Fitness Portraits with the New OctoDome White

Fitness Thumb


This lighting test focuses on the versatility of the Photoflex OctoDome White: Large. This session with a fitness trainer produced several lighting concepts ranging from a natural-looking ambience to a darker composition with some grit.

Photoflex’s new OctoDome White: Large is a versatile light modifier for very soft diffusion or controlled light shaping with an optional grid. As the largest in the OctoDome White series, it has the ability to wrap light around people with a single strobe. The octagonal shape also provides round catch lights in the eyes, often preferred for portraiture. Additionally, fall-off near the edge is more gradual than a soft box and allows more creative control for feathering.

Size & Set Up

The OctoDome White series is designed for efficiency and easy setup. Compared to the time-tested OctoDome and OctoDome nxt series, there are no interchangeable panels. The shell is light weight yet durable, weighing only 4.5 lbs including the inner baffle, front diffuser and carrying case. Poles never need to be removed from the channels during setup or take down. Simply release the hook and loop tabs at each end to insert the poles into a speed ring, then fasten them again for the dome to take shape. After practicing once or twice, setup takes about four minutes. Keep in mind you’ll need at least a 10’ x 10’ clear space during setup.

OctoDome White: Large

Lily, the fitness trainer was first positioned in front of a mirrored wall reflecting a window for natural backlighting. Using a 600 WS strobe at 1/8 output, the OctoDome White: Large provided beautiful soft light at 8 feet from the subject. The C-stand was placed four feet to my right with a slight downward tilt.

At this distance, the OctoDome's size ensured a complete wrap around the subject. Such flat lighting is very forgiving on face and skin yet defines muscle tone. Here, it worked primarily to emphasize her upper torso equal to her face.

In the second example, I asked Lily to try different floor exercises while I moved to a low camera angle. The window is mostly out of frame on the right and provided an excellent rim light along the length of the trainer's body. A 24-70mm lens at f/2.8, ISO 100 and 1/60 second, gave a shallow depth of field to help separate the subject from the background. Again, the size of the modifier wraps the subject in soft light without casting strong shadows. The angle of light provides more contouring overall.

OctoDome White: Large & OctoDome White: Extra Small

In the third example, the OctoDome White: Large allowed me to control a difficult lighting situation. Windows, mirrors and overhead lights of varying color temperature can make composition difficult. Here there was also a lot of equipment and distractions reflected in the background. Rather than avoid them, I used them strategically instead.

Lily was positioned directly in front of the mirrored wall to give the effect of a distant background. Using a 70-200mm lens at f/2.8 added compression and narrowed the field. The OctoDome White: Large was nine feet in front of the trainer to my right, just out of frame. Its center was three feet above eye level and tilted downward.

The result is a large key light that wraps and falls off before its reflection reaches distant objects. The window and treadmill were then part of the atmosphere without being a distraction. Finally, a hair light was added on a boom with an OctoDome White: Extra Small and speedlight. By comparison, the setup shot above shows how much ambient light was actually in the facility.

OctoDome White: Large w/Grid & OctoDome White: Extra Small

Telling a visual story is often more dramatic when using selective focus. The same is true when using light to shape the environment. Lighting will convey other clues to the story beyond the pose. In the fourth example, easy changes to the setup created a very different tone. By comparison, the setup shot shows how the OctoDome White: Large completely took over the ambient surroundings.

The OctoDome White: Large was moved closer to the trainer and I added a grid to reduce spread and provide directional light. Strobe power was dialed down to 1/16 and I used a 24-70mm lens at f/2.8, ISO 100 and 1/80 second.

The resulting shadows revealed smaller muscle groups and veins. At the same time, increasing the rim light emphasized the face, neck and shoulder.

In the final example, the shot conveys a more intense mindset and physicality than when we started.


Written and photographed by Ames Kanemoto