Photoshoot and Technique: Male Physique + Posing Tips

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: August 20, 2010

Category: General

One of last weeks photoshoots saw me back working with model Danny Bartlett adding more images to his portfolio. Working with my good friend Neal, this time we found ourselves shooting in a gym as opposed to the studio and concentrating more on capturing Danny’s physique:

Lighting Technique:
For the first series of shots I used a 3 light set up (all Nikon SB800’s) with 2 lights from behind and to the side and one light to the front but high up and aimed down.

When photographing a physique, especially one such as Danny’s you can exaggerate the definition and condition by the position of your lighting. Having one light to the front, high up and aimed down slightly has the effect of creating shadow areas inbetween the muscle groups which as a result gives a tighter and fuller look to the muscle.

Lighting Technique:
This close cropped series of images where Danny was sat on a bench were made using one light which again was a Nikon SB800 Speedlight into a Lastolite Ezybox and positioned so that it was facing directly onto him from the front.

Now despite having a low body fat even someone like Danny when he sits down and leans forward gets lines across the abdomen as skin gathers together, so to avoid this all that was needed was to raise the lighting rig up a little so that more shadows were created in that area; result…no folds of skin 🙂

5 Tips/Techniques for Photographing a Muscular Physique :
From my years competing in Bodybuilding Competitions I picked up several ‘tricks of the trade’ that can help to show the physique off to it’s best so I thought it would be handy to share them here with you:

1. Stance: Avoid having your subject stand straight on to the camera. Getting them to angle their hips away from you slightly and then bringing the shoulders ‘square on’ has the effect of visually minimising the waist line and exaggerating the shoulders.

2. Abdominals: When someone clearly has the ‘six pack’ a way to show it off to it’s best is to get your subject to breathe out all the way to completely empty their lungs and once at that stage get them to force a cough and watch those abs pop out! … not literally though you understand 🙂

3. Tan: If you’re going to be photographing a muscular physique having a tan or dark skin is essential if you’re to show it off at it’s best.

4. Water: Having a spray bottle to hand is a great way to simulate sweat. Best to use warm water though so as not give your model a shock!

5. Deep Heat: Not something you’re going to want to use in a confined space but apart from warming the skin up, spraying Deep Heat also causes the veins to become alot more prominent; great if you’re wanting the ‘ripped’ look. Of course there are a few other ways that we used to use to get the same look that involved crushed aspirin and a teaspoon of honey but I think it’s best not to go there 🙂

* * *

Any questions or comments or maybe some tips and techniques of your own I’d love to ‘hear’ them so please feel free to make use of the comments section below.

In the mean time have yourselves a great weekend,
Enjoy 🙂

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  1. Konfral

    Great great shots Glyn, and thank you very much for sharing the tips and tricks.
    With a model like that you definitely don’t want to upset him with not getting the shot 😉

    • Glyn

      @Konfral…Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting; very kind of you and yeah we definitely made sure we got the shot here 🙂


  2. DaveT

    Great tutorial and tips as ever Glyn – fabulous results.

    I’m intrigued by the light ratios – Iv’e tried to reverse engineer the lighting, but as I am a beginner in these things, I’d appreciate your input. For the first two shots (full length)my guess is the the two rear lights are at the same setting, but the front light is at a lower setting?


    • Glyn

      @DaveT…Thanks for the kind words mate 🙂
      Re the lighting you’re spot on…the two rear lights were equal distance, height etc… from Danny and were at one setting and the front light which was the ezybox but with the front diffusion removed so as to give a harder light, was at a lower setting. For what it’s worth I think the rear lights were at 1/16 and the front light at 1/32.

      Hope that helps,

  3. Dave T



  4. Tim Skipper


    I am a huge fan of this technique. I would like to see this with maybe a slightly more exposure to the front to give the face more detail. Joel Grimes uses a similar technique in many of his photos.

    I glad you gave how to make the veins pop, I thought you’d have to make the poor model workout first 🙂

    • Glyn

      Hi Tim,

      Thanks for dropping in mate.
      The lighting in this shot was very much dictated by the look Danny wanted for his portfolio. Moody/shadow packed lighting with not much showing the face was what he was after but yeah normally I’d look to pop a little bit of light into the face too.

      Re the veins…He did have to do a few weights in between shots too which all helps to give the muscle a fuller look.

      Thanks again mate,
      Glyn 🙂

  5. David Kelly

    Thanks for the insights always – much appreciated. Even better to get some insider advice from someone who knows a lot about body building.
    Lighting as always is ace and defines Danny’s muscle mass really well. Wasn’t it Joe McNally (or someone of that ilk) that said “to make something more interesting only light part of it” – well it certainly works well in the images.


    • Glyn

      @David…Thanks for the comments mate and yeah it was Joe McNally that said it; wise words huh 🙂

      Cheers and see you soon,

  6. Wayne Brown

    Hello Glyn

    its nice to find somone who will help, im just tring desparately to get into physique photgraphy. i have my first shots of a competition on NABBA’S web site of the England bash ( thanks to Val and Jim Charles ), i would love your opinion as to any improovement critisism.

    Ive not had much luck recently ( Cancer ) i love Body Building and am interested in the gym shoot side as well.

    My facebook site has some physique shots but ive only been doing physique’s a few months.

    Your images are stunning Glyn.


    • Glyn

      @Wayne…Thanks so much for dropping by and commenting.
      Re your photos on NABBA’s site please feel free to send over the link; I’d love to see them.

      Ditto mate I love Bodybuilding. Been training since I was 17 but stopped competing about 4 years ago now; still training obviously but now I can allow myself a few more treats on the food front if you know what I mean 🙂

      I’ll go now and look up your Facebook mate to see the photos but like I said, feel free to drop me a line.

      All the very best to you mate,

      ps> Thanks again for the kind words.

  7. Lauren Hahnel

    Best camera setting on a Nikon D3500?


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