Fitness and Bodybuilding Photography Blog

June 20, 2015 / Leave a comment

MMA Fighter/Bodybuilder Photoshoot

A few weeks ago I found my friend and classmate Artur Gluchowski has signed contract with British Mix Martial Arts Federation BAMMA. Despite the fact I knew Artur is MMA fighter, it was a big surprise for me to see him actually chosen to continue his career here, on the Islands.

My first thought was to speak to him and ask for all the details. After 20min of phone conversation we have arranged for our photo session at the gym he trains in Manchester. At the day we met I was very excited as it was my first time photographing bodybuilder and fighter, also fitness and bodybuilding photography was something I always wanted to try!


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Artur Gluchowski MMA fighter

It was a great pleasure to see my friend after that long time, especially to see him so happy about being successful in what was his passion for the whole life. I can remember that Artur had always hearth to fight and his physical conditions were promising. Now, after years of hard training, his skills and body musculature are close to perfection, and I was extremely fortunate to have a chance to take some good shoots for him.

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worm up before photoshoot

After some worm up which was also captured by ma camera we were able to do some proper shoots. Have a look on a few of them and I will explain all the camera gear and lighting bellow the photo gallery.



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My camera gear and lighting for fitness bodybuilder photoshoot

For this shoot I was using only one camera body and one lens, nothing else was required. I had my Nikorr 24-70 f2.8 lens attached to my full frame Nikon D600 body. As it was a ‘studio-kind’ setup I was operating in between f7 and f9 aperture to maintain my model perfectly sharp and to include some of environment well visible as well. The mentioned lens from Nikon is extremely sharp and was a perfect choice for this job as I wanted all the muscle edges and veins to be nicely structured. The focal length of this glass is very useful, on 24mm you can achieve the wide angle affect which emphasises human body attributes and by zooming up to 70mm you get more flattering portrait look.

nikon d600 with 24-70 f2.8 lens

To effectively show musculature of human body on pictures it is required to produce distinct transitions in between highlights and shadows. The light has to be a bit harder and directional. I found that the most corresponding direction of the main light would be high above the model pointing down and at about 30 degrees angle from vertical axis. That setup makes the light hitting muscles from above and creates decent shadows bellow. The contrast achieved is what we are looking for.

For the main light I have used a Yongnuo Yn560ii speedlight mounted on cheap and amazingly good for the price Chinese bracket with ‘S’ shape mounting for Bowens type ‘S’ modifiers. I bought it for as little as £14 and I couldn’t be more happy with quality of this bracket. It is made from hard plastic, takes all the sizes of standard speedlights and feels well and sturdy.


flash bracket bowens mount

I do really like the mounting on this bracket, it feels well secured and looks much better and trustfully than vertical-mounted brackets I was using before. As always the flash is fired with use of cheap radio triggering system. The receiver is attached to the flash hot shoe and the transmitter is mounted on camera. All this makes a great budget lighting system which works in manual mode, so for the fact every time you need to change the flash power output it needs to be done manually, but I’ve never found it a big problem.


speedlight mounted to the bracket


Light modifiers


For light modifier I have chosen 42cm beauty dish. And again, I haven’t spend a fortune on it, the one I have is Chinese make ordered from eBay. It is very good made modifier with honey grid for more directional light and diffusion cover for gentle softening. The dish has arrived within 5 days posted from Hong Kong! As mentioned it gives nice, not too soft and not too hard directional light which is perfect for our purpose. It has ‘S’ shape Bowens type mount and comes without any cover but for the price it is a real bargain and mostly important, it does the job!


light modifier for bodybuilding photoshoot



honey grid makes the light more directional and cloth cover works as diffuser


Simply operated multi light setup


To get similar look to magazine style photos we need more that one light setup. Additional contra light sources can enhance the photo by creation of rim light on the model arms and head as well us lighting coming from the opposite side of camera position separates our subject from the background. In that case I have used another 2 YN560ii flashes and cheap 33″ bounce umbrellas bought on eBay for £8 a pair! Radio triggers were not required, these fantastic flashes can be set to slave function and are synchronised with the main light. Build in sensor detects a pop of light to trigger itself.  All you need to make sure of is that there is a clear line of sight to the key light. So generally you need only one transmitter and receiver and you can fire as many lights as you it not so cool?


bounce umbrella and youngnuo flash


As mentioned before the main light goes on above the model pointing down and another 2 lights are positioned behind on 45 degrees angle to model’s back. You can use one back light if you don’t have 2, the effect will be very similar.

To achieve the right exposure you have to do some test shoots with no flash lights and adjust camera setting to slightly underexpose the scene. But not too much as we want the environment to be included. Obviously it’s for your taste, you can get more of surrounding to show on the final picture or to achieve kind of  dramatic results the background can be darkened. The next step would be adding the lights, key one ,on beauty dish, has to properly expose the skin and back lights are about 1 stop higher to produce defined illumination on the edges. Adjusting the lights output power is performed through trial and error, unless you have a light meter and can operate it effectively…I don’t.

I hope all the amateur photographers find these few tips useful. I love to experiment, trying new equipment and solutions as myself I feel an amateur and still learning photography. So for everyone enjoyed reading I would recommend to hit ‘like’ on my Facebook fan page FotoDelight Lukasz Chmielewski for update on the newest posts.


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