Thursday, November 13, 2008

Pushup self-portrait


I was watching the movie, "Never Back Down" which was a bit cheesy, but fun. They did a section where they filmed the main character doing pushups, but did it with the camera oriented on it's side, then righted the footage so that the character looked as if he was pushing off a wall instead of the floor. I thought it would be a cool opportunity for a photograph, so when the movie was over, I set about emulating it.

First, I knew I wanted to use something soft-ish for the main light, but I wanted to create as much volume as possible, this was a good opportunity for my new 61cm umbrella. My main umbrella is 110cm, which would have made a much softer light, which would not have defined the muscles as well. 61cm is a great in between a bare flash and a huge umbrella when you want strong details that still have a soft edge. I had to move it toward the camera a few times until it revealed just the right amount of detail. I wanted a rim light that still raked across the muscles on the front. It's still slightly behind the subject, aiming a bit forward.

After the main was set, I started with the second flash. I tried at first to place it directly behind the head, and use as a bright rim light all around the head. It wasn't quite strong enough though, and didn't really give the effect that I wanted. I moved it off of the light stand, and attached it to the small stand the flash came with. It was about even with the main flash, and aimed up at the subject's head. However it spilled onto the arms, making them far too bright. After attaching a gridspot, I was able to keep it only on the face/torso and not on the arms.


Settings: Ambient is 5 stops underexposed. Main flash is into a 61cm silver umbrella at one stop above neutral grey. Secondary flash is at 1.5 stops above neutral grey, and is using a gridspot to keep it only on the face/torso and not on the arms.

After rotating the image to achieve the original planned look, I was quite happy with the result. The background did not go quite dark enough, as you can see from the setup shot. A quick pass with the burn tool gave me a true black background, which I think adds to and heightens the mood of the shot.


  1. Cool. What is attatched to the Canon flashes? Is it some kind of radio triggers?

  2. They are Elinchrom Skyports, which is a wireless trigger system that works using radio waves instead of infrared like Canon´s proprietary system. Doesn´t make much difference indoors like this, but outdoors radio is much more reliable.

  3. Wow, great image and thanks for sharing the set up info.

  4. Fantastic photos! your blog is very interesting and beautifully written.