Branding Photography for Fitness Professionals
Branding Photography for Fitness Professionals
As a personal trainer, yoga instructor, or fitness coach, essentially you are running your own business. You might be working by yourself & training clients in the park, or working for a gym. Just like any other entrepreneur, it is your responsibility to market your business to get new clients. Branding photography for fitness professionals is a key part of this.
I specialise in branding photoshoots for fitness professionals. I work with PTs, running coaches, yoga instructors, Pilates teachers & many others. My photography style is real & authentic. I create images that show the real YOU. As an entrepreneur, YOU are your business.
Before any fitness photoshoot, I want to find out about you. About you as a person & you as a fitness professional. About your brand. Your brand values. Your brand personality. Who you train, who you want to train. This enables me to create photos that compliment your brand values & appeal to your target market.
You might say that I am your target market.
My passion away from photography is fitness. I run & I’m a qualified run leader, I cycle & swim. I lift weights & enjoy yoga. I’m immersed in my own professional industry. I am also immersed in your industry. I have a knowledge of & understand both. I’m ideally placed to help you create the images you need to market & grow your fitness business.
Want to chat all things squats & cameras?
Drop me a line & let’s book a time to connect.
Photography Ideas for Fitness Professionals & Personal Trainers
- A professionally taken headshot to use as your profile photo on social media & on the gym noticeboard.
- Images of you training clients. Both 1-2-1 & in classes if applicable.
- Photos of YOU training. Showing your skill, knowledge & expertise.
- The gym, studio, or environment that you work in. If this is the park, have your photos taken in the park.
- The equipment & accessories that you use.
- Photos of you demonstrating exercises. Again showing your expertise.
- Run online classes? Let’s get some images showing your virtual training sessions.
Which fitness professionals need professional photography?
- Personal Trainers
- Running Coaches
- Yoga Teachers & Studios
- Pilates Instructors & Studios
- Barre Instructors
- Zumba Classes
- Spinning Studios
- Boxing Instructors
- Sports Therapists
- Fitness Studios & Gyms
The simple answer would be ALL fitness professionals need professional photography!
Fitness photography accentuates the athlete’s fit body and promotes healthy living. Fitness pictures inspire us to get more fit and take better care of our bodies.
What do you feel when you see a well-executed fitness picture of an athlete? I think many of us admire such individuals and would want to look like them as well.
While it’s natural to admire professional fitness photos, it’s not easy to achieve such a result without proper preparation from both photographer and the athlete.
In this fitness photography guide, we will discuss tips and ideas for athletes to achieve the best possible results from their photoshoot.
This post may include affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.
Equipment that I use: Cameras: Canon EOS R5; Canon EOS R6
Lenses: Canon RF 85/1.2L; Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L; Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8L
Light: Profoto B1 500 | Computer: Apple MacBook Pro | Photo by © Sergey Bidun
WHO NEEDS A FITNESS PHOTOSHOOT?
If you think that only fitness coaches or professional fitness models get photoshoots, that is not exactly true. Sure, these athletes may need to have high-quality pictures for their business needs, but let’s discuss who else might want to get professional fitness photos.
A personal coach who is working on building his/her brand will need a professional fitness photoshoot. If you are a coach, you most likely have a website or some other online presence such as an Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn account.
Selfies and pictures taken on a smartphone may work for your social media profiles, but they won’t cut it for a fitness coach website. High-quality photos are what you need to showcase on your website.
To create an appealing and professional site, you will need a lot of pictures in different outfits and different location settings. Most likely, this will be not a single photoshoot, but a few separate sessions at different locations to build your fitness personal coach portfolio.
Models who want to represent fitness clothing brands and fitness gear, regularly post pictures of themselves on social media platforms such as Instagram. Once they reach a large following, a lot of times, fitness brands will start reaching out to them and offering sponsored posts.
To build the following and audience, Instagram fitness models must post quality pictures. While creative smartphone photos may be fine, it’s more presentable to post fitness photos taken by a professional.
Bodybuilder models work really hard on their physique before competitions. It’s important for them to have a fitness model portfolio with pictures highlighting every muscle from the right angle.
Athletes such as professional or amateur sports players could also benefit from a fitness photoshoot. When photographing athletes, photographers can use sports gear as props and utilize different locations for more personal pictures.
Athletes who compete in state or national games might want to document their achievements and superb physical appearance with a professional fitness photoshoot.
WEIGHT LOSS ACCOMPLISHMENT
One way of celebrating a weight loss journey is by having a fitness photoshoot with an experienced photographer. If you have worked hard on losing weight or getting that perfectly fit body of your dreams, wouldn’t you want to celebrate it?
It doesn’t mean that after the fitness photoshoot, the person will stop working out or taking care of their body. The photoshoot is for boosting self-esteem and confidence that they achieved what they worked so hard on. Moreover, these images will be a great reminder of how they looked like at a specific point of life.
FINDING A FITNESS PHOTOGRAPHER FOR YOUR PHOTOSHOOT
There are many photographers out there, but how do you find the one who will be right for you? As photographers differ by the photography genre and style, you should examine each one’s work and figure out what style you like the most.
Keep in mind that even though the photographer can take spectacular wedding or family pictures, they may be not experienced in fitness photography. The photographer must know how to set up the lighting, which lenses to use, and know the best poses for fitness pictures.
In fitness photo sessions, the main focus is on the person’s physique, and the photographer must be able to creatively showcase that through their pictures.
There are a few ways that you can discover photographers for your projects. You can discover them through Instagram pages, maybe someone you know shot with a photographer who’s images you really like. Or you can simply search Google for a fitness photographer in your area.
Always pick a photographer based on a certain product that you would like to create from your shoot. This is definitely a field where the outcome depends on how much time, effort, and finances you are willing to invest in the fitness photoshoot. Making the investment in shooting with who you want to shoot with is ultimately a lot more worth in the long run than trying to save a few bucks.
If you are looking for a fitness photographer in the Sacramento area, Northern California, Bidun Studio Photography specializes in creative fitness photography. You can see more of our photography style and our fitness portfolio here.
CREATE A FITNESS MOOD BOARD
Having a successful fitness photoshoot is the ultimate goal. But how can you help it to be more efficient? Creating a mood board with your ideal fitness photos is one of the best ways to help the photoshoot be most productive.
One of the most convenient platforms for creating a mood board is Pinterest. I’m sure many of us are familiar with it and regularly use Pinterest to get ideas and inspirations. It is a wonderful tool for fitness photoshoot preparation as well.
If you don’t have a Pinterest account or prefer other search engines – don’t worry. What I would recommend you do is take screenshots and collect sample images and store them on your phone for reference of ideas.
Creating a mood board won’t only help your photographer to keep the photoshoot organized, but it will also let them know of the type of images you are looking to get from this shoot. Your photographer will get a better understanding of the fitness poses you can do and what parts of the body they should concentrate on emphasizing more.
HOW TO GET READY FOR A FITNESS PHOTOSHOOT
After your initial contact with the photographer, and after creating a mood board, it’s time to start getting ready for a fitness photoshoot. Based on your inspiration images and personal preferences, the photographer will help you choose a location that suits you the most.
Prepare your outfits ahead of time by making sure everything is clean and neat. Don’t just assume that you can grab any clothing piece to the shoot, but instead try each one beforehand, making sure every outfit fits you well. Try them on in front of a mirror to see if your top matches the bottom. You will be able to tell if you need to make changes to your outfit choice.
HAIR + MAKEUP
Like with any other type of photoshoot, you must style your hair and do makeup. Don’t do any extreme makeup, just apply enough to highlight your features and cover up any imperfections. Most of the time, you can start the photoshoot with your hair down, and later pull it back into a ponytail for the rest of the session (tip for females). Guys should style their hair in a usual manner.
Make plans to remove any body hair in areas that will be revealed in the photos. The combination of lighting and no body hair will help with definition and creating more appealing skin textures. This will also save your photographer time in post-processing.
Many professional athletes and fitness models go through strict diet restrictions to better show off their muscles during the photoshoot. There is a special process for getting fit, in which they limit carb intake and increase water intake, which helps make the muscles more defined. It’s best to consult your personal trainer or a fitness professional to make sure your photoshoot preparation is safe for your health.
If you do this process, make sure you do it about a week in advance or a few days in advance. You want to make sure that you still have enough energy to complete the photoshoot.
Energy is a huge factor in how you feel about this project before, during, and after the shoot. So if you are investing in this experience, don’t you really want it to be the most comfortable and fun it can be? Being in shape on time while also being hydrated and nourished will make the experience fun. You will get much better results than otherwise.
Getting your body in shape depends on the goals of your photoshoot. It depends on how lean do you want to be, how much clothing you will be wearing, and if certain outfits cover up your body fat areas. Discuss these details with your photographer to better prepare for your fitness photoshoot experience.
For more ideas on how to prepare for your photoshoot, see our other post Getting Ready for a Portrait Photoshoot.
Equipment that I use: Cameras: Canon EOS R5; Canon EOS R6
Lenses: Canon RF 85/1.2L; Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L; Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8L
Light: Profoto B1 500 | Computer: Apple MacBook Pro | Photo by © Sergey Bidun
WHAT TO WEAR FOR A FITNESS PHOTOSHOOT
Ultimately you are in control of how you want the pictures to look like. I would suggest finding certain fitness clothes that you would like to model. Look for things that make you feel comfortable while also looking great.
It can be a certain tank top or a pair of shorts or leggings from a brand that you support. Make sure you pick pieces of clothing that are your size and fit you well. In fitness photography, everything is about showcasing your muscles and perfectly fit the body.
Your fitness photoshoot outfits have to be body-fitting and tight, but not too tight. My suggestion for you to always try on all your outfits before the photoshoot, to make sure they fit you well and will look awesome in the photo session.
It’s a good idea to bring a few different outfits for a bigger variety of images. Consult your photographer if you are uncertain about choosing a specific outfit for the given photoshoot location.
And don’t forget the shoes. It’s best to have solid color workout shoes, but if you have colorful ones, make sure they match well with your outfits.
FITNESS PHOTOGRAPHY POSES
It’s worth stating that fitness poses differ significantly from regular portrait poses. And since fitness photography is all about the athlete and their physique – pictures must masterfully highlight that.
During the photoshoot, it’s important to flex the muscles to demonstrate their size and strength. If you are doing a full-body shot – flex both leg and arm muscles. Listen to your photographer for advice, as he/she will guide you on poses that help you look more natural.
The photographer must shoot from an angle where the light will highlight the muscles and give them dimension, instead of light hitting straight on and making the image flat. By positioning the body at the right angle to the light source, your pictures will improve substantially.
Crossed arms is another fitness pose that implies strength. It is also called the power pose. It’s best to photograph fitness from a lower angle, as that makes the athlete appear bigger in their body.
If you are taking fitness pictures with the exercise equipment or other props, there will be more variety of ideas to use. Your photos will also appear much more natural if you are fully concentrated on doing your workout instead of over-thinking each pose.
MORE POSING TIPS
If you have a friend or a partner who is also into fitness, it might be helpful to have them come along to your photoshoot. Your friend can help to motivate you and give some tips on posing since they will see what looks great and what doesn’t. And also, you might be able to sneak a few pictures with your friend during the fitness shoot.
It’s essential to keep moving throughout the shoot, so you don’t appear too posed and stiff. Your photographer should photograph you doing some type of movement rather than standing still while striking a pose.
If the shot didn’t quite work out, don’t be afraid to give it another shot, or even a few. Think back to your mood board images, and try to accomplish as many desired shots as possible during the shoot.
As you can see, it’s important to find a photographer who is experienced in fitness photography and knows how to use the light properly. You will have a great stress-free experience when working with a professional fitness photographer and incredible photos for your fitness portfolio or personal memories.
FACIAL EXPRESSIONS IN FITNESS PICTURES
Even though we put a lot of emphasis on body movement and how to highlight the physique, we must not forget about the facial expressions. If your body is busy doing physical exercises, but the face is smiling or looking absent from the photoshoot – these images won’t prove the point you are trying to achieve.
It’s very important that your facial expressions complement whatever it is your body is conveying. Don’t be afraid to show emotions if you are lifting some heavy weights or doing some other exercise. Your photographer will be after capturing those in-the-moment expressions that are so hard to get at times.
One tip I can share with you from all my previous photoshoots is to open your lips slightly when taking fitness pictures. This will give the impression that you’ve been working out for a while, so you can save your energy for the rest of the shoot. Doing so will also give your images a more natural feel.
Some of the emotions your facial expressions can portray are competitiveness, perseverance, satisfaction, happiness, or something else. Think about these emotions and what you want to show in your fitness portfolio. Mention your preferences to your photographer, so they can pay attention if your photos portray your desired expressions or not.
FITNESS PHOTOSHOOT LOCATIONS
Location choices go hand in hand with the specific ideas you have for the shoot. Sometimes a certain location can spark inspiration for the pictures that you might want to take.
Similarly, some photographers prefer certain locations to accomplish their personal style. So it might be beneficial to have some ideas of locations that you think are good for the scenery and environment. Ask your photographer for their personal input for that too.
GYM OR IN-STUDIO FITNESS PICTURES
If your fitness photography project calls for indoor pictures, the best types of locations are either a gym or the photographer’s studio.
One of the advantages of doing a photoshoot in the gym is that you will have access to any fitness and workout equipment. But there are some cons too. Usually, the lighting inside the gym is not the best, and it’s hard for the photographer to add artificial light with so many workout machines around. Another obstacle could be the other people inside the gym who came to workout, as you might be forced to wait until a certain piece of equipment becomes available.
You can try asking the management to allow you to come in before the gym opens to the public for some undisturbed photos. It’s just a suggestion, but it might be worth trying!
Taking pictures inside the photographer’s studio has more advantages for both the photographer and the client. First of all, you are not rushed to finish up the shoot, and the photographer is fully in charge of using any additional light for the best possible pictures.
The cool thing about studio fitness pictures is that you can do as many re-take shots as you would like until you achieve that perfect shot. It’s also very convenient to quickly change outfits and fix hairstyles & makeup if needed. You also won’t have to worry about sudden weather changes or a chance of rain, when doing the photoshoot in the studio.
You can always bring any props or workout equipment with you to the photoshoot, to add a personalized touch to your pictures.
OUTDOOR FITNESS PHOTOSHOOT IDEAS
Outdoor locations can add a certain feel to your fitness pictures. You will choose the location depending on what your goal is for the photoshoot and where you want to use your images.
One of the most common outdoor locations for fitness photography is on a track field. This setting sets you right in the mood of athlete and fitness photoshoot. If you are a racer, soccer, or football player, this would be an ideal location for fitness pictures.
The photoshoot can also take place at a unique place, such as an abandoned building. The rustic walls will serve as a wonderful backdrop and give your pictures that mysterious feel. It’s also possible for the photographer to use any additional light sources for more creative pictures.
A great idea for yoga or pilates type of photoshoot would be at a location by a water source such as ocean or lake beach. Yoga is a type of fitness that relaxes the mind while exercising the body. It’s only natural to want to do this type of photoshoot on a beach, where the person is getting full recharge, both physically and mentally.
INCLUDE PROPS IN YOUR ATHLETE PHOTOSHOOT
Besides certain pieces of exercise equipment, most other props in fitness shoots are gym bags, water bottles, towels, and things of that nature. Photoshoots that are done in the gym, probably won’t require any additional props besides the exercise equipment already present inside the gym.
If you are going for unique and super creative fitness pictures, there are a few ideas that you can implement. Try adding water mist to your upper body – this will give your pictures that magazine-cover look that fitness models have. Add some backlight to creatively highlight the water drops on your fit abs.
If you are shooting in a studio, another idea you can try is using flour as a prop. This creative prop is great to use during gymnast or athlete shoots. With a quality camera and proper lighting, you can get really amazing shots that you only find in fitness magazines.
Bodybuilders often use tanning salons or tanning spray or cream, to get themselves ready for the competitions. You might be wondering why it is so, and why they would do that. If you look closely through their pictures, the muscles and veins are much more defined on dark tan skin. I’m not saying that you should go out and get yourself a fake tan, but it’s something to consider for future photoshoots.
There are many other props that can be used in a fitness photoshoot, and you may get lots of ideas when putting together a mood board for your session. Discuss with your photographer which props may be necessary to bring along to the shoot in order to achieve the photographs that you want to take.
This summarizes our tips and ideas for a successful fitness photo session. If you take careful preparation steps towards getting yourself in the perfect shape, putting together outfits, and choosing the ideal location – you are well on your way to a successful fitness photoshoot.
We hope that our ideas and suggestions will be helpful in your future fitness photoshoot, and you enjoy that experience.
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Photographer: Sergey Bidun
Written by Maria Bidun
Bidun Studio Photography is based in Sacramento, California.
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Preparing for a Professional Fitness Photo Shoot
As a professional personal trainer or health and wellness coach, your headshot is often the very first thing that most potential customers are going to see when they come across your information. Even if feel like you always take a bad picture, there are some simple things you can do to help optimize your photoshoot and get results that will help you market your services.
Be tasteful and professional as you think about what you are trying to attract with your photos. Remember that your photo is most likely the first image that people make an impression from and it takes them seconds to form an opinion based on how you look.You want to appear as the fitness professional you are and not a gym rat or sex goddess.Your photo is the thing they are going to (or not going to) connect with. Keep in mind that this photo is going to be seen all over town, and potentially all over the world from billboards to social networking sites, blogs, your website, newspaper ads, and more.
Find a credible photographer who is willing to show you their portfolio, has been established in business as a professional photographer, is willing to provide client references, has a studio and is available to schedule a photoshoot within 14 days.You want to be sure you are comfortable with the photographer. If you are nervous, intimidated or in any way uncomfortable with the photographer, that will show up on the photos.
Find out their terms for payment and cancellation – it’s not unusual for a photographer to request a deposit to reserve the time.
DO NOT let your friend with a digital camera take your photos. The last thing you would want to do is to have the expense of time and money to prepare for the photoshoot only to have wasted your day when you find out none of the shots are usable.It would be like telling a bodybuilder or figure competitor the night after the contest that the judges were not qualified and they would have to come back next weekend to be judged again.As you can imagine, it’s not as glamorous as it looks, it will likely take one half of a day and you have the expense of hair, makeup, time away from work and so on. Trust me you don’t want to make this mistake.
The package – discuss how many photos and changes of clothes you are allowed.Find out the package options regarding how many touched up photo’s you get as well as how many printed.They also may give you a calling card as an option where they design a card with a variety of your images and contact info to be used in a media kit. Find out all of the costs and be sure that you own the right to all of the images that are taken of you. You should receive all of them on a disc.
The delivery – find out how long it will take to view your images. They should be available on a password protected site within 48 hours. Then find out how long it will take for the touch-ups and final proofs. Find out what format they will be delivered in for web and print use.
Begin shopping for and gathering new or like new clothes.Your clothes should be new or barely worn for the photoshoot. Don’t shop for anything highly trendy as these photo’s should last you at least two to three years and you don’t want them to look dated.You want to find outfits for the following looks:
- Professional – something you might give a presentation in
- Fitness – something you might train someone in –tracksuit
- Branding – if you have a club or studio, wear something with the logo or have the logo in the shot (in front of the building or a wrapped vehicle). If the is something else that brands you such as a soccer ball, a track, boot camp equipment, kids, etc plan for that with your photographer.
- Workout – If you are in great shape (hopefully you are) you should show that you walk your talk.Dress in something you might work out in. Remember to be tasteful.
- Casual shot – something that expressed who you are. This might be a pair of jeans or khakis. Possibly something you might wear to a seminar or church. You should feel comfortable in it and able to have fun feeling relaxed in front of the camera by this last change of clothes.
The Shots – be sure you have at least one good close up and full body of each of the looks you decide upon.Also, ask if you can get a few black and white in addition to the color shots.
What look should I strive for? –You want to look like you. If you look too different then how you usually are when you arrive for a seminar or to meet that celebrity client they may feel deceived.Do not have your photo’s overly touched up. The pictures should not look model perfect but like the real you.
More on Clothing – Solid colors like black are always good.Leave white at home unless you wear it underneath something. Bring sweaters and jackets (leather is always good). V-necks elongate the face, so bring them. Short sleeves or sleeveless usually do not look good in headshots. Suits are great for men as an additional look. Clothes should be neatly pressed and should be new or like new. Dark Clothes: Attract more attention to your face and eyes. Dark Clothing also can draw your facial features out.Contact your photographer to discuss your looks.
Gather accessories – Bring accessories and your personality things like a laptop, dumbbells, bike, fins, clipboard or anything cool and original.
Nice extra’s – consider going for a facial to get rid of any dead layers of skin and give you a clear glowing complexion.
Avoiddramatic changes– This is not the time to go for a drastic makeover where people would not recognize who you were.Make sure your hair if professionally covering any gray’s or sporting new highlights at least a week prior to the shoot so you know that you are happy with the look.
Posing – Look at magazines for posing ideas and practice posing and your expressions in front of a mirror as much as possible. Pose the same way the models are posed in these magazines and try to improve the pose. Know what poses and expressions you look good in. Practice Smiling, practice a sexy look, practice serious, practice, practice, and practice. You can also check out other leading fitness professionals websites for idea’s and then do what works for you.
Determine where you will take your pictures. Discuss this with the photographer. You will likely want some combination of indoor and outdoor shots. Ask about the backgrounds.Inform the photographer of the colors you will be wearing so there will be complimentary backgrounds.
The day before – Go for a massage and get to bed early. You don’t want to appear with bags under your eyes or dark circles. You want to be energized and have fun with it.DO NOT use any new product on your hair, face or body. Get a good night sleep before the shoot. Hydrate with water.I’m not even going to say anything about alcohol b/c I KNOW you wouldn’t even consider it the night before your big shoot.
The morning of – have a healthy breakfast. You will most likely not be able to eat during the photoshoot and you will be there for hours considering hair, makeup and the shooting time.
What should I bring to my photoshoot?
- Arrive exactly on time. If you arrive too early you may distract a shoot in session and arriving late will put everyone behind schedule and create unnecessary tension.
- Bring your iPod player so that you can relax and have fun while prepping and in front of the cameras.
- If possible bring your hairdresser and makeup artist. Women especially will want them there throughout the entire shoot to look at the shots as they are being taken and give feedback on hair and makeup. It’s common to have to power your face as it gets shiny under the lights or ladies may want to put their hair up for a different look.At the very least show up with your hair and makeup completed to your liking
- Bring a hairbrush. As you are changing positions your hair will get tousled, windblown, lose its curl or get frizzy, etc.Be prepared.
- Wear clear deodorant as us you will be changing several times
- Don’t’ wear underwear if you have fitting clothing–it may leave a visible line in your clothing.
- Men – Please have form-fitting clothes for the actual photoshoot.
- Bring any products you prefer to wear on your face and hair.
- If you are doing your own makeup, apply it as if you were going out at night and wanted to impress someone.Bring what you need for touchups.
- Nails should be manicured (Clear nail polish is best).
- Arrive wearing your first look.
- You can also bring your old headshots to give the photographer an idea of what you liked or didn’t like.
- Men should bring Lip Balm, to keep your lips moist.
- Bring a GREAT attitude. (This really, really helps!)
Your Personal and Coaching Career
Check out what it takes to start a career in personal fitness training. This is your most affordable and fastest way to become a highly qualified personal trainer.
There is always something exciting about earning a new training or coaching certification and applying that new knowledge of how you train your clients. This also helps you hit the reset button.
NESTA and Spencer Institute coaching programs are open to anyone with a desire to learn and help others. There are no prerequisites.
That’s it for now.
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Fitness lifestyle photography
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Guide to Fitness Photography for Photographers & Models
Fitness photography is a category of professional photography that specializes in the world of exercise and wellness.
There are different types of fitness photography. One is editorial and lifestyle, which is usually used in magazines, social media and commercials (e.g. to advertise a gym or a product).
Another is portrait photography – usually required by professional athletes and bodybuilders.
In this article, you’ll find some tips and tricks to have a successful fitness photoshoot, whether you’re a model or a professional photographer looking to specialize in fitness photography.
There’s also an FAQ section at the end for people who are having a photoshoot soon and want their burning questions answered – so don’t forget to check that out.
Ready to join the world of healthy living?! Let’s get stuck in!
How Do You Do a Fitness Photoshoot?
1. Understand your client
As I mentioned in the introduction, there are different types of professional fitness photography – as such, there are also different clients who are looking for these services.
It’s important to understand who your client is and how the fitness photos will be used. For example, if they’re for a magazine cover, then you need to use a portrait orientation with some negative space so that the designer can add some text.
If the client is a personal trainer who wants fitness pictures for social media, shoot a wide variety of outfits and choose an eye-catching location.
In any case, the more you know about your client’s expectations, the more satisfied they’ll be with the results of your fitness photography shoot.
When you’re dealing with magazines or marketing teams, they’ll send you a briefing, and things can start from there.
However, if your client is an athlete or a fitness coach doing this for the first time, it might be helpful to offer them some direction.
Have them answer a questionnaire or ask them to collect together some reference photos so that you can get an idea of what they’re looking for.
2. Decide on a location
Credit: The Lazy Artist Gallery
Unless you’re shooting a fitness photoshoot for a gym or your model needs a piece of specific equipment, you can take the photos wherever you want.
You can do fitness photography at your studio, at the gym, or on location – this last one can be outdoors or indoors.
The decision should be made together with your client, and you should consider the atmosphere you want to create and the message that you want to communicate.
For example, if the fitness photos are for fitness magazines talking about healthy living, you might consider doing them outdoors.
On the other hand, a professional bodybuilder may benefit from a session in the studio since you want to highlight their body as a sculpture while they perform specific poses and routines.
3. Do a trial run if this is your first fitness photoshoot
If this is your first gig as a fitness photographer, you should practice ahead of time – even if you’re an expert in other types of professional photography.
This, of course, applies to all photography fields, but fitness photography can be a bit tricky.
Let’s say you’re shooting in a gym. Odds are, you’ll be facing a complex portrait lighting setup that’s confusing for a photoshoot – especially because of all the mirrors that can create annoying reflections.
You can practice by enlisting some friends as your models – even if they don’t have the bodies or training of professional athletes.
Another idea is to hire fitness models and do some sessions for yourself. This will give you the experience you need when facing real clients, and you can use the images for your portfolio. You might even sell them on stock photography websites.
Remember that you need all the necessary permissions to shoot and then publish and/or sell your fitness photography images.
Have everyone in the picture sign a model release and get a property release by the gym owner – otherwise, you can’t use the photos.
You can get a free photography contracts template and a model release here.
4. Use a shot list
Credit: Elina Fairytale
A shot list is a great way to organize a fitness photoshoot to optimize the work for you and your models.
For example, if some of the activities require a specific type of equipment, maybe you want to do all of those photos together instead of changing lighting or location constantly.
The same goes for the athlete’s workout. It might be better to do all the hard work first so that the body is pumped for the posed photos – or maybe they prefer to do photos where they warm up first and build up to the intense exercises later.
This also depends on the type of activity: the routine and requirements are different for bodybuilding than for yoga or pilates. Remember that fitness photography covers all sorts of sports and techniques.
Either way, in every fitness photoshoot, I recommend that you include a variety of posed images and some action shots.
Also, consider some close-ups – this will help you show a specific part of the body or facial expressions. If you’re doing a fitness photography session for commercial purposes, make sure you do some close-ups of the product or the equipment you’re promoting.
Finally, discuss with your client which images are absolutely necessary. Maybe they need a sequence showing how a particular exercise is done or a specific idea for a business brochure.
Here’s how to create a shot list for your next fitness photography shoot.
5. Discuss wardrobe and props with your client
Credit: Karsten Winegeart
It’s always a good idea for the model to have two or three looks to change into throughout the photoshoot. If the outfit is a two-piece, try to balance it out – a short bottom calls for a bigger top and vice-versa.
Avoid any busy patterns or clothes with big logos, unless of course, you’re trying to promote those brands.
Solid colored clothing usually works best with fitness photography because it allows you to keep the focus on the model and their movements.
The style can be different depending on the style of photos you’re going for. Are they supposed to be fun and dynamic shots to promote a Zumba class? Are they boudoir style to showcase the body of the athlete in a more sensual way?
This will determine what type of outfits work best.
You should consider hiring a hair and make-up professional for the session too, even if people don’t normally do this to go to the gym. For professional fitness pictures, you need to take care of the details.
The athlete’s equipment becomes a prop during a photoshoot, so make sure it’s in good condition.
Also decide if you’re going to do some special effects – for example, smoke bombs or flour, which are very trendy in certain types of fitness photos.
6. Master the lighting
Of course, the lighting is related to your photography style, but lighting fitness photography needs special consideration.
If you’re shooting inside a gym, consider bringing additional light sources that you can control instead of using the ambient light.
You might have to deal with mirrors, so be careful about light reflections and having yourself or your equipment showing up reflected in the background.
Certain sports and activities are perfect for natural light – for example, cardio workouts or a simple healthy lifestyle shot. In this case, you can do the photoshoot outdoors or use window lighting if you’re indoors.
Male physique photographers often work in their studios. This gives you more control, but you have to know how to work with studio lights.
Even if you’re a photographer with portrait experience, you might be wondering: How do I get perfect muscle lighting?
The idea is to place the light source from an angle – this way, you’ll create strong shadows that contour the muscles, adding depth and volume.
Here are a few ideas:
- Cross lighting – Put a key light on one side and an accent light on the other. This helps to sculpt and shape the body.
- Rembrandt lighting – This setup requires a single light source that comes from above and the side. It creates a strong contrast between the sides and it’s characterized by the triangle of light that forms under the model’s eye.
- Three-point lighting – Put a light on top of your model angled towards the face (you can use a reflector underneath if you don’t want strong shadows). Then add a softbox on each side of the model a little bit behind him or her – these will work as rim lights.
7. Don’t forget about posing
Credit: Niko Twisty
Many fitness photos are action shots – these are great because they are very dynamic and real.
However, it’s always good to have some posed fitness pictures. Some of them are a given because the model might be a fitness professional like a bodybuilder, but even if it’s an athlete, they can benefit from these types of pictures for their social profiles or website pages.
So, the body is already in great shape, no question about that, but how should I pose for muscle pictures?
First of all, find inspiration online and make a collection of reference images. This advice applies whether you’re the photographer or the model: it helps the photographer to better direct the model and the model to show the photographer what they’re looking for.
All the poses should be aimed at highlighting the model’s shape and strength – flexing the muscles is the best way to achieve this.
Keep an eye on the facial expressions: even if the athlete is making a tremendous effort, they need to look empowered, not like they’re suffering.
Here are some posing ideas you can use:
Credit: Pikx by Panther
Credit: Ivan Samkov
- Lift the shirt to show the abs
Credit: Dani Alejandro
- Flex the back with a lat machine
Credit: Scott Webb
Credit: Joseph Wayne
Credit: Scott Webb
8. Edit your photos
Credit: Dreamlens Production
Post-processing is the finishing touch for professional photography results – and this certainly applies to fitness photography.
For fitness photos, you want to do all the usual photo editing, and on top of that, there are a few points that need special attention in this type of shot.
First of all, white balance – if you shot inside a gym with ambient light, you’ll probably need to adjust it.
Also, increase the contrast to highlight the muscles and do some dodge and burn to really highlight the volume.
The clarity slider can also bring out the musculature of your fitness model but pay attention to any wrinkles, which may also be brought out.
Don’t retouch the body unless your client asked you to, and obviously, don’t do any retouch that you don’t feel comfortable doing.
This is always a sensitive issue on both sides, so it’s better if you discuss the limits and expectations of both parties beforehand.
Finally, keep your editing workflow consistent with your fitness photography so that you can develop a recognizable style.
FAQs for Fitness Models & Professional Athletes before a Photo Shoot
What should I bring to a fitness photoshoot?
- Different outfits
- An extra pair of shoes
- Baby oil
- A bottle of water
- Healthy snacks
- Your exercise gear (if you’re going on location)
What should I eat the morning of a fitness photoshoot?
Avoid anything that can make you bloated such as dairy products, beans, and high fructose fruits – you can substitute them with soaked beans, rice or soy milk, orange, grapes or dark berries. You can also focus on eating anti-bloating foods like ginger, fennel, lemons, avocados or papaya.
How do bodybuilders take good pictures?
You can rub on some oil, then spritz water on top to create a nice texture. Also, have the light coming from the side to highlight the volume of the muscles. Posing is extremely important to flex and show the body in the right way – you can look for inspiration in magazines or social media.
How do you look ripped in pictures?
Shave the body hair so that the definition of your muscles is showing. Also, get a tan if you can. Flex the muscles and show them from an angle. Also, hard light coming from the side will create deep shadows that add depth and make your muscles pop.
Should I fast before a photoshoot?
It’s not necessary. You should only be careful about what you eat – make sure it’s nothing that bloats you. Having a consistent diet is actually good for your body, and bringing healthy snacks with you will help you keep up your energy if the photoshoot lasts long.
How can I make my abs look more defined in pictures?
Before the photoshoot, get tanned – it can be natural or fake tan. Exercise right before the shot – this will get the blood flow going – then rub on some baby oil. Finally, you can increase the contrast while editing your pictures to make the shadows darker. This makes the muscles look like they have more volume.
I hope these tips can help you kick off your journey into fitness photography.
With a bit of practice and self-promotion over social media, you’ll soon be on your way to becoming a professional fitness photographer. If you have any questions or suggestions, drop us a line in the comments.
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