A 3 Light Setup for Fitness Photography

During a recent shoot for a fitness boot camp class, photographer Miguel Quiles used a basic three point lighting setup. This behind the scenes video of the photo shoot gives insight into the lighting tools and camera settings best used for fitness photography:


Quiles’s basic three light setup includes a PhotoFlex FlexFlash 400W with a PhotoFlex Medium Octadome for the key light, and two rim lights on either side of the camera. The light on camera left is a PhotoFlex 200W with a PhotoFlex Medium Halfdome with grid, and the light on camera right is a PhotoFlex FlexFlash 200W with a medium grid.

fitness bootcamp photo shoot

Lighting Setup

The purpose of the rim lights is to separate the subject from the background by creating a nice highlight around the model.


athletic photography

The lights are positioned close to the model.

Quiles emphasizes the importance of placing the lights correctly. The closer the lights are to the subject the softer the light will be.

Camera Gear and Settings

Quiles uses a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and a 50mm f/1.2 lens. A tripod is essential, as it helps to get the sharpest of images. The camera settings are f/9 at 1/125 of a second and ISO 100. Notice how the camera settings did not change throughout the shoot.


Props are important, especially in fitness photography, because they tend to add something extra to the photos. Remember, these images are meant for promoting a fitness boot camp.

Here are a few images from the shoot.

fitness portraits
lighting setup for portraits
using props for studio portraits

Once the lighting for this type of shot is in place, your job as the photographer is to get the right expressions from your model. Quiles got a number of looks from the shoot even with the same lighting for each shot.

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2 responses to “A 3 Light Setup for Fitness Photography”

  1. Great video, with useful information (even if I don’t use exactly the same equipment)!

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. bryan connor says:

    My wife and I are building an online nutrition coaching website. We compete and coach fitness competitors. We are looking for a camera/lens combination that will take quality stage photos (bright lights on stage, very dim lighting from the audience), as well as, progress photos (usually done at home or in a gym), and photos of food for our recipe blog. We would also like to be able to shoot video for exercise explanations and posting to social media.

    Our budget is about $2,000 (a little wiggle room, if necessary). I have been looking at some mirrorless options (sony A6500, Fuji X-T2). I have also been looking at a few DSLR options (Nikon D500, Nikon 7200, Canon EOS6d, Canon Rebel, etc).

    Please Help with a few recommendations. Should we go with a full frame, or will a crop sensor option fulfill our needs? We are brand new when it comes to photography, but are willing to do research and know there will be a learning curve. Also, if you have any less expensive recommendations that will fulfill our goals, that would be awesome.

    *After posting, i found the Nikon DL24-500 (this option is less expensive, but possibly a great fit for our beginner background and photography needs) What do you think?

    Thank You

    Bryan Connor

    Natural Truth Nutrition & Fitness

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