Photo Shoot, Technique & A Composite: British Champion Bodybuilder

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: August 12, 2011

Category: General

Hi Folks.
Thought for today I’d post a new composite and a few other sample images, along with some B.T.S. (Behind the Scenes) info, from a recent photo shoot with British Natural Bodybuilding Champion Nigel Saint Lewis

This particular shoot was to capture Nigel’s incredible physique after all the the hours of sweat and tears he’d put into the gym plus being on a strict diet to get in shape to compete in his first ever Bodybuilding Competition, so naturally we worked on some physique shots but once we’d done that we then moved onto taking shots that were going to be edited a touch more than normal, such as the composite above and one I posted earlier…

Lighting Set Up:
Here’s a B.T.S. (Behind the Scenes) shot to show the lighting set-up that I used throughout the shoot. This is one of my favourite set ups because of the flexibility it offers i.e. The different looks that can be achieved by shooting with all 3 lights through to just using the one is limitless, plus the ‘Octa’ on occasion was swapped out for a beauty dish with honeycomb grid.

Also as I was shooting everything from headshots to full length I used the large soft boxes but positioned the black V-Flats/Gobo’s in such a way to make strip lights; no point spending £££’s on purpose built full length strip boxes when the same result can be achieved by simply positioning kit you already have…aahhh Zack would be proud 🙂 …

Composite Before/After
The 2 images below show the Before (Out of Camera) and the After (Final Edit) so you can see the kind of editing that was carried out in Photoshop to make the composite…

Composite Bits & Pieces
Below are the images that were used in the composite in addition to some techniques to create the shooting stars etc:

Same Set-Up, Different Looks
Here’s some samples of what else we got up to by making use of the exact same lighting throughout the shoot all except for swapping the Octabox for the Beauty Dish & Honeycomb Grid in the first two images below…

Post Production for this series of shots was minimal:

  • Double Raw Conversion
  • Dodging & Burning
  • B&W Conversion
  • Desaturate
  • Sharpening
  • Vignette

For those of you who don’t know, there’s a series of rounds involved in competitive Bodybuilding; compulsory poses to show the main muscle groups, a free round where each competitor will go through a choreographed routine to music of their choice to show their physique’s strongest points, symmetry etc and then a comparison round.

I clearly remember from my days as a Competitive Bodybuilder that the ‘posing’ is every bit as hard if not more so than the training that was involved to build the physique in the first place, because of the restricted diet and subsequent lower energy levels.

Anyway the reason for me telling you this is that if you do ever find yourself photographing a Bodybuilder, a good way to start the shoot is to get them to go through their routine which has the benefit of:

  1. Getting them ‘In the Zone’
  2. Warmed Up
  3. Gives you the chance to see and choose poses that would be great to photograph
This can take some time and if you have no knowledge of bodybuilding you’re gonna need to show each pose that you’ve photographed to the subject because they’ll want to make sure feet are positioned correctly, body angle is correct and so on. To an ‘outsider’ for want of a better phrase, this may seem a little O.T.T. but when you think about the effort that’s gone into building such a physique and then the diet involved you can understand the need to get the shots spot on!

We finished the shoot with a more relaxed and not so ‘in your face’ series of shots; again with the rim lights and the Octabox on the boom as in the B.T.S. (Behind the Scenes) shots above…

Post Processing for this series of shots was pretty much the same too:

  • Double Raw Conversion
  • Dodging & Burning
  • Black & White Conversion
  • Desaturate
  • Sharpen
  • Vignette

In addition to this though, a little bit of a glow/softening was added as a final touch…

So there you have it…one lighting set up and a whole series of different looks.

As always, if you have any questions about anything in this post be it the photography or editing side, or you just want to leave a comment, then please feel free to make use of the comments section below.

Oh, and incidentally just incase you missed it, with regards to the composite image and how it was put together, on the 4th September at 8pm BST (UK) I’m doing a ‘live’ webinar where you’ll get to see a lot of the compositing and retouching techniques from start to finish; you can find out more at this [Link]

Enjoy 🙂

• • •

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  1. govind vekaria

    3 light set-up gives beautiful results – not only for body-builders. And the octa is awesome to have (but I don’t have a boom 🙁 ).

    • Glyn

      @Govind…Yeah I just love the flexibility of the set up 🙂

  2. DaveT

    Great images Glyn, and thanks for the BTS lighting pull back shots – very useful.

    • Glyn

      @DaveT…Glad you like it mate 😉

  3. Mark Bush

    Great images, Glyn. And thanks for the BTS. It is VERY helpful to have your commentary on the lighting setup and process of the shoot. When I first saw the DIY Strip boxes tag, I was curious how you made them: bread boxes with a “space blanket” lining, lit by speedlites or some such? (Too much time on DIY Photography sites, I guess.) I have to admit to a “Doh” moment when I saw that you just flagged your softboxes. The most elegant solution is so frequently the simple one. Thanks for a great article (and for the reminder not to make it so complicated).

    • Glyn

      Hey Mark thanks for your comment and yeah I agree totally…best solutions are usually the simplest (and cheapest) lol 🙂

  4. David

    I am relativley new to this photography lark and am grateful for any tips and tricks. I am trying to soak up as much as possible. Brilliant and thank you. Do you have any suggestions a budget lighting starter kit.

    P.S. I particularly like the stripy socks!

  5. Funny Pix Blog

    Hmm it looks like your website ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I wrote and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to the whole thing. Do you have any tips for novice blog writers? I’d definitely appreciate it.


    Just desire to say your article is as astounding.
    The clarity in your post is simply spectacular and i could assume
    you’re an expert on this subject. Fine with your permission let me to grab your RSS feed to keep updated with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please carry on the rewarding work.

  7. jo rutherford

    Glyn , this is fabulous, have started using Google + more and so I am now even more distracted by your work!!!

  8. DR

    I’ve been shooting bodybuilders for nearly a decade, and these are some of the best shots I’ve seen. Thanks for this, very interesting read!

    When you are using this 3 light setup, do you mind if I ask what sort of ratio you use on the front light vs the kickers?

  9. Julia August

    Amazing photos!



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