesn't, move the light 5º look again, etc. etc. once you know where the light causes the best shadows you can use your strobes.
and don't forget to light her from behind. Either shine a light on her or bounce it off a white background.

Hope that helps, Not attempting to give "pro" advice, thats just what I would do. [grin]
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Re: Question: Lighting for muscle definition?
Old 10-01-2007, 02:46 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Sounds like a fun project! I haven't shot a body builder -- I should get around to it. I did a series of my wife for 1 year (pregnancy with twins and the "recovery") -- she won't let me publish any of them, but much like you describe, we kept the lighting and other elements the same over the year.

The real key is to duplicate the shot as perfectly as you can. If you are successful in doing this, you'll be able to make an animation that shows her progress over time. At a minimum, it will let you digitally overlay the images and see changes easily. I marked the floor of a corner of my studio with tape to keep everything the same.

With your on-camera flash:
1) point it at the ceiling (assuming your ceiling is white) to give her definition
2) use a reflector on the floor, angled back up at her to soften the shadows
3) use a darker background (optional -- she'll look larger)
4) shoot from a slightly low angle to give her a more powerful look (optional)
5) posing oil will add definition (if you help, wash your hands before you touch your camera )

If you need reflectors, white foam core board works well and is sold at any office supply. You could also try bouncing the flash off of a wall to give you side lighting -- in this case, move the reflector to her shadow side.

More complicated setups can certainly give you more options -- and if you have the money, investing in equipment is rewarding. But you can do well with a single light -- and in this case, your subject benefits from the contrast.

Edit -- Forgot to add...if you invest in a monolight, I'd recommend putting it overhead and slightly (only slightly) in front.
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Re: Question: Lighting for muscle definition?
Old 10-01-2007, 06:43 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I did these some time ago. It may be a little more dramatic than you are looking for but it gives you a different idea. She is probably dressed a bit more than you are looking for also...


These were done with two softboxes on each side of the model and slightly in front of her feathered, IIRC. It shows shadow in definition which might be what you would be looking for??

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Re: Question: Lighting for muscle definition?
Old 10-03-2007, 10:48 PM   #5 (permalink)
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The point of progress pics is to show the trainers what's actually there as best you can, not to accentuate or overly dramatacize any definition. Many competitors make the mistake of sending progress pics that are overly lit, or over processed. As long as your missus can be seen, that's really all the trainers care about. Most often, the girls send snapshots from a point and shoot. The trainers are used to this, and are accustomed to 'interpreting" the definition characteristics that are sometimes blown by the p&s onboard flash.

Use one light at a slight angle so that you get *some* shadow action, but not so much that it could be chiaroscuro (or however it's spelled). The trainers need to see her *overall* size, shape and condition. *Especially* shape and size if she's doing figure.

Even better, if you've been to a show, do your best to duplicate the lighting arrangement that's on stage. The point is obviously to look the best under the type of lighting that will be used by the judges.
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Re: Question: Lighting for muscle definition?
Old 10-05-2007, 12:02 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Hard, angled light seems to be the best option here....



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Re: Question: Lighting for muscle definition?
Old 10-07-2007, 09:52 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Muscle definintion is shown by using shadows. One strobe angled in from the side with at most a little fill reflector will work.

Think of it like lighting landscapes. Shot with the sun high in the sky and the landscape flattens out, no shadows. In the morning or end of the day, with long shadows, you have height and depth.

You can do it outside but with a reflector. This is where hard light works well.

This is what I do so you might want to check out my website...

http://secondfocus.com
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Re: Question: Lighting for muscle definition?
Old 10-07-2007, 10:43 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SecondFocus View Post
This is what I do so you might want to check out my website...

http://secondfocus.com
I just browsed through your website and thoroughly enjoyed viewing your photography.

Thank you.

Best regards,
Kevin
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Re: Question: Lighting for muscle definition?
Old 10-12-2007, 03:21 PM   #9 (permalink)
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My recommendation is to use hard lighting, lit from the top or side. No bounce, no umbrella, you want to maximize the definition. Light 90 degrees to the camera axis to maximize texture.

This was shot from directly overhead with a snoot. Denny "Soft Black" backdrop and on floor. http://www.dennymfg.com/store/

Click for larger version
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Re: Question: Lighting for muscle definition?
Old 10-28-2007, 03:22 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Thanks to all of you who responded. I have been away and just now had an opportunity to read the comments.

I had attempted a few shots outside and if I could figure out how to place an image in a post I will try to do so. It is time to do another series and I will be attempting it again. I will take your advice into account.

Thanks again.
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