Classic Bodybuilder Picture PLUS Lighting Set Up

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: June 25, 2015

Category: Photography

Ok so as promised here’s a look behind the scenes to show you the set up that went into one of the recent additions to my Classic Era Bodybuilding series.

Having been a Competitive Bodybuilder in the past, I grew up reading all the magazines featuring the likes of Arnold, Frank Zane, Serge Nubret etc, so I’m a huge fan of the classic black and white images of Bodybuilders being tastefully portrayed as pieces of sculpture/art as opposed to looking angry and like they want to rip your head off…as seems to be portrayed all too often (in my own opinion).

Anyway enough of personal opinions, let’s take a look at how I set up this picture of ex WWE American Wrestler Steve Lewington…


Ok so here’s a look at the lighting set up in the studio; a 3 light set up consisting of two Strip Boxes and an Octa and also with Steve on a raised platform. In front of him on the floor is a Silver California Sunbounce 6″ x 4″ Reflector panel but I’ll explain more about that in a moment…


If you look closely at the modifiers (Strip Boxes and Octa) you’ll see that there is no outer diffusion fitted. In fact I only have the smaller, inner diffusion panel inside each of the modifiers. The reason for this is that I want to create a light that is not too soft but then not too hard either; just the inner diffusion panel definitely gives me the look I’m after. I could use one of Elinchrom’s Deflectors (Silver) inside the modifiers instead of the diffusion panel to create a kind of Beauty Dish effect, but having experimented many times, I found the light it produced to be a little too hard for this kind of picture. So, inner diffusion panel it is.

One little thing to mention about the Octa to the front of Steve…

Can you see how it’s angled directly downwards? The reason for this is what I call Bathroom Lighting. I’ll do a video to show exactly what I mean with this but basically to enhance the muscle definition you want to increase the shadow and highlight areas and having a light high up pointing down does exactly that; areas between the muscles get a deeper shadow and other areas have highlights increased. Dodging and Burning ‘in camera’.

Also, because of the inner material of the modifiers being silver in colour, the light it gives onto the model without the outer diffusion panel has a metallic look to it albeit very subtle,  and this is exactly what I want to give the final look to my black and white conversion in post production.

Now in the picture below you can see the position of the California Sunbounce…


With this relatively big silver reflector infront of Steve and angled back toward him slightly it enables me to add more light onto his lower body to even it out from top to bottom but also being silver, it also adds that metallic look again; something I find really does help when I’m working in Lightroom to do my Black & Whites.

Since posting online, some people have asked about the platform Steve is standing on. The reason I use this is to raise the model up off the ground so that the reflector can be in place without being in line of the camera when I’m taking the shot…does that make sense? Also being raised up and shooting from a low seated position, it adds to the drama of the male physique. As for why it’s white..simply because it enables me to shoot on black or white backgrounds and easily make a selection around the feet to then add a fake reflection…you noticed that in Steve’s picture right? 🙂

Ok so that’s just a quick look at the set up but if you have any questions/comments then please feel free to make use of the comments section below. Also if you’d like to see more of this kind of stuff showing set ups, let me know and I’ll be sure to include more over the coming weeks.

Catch you next time,


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  1. Dennis J Smith

    Very nice, going to be a great series. with this lighting, did you have to do a lot of burning and dodging in post? I was thinking, maybe not, or very little. Thanks for sharing.

    • Glyn

      Hi Dennis. Retouching was around 5 minutes with no D&B; just contrast added to increase the definition.

  2. John Dadley

    Nice work Glyn, let’s have some more. When is your course on Kelby Training being released ?

  3. Erwan

    Thanks for this ”behind the scene”
    Why you use elc 1000 for the side and back light? you need lot of power for the side light? for this shoot?
    Do you think the elc 1000, can be use with the godox LP-750? or LP-800x?

    Thanks a lot

  4. Andy Wang

    well done always


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