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Behind The Scenes - Studio Fitness

Continuous lights vs strobes
Words by Mike Timm 06 Mar, 2019 0 comments

A day in the studio experimenting with lighting setups that could work for both video and stills. Come delve into this behind the scenes look at how this played out.

Studio Days are Learning Days

With a fresh approach and much more video content planned for 2019, we’ve been incorporating our video setup into more and more of our shoots. Making sure that we capture all the best scenes of our shoots in high-resolution video.

Over the last week, we’ve been in studio twice, working on how to incorporate both stills and video into one studio day.

After a full day of shooting fitness in studio, it’s become very clear that there are many factors to consider when setting up light to shoot photos and video on the same day.

Our goal for this specific day was to shoot a fitness theme in two lighting setups, one with colourful gels, and the other a clean, white, high-key background. Let’s have a look at how it went down.

Planning for a studio day

Planning for studio shoots is an exciting process where we generally push to try new and interesting light setups and shoot differently than any of our previous shoots. This time was no different.

Considering the stills and video setup, and the fact that we wanted to shoot video not only in the traditional landscape orientation, but also in vertical, we had to rent some gear to play with, and find a way for us to mount the FS7ii on a tripod which will remain stable while shooting in both orientations.

Considering the mounting as well as the lighting proved to be a bit of a hurdle and had to be sure that we are prepared before we arrived at the studio.

Having been more than capable of making use of our Profoto B1 and D1’s for stills shoots, it’s pretty obvious that these are ineffective for video work.

Due to this we rented 4 Profoto Daylight continuous lighting kits, which gave us the power and control to use it for video work. The fact that these were also compatible with our Profoto modifiers was a huge advantage for us.

Studio days require meticulous time planning to ensure that everything can be fit in. Taking all of the above into consideration we had to break down our time to ensure we have enough time to allow for setting up both lighting setups, shooting stills and video, styling changes, and most importantly lunch.

Setup 1 - Fitness with Gels

The first setup we wanted to create was a playful and creative lighting setup with gels.

Our setup initially had a blue backdrop with four lights. One with an octabox, diffusion, and grid as a key light, 1 with a cine-reflector with a red gel, and another two with blue gels, one as a rim light, and the other shining through a blue gel into a white V-flat, creating a soft light from the side as fill. With these gels, we had control over the ambient colour (Blue) as well as the colour (red) projected on the background.



We decided to go with continuous lighting as we were planning on shooting video first, and then adapt the settings on the stills camera to shoot with the same setup.

Process and Challenges

Once we had the lights up and running, we had the challenge of balancing the key light with the fill- and backlight. This was a demanding issue as the lighting in-camera looked completely different from what we expected.

Behind the scenes studio  

We made a few power changes, but eventually, we decided to take the key light away, and BOOM! We had the light we wanted. It took a solid three hours and much movement of the lighting to allow for the eventual setup we settled on.

Once we started shooting with the final setup, the process went very quickly, and we managed to get both stills and video with the same setup.

Considering the slower shutter speed video is shot in, it’s definitely more effective shooting video with the continuous lighting than stills. We came to a bit of a challenge to getting the exposure right for the stills since we had to use a high ISO and slow shutter speed. 

We ended up at around ISO 1000 and this was obviously not great, as it risks running into noise and sharpness issues at these high ISO levels, and slow shutter speeds. 

Our Solution?

As mentioned, we worked with a continuous lighting setup which integrated well within our existing setup of Profoto modifiers. This made the lights a whole lot easier to work with.

Laptop with Capture One Pro shooting tethered in studio

We struggled with the noise and sharpness in the stills using the continuous lights. So after a few tests we decided to simply swap out the light heads from the continuous Daylight HMI’s to the Profoto D1 strobes, which took a quick 5 minutes to balance out again and carried on shooting. This was a very convenient solution to a challenge that could’ve taken a long time to fix and may have required a new setup if we couldn't use the same modifiers. 



Setup 2 - Fitness on White

The second setup we wanted to create was a clean, high-key setup.
Moving over into this second setup was much quicker than setting up the first one.

Considering the number of elements we had to take into consideration for the first setup, this second one proved to be a walk in the park.

Shooting both stills and video was much easier to do with the second half, allowing us to do both with only the continuous lighting.


The setup was simple and highly effective. We used two Profoto HMI’s at full power to clean get a clean white backdrop. To ensure no spillage of light, we blocked out the extra light with black foam boards.

The setup and execution of this second setup was definitely less intense than the first one, which proves that in most cases, less is more.

What was the outcome?

Behind the scenes photo of white on white fitness shoot in studio

Speaking from the perspective of a stock photographer, a clean background, clear concept and copyspace will always allow for a good result.

Looking at the images from this section, it’s clear that this section was set up and shot from a space of confidence.

To sum it all up...

Woman with battling ropes

Combine what you know with something new.

The setup we used for the White on White fitness allowed us to make use of a lighting setup that’s familiar to us, getting results we were expecting. This allowed us the opportunity to spend the first part of the day experimenting with the new lights and the gels.

Making sure to have a good combination of what you know and something new and experimental allows you to shoot with peace of mind, and learn something new.

Knowing that the images you need to either offer to the client, for your portfolio, or in our case for our stock portfolio is definitely on the cards, but if we can find a new approach to it, it adds to our knowledge, and therefore the next shoot we do with a similar setup won’t be foreign to us.

We generally strive to try or learn something new at every shoot.

Fitness boxing on white background

There’s no perfect solution for both video and stills

While we managed to get the results we wanted from continuous lighting, in this case, it became very clear to us what the limitations are with both continuous light and strobes.

Strobes offer lots of power that gives you sharp and crisp stills in the highest quality. But obviously, they don’t allow you to light your scene when shooting video.

Continuous light has significantly lower power output. That works for video where you generally shoot at a higher ISO and a slower shutter speed. But for stills, it means that you will need to shoot at a lower aperture setting and higher ISO. So there’s a big tradeoff in the quality of the stills you are getting.

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