Sunday, April 4, 2010



Settings: Face light is proper exposure, right rim is one stop above, left is about a half stop above.

I attend a Kettlebell class at a gym called Mjolnir (the name of Thor's hammer in norse mythology). The gym really loves having masculine aggressive imagery up, but I noticed that all of it was from foreign athletes, despite numerous staff members, as well as attendants, being just as muscular and photo worthy. I love Iceland, and any chance I can get to promote internal imagery rather than importing stuff made elsewhere, I try to encourage it. I decided to pursue a shoot with them, and do a test shoot before hand so that they would need to do very little imagination to see how it would come out.


Settings: Face light is proper exposure, right rim is one stop above, left is about a half stop above.

I knew I wanted rim light for the revealing effect it has on muscles, but I also wanted to light the face. Before going into the lighting, here is the setup shot. Click through to flickr to read the notes.


The main light is my standard 30x40 XXS softbox with a 20 degree grid to keep it just on the face. This is reading f/4 with the light meter, and my aperture is f/4. So the face is going to be properly exposed. The 2nd light is off to the side, it's shooting through the white diffusion panel, but also past it (you can see the edge on the floor where the light is spilling) and bouncing off the reflector. The rim is reading f/5.6 on the right side (for one stop over) and f/4.5 on the right for a slight over exposure. I would love to keep them even, but the light has further to go when bouncing off the reflector, and loses some light because of the inverse square law (double the distance, quarter the intensity). If I had a longer cable, I could bring the light way further back, to keep the distances more similar, but the cables were already at their limit. Having a light meter really helped a lot to be able to ensure proper exposure, and making sure my rim lights were coming out brighter than the main, and by how much.


For this one I sprayed him with a water spritzer to get a sweaty look going.

For the actual shoot, I am going to run both lights through diffusers to get even, smooth rim on both sides. To keep from getting skunk lighting on the face (a dark black line down the center) I will just put a silver reflector disc on a boom arm for some slight fill. I much prefer the rim look, and lighting the face too evenly removes the constrasty affect from the muscles. I'll post them when they're done.


  1. Nice post. To tell you the truth I would have never noticed the difference in the rim lights.

    I look forward to seeing the final photos. Cheers.

  2. I really like the light tones you have on the skin, especially on the first image. Works nicely.

  3. Thanks Josh, but I am pretty sure if I had a 2nd image you'd see it. Check mainly on the cheek definition on the shot of the 2nd model, how it has bright white rim on the right side, and much darker on the left. If it were symetrical it would read as a lot more powerful.

    Thanks as well Aiden, I was purposefully going for the soft and subtle rim light look, as so many photographers today use bare bulb rim light which is normally too harsh for my tastes.

  4. Really Cool!!! Hey I was wondering how it would looking in color with a color background being that you want to maintain smooth lighting

  5. I am not 100% sure on what you mean Brandon. The photos were taken in raw, with full color, and then converted. I couldn't have increased contrast quite this high without the colors looking odd, but it has the same smooth quality in color as well.