Occasionally, you can make radical changes in the feel of the light you bring to a subject not by making major moves in the physical position of the light, but simply in the power. That of course includes making one source more or less powerful relative to another source, but also the simple act of just shutting a light off. Dramatic things can occur just by flipping a switch. Allegedly, the famous WWII pinup shot of Rita Hayworth by LIFE staffer Bob Landry gathered its notoriety from the simple fact of one of the photog’s flashes did not go off. I don’t know if that is true or not, but it is generally agreed that the famous shot did not make the initial selects because both Landry and the editors deemed the lighting to be too “poorly done.” They reconsidered, and upon publication, it became the pinup shot that America’s troops brought to war with them.
Ronnie Coleman, eight time Mr. Olympia, is no stranger to a camera. But he did think it somewhat odd that my primary mission was to photograph his hands for Sports Illustrated.
To do the above, I created a beauty light arrangement, a classic over-under light pattern that is standard fare in the fashion industry. Again, in standard fashion, this lighting tandem is powered so that the overhead main is basically about one stop more powerful than the lower fill light. Both are soft boxes and not particularly big. Complementing the up front treatment are rim lights, or side lights, supplied by four Nikon Speedlights, on SU-4 mode, manually slaving off the big lights. I limited them from spilling around the set with some gaffer tape snoots. Nothing fancy, but works okay. Below is a production snap.
Now, for the below I basically shut the overhead off, and powered the underneath light up. I took down the power on the rim lights. Nothing changed position.
Then, for the shot below, I turned the low power way down, and hyped up the juice in the overhead. I asked Ronnie, who’s a heckuva a nice guy, to lift up and into the light.
And, along the way, I just played with the ratios between the upper and lower and came in for a detail. Again, no lights got moved. When you’re working with one of the legendary body builders of all time, you don’t mess around and fiddle with stuff. He’s busy, time is limited. Get the lights in a good position, and then play the game of ratios. The pictures will have a different feel, based on how the lights play together.
The game of ratios. Not filled with the intrigue and danger of another currently popular game involving thrones, but fun nevertheless. More tk….
This is such a great way to get to know such great Olympian champion like Ronnie Coleman – and the lighting setup is as usual very wise and deadly effective!!!
Ray Watson says
The quality of these photos is unreal! Seriously, it’s almost surreal. It’s truly incredible. Amazing work, Joe.
Astonishing stuff. There’s definitely something magical about that cover image.
Andy Mitty says
Making Ronnie look as good as he is! It’s time I paid more attention to your blog. Thanks Joe
Katie O. says
The way the facets of the weight are lit for the shot where he is lifting it up toward the light is just magical. Wow. Love love love the detail. I feel as though your BTS accompanied by the final shots are priceless lessons in and of themselves. Thank you so much for sharing. I have a few friends that train or are personal trainers and all of this makes me want to talk them into a shoot ^_^
I am budding photographer, only i can say about “IT IS MASSIVE INSPIRATION” for me.
Karl Shreeves says
Great stuff and great shot as always. Sometimes when I can’t make the lighting work, I start turning lights off and pulling reflectors. Amazing how often less is more.
Industrial Photographer says
I wonder, if you would be able to create a similar effect on a female bodybuilder.
Joe McNally says
Hi…I’m sure I could. Never worked with a female bodybuilder, though.
Nice stuff! Very intense.