There is a very high likelihood that your iPhone gallery contains photos of you in the gym running on the treadmill, squatting, weightlifting, or doing any other form of exercise. However, the photos on your phone probably don’t look like what you have seen in fitness magazines or on your favourite celebrity’s Instagram timeline. In this post, you will learn everything you need to know about shooting stunning fitness photos with the potential to go viral online.
Most people assume that taking great photos is a simple task but it is not. It involves a lot of things you won’t necessarily know about if you haven’t been with a photographer on set.
Things such as preparation/ planning, getting the right equipment, choosing/ setting the background, getting the model to pose the right way, and so on. Check out the sections below to find out the must-know details about fitness photography.
Types of fitness photography
Here are the major types of fitness photography. They are not entirely different from each other but they have subtle differences that you should be aware of.
Gym photography is basically any kind of photography depicting an athlete in the gym. Most photos on fitness magazines are actually products of gym photography.
Taking photos of an athlete in the gym can feel intimidating at first. However, it is actually quite a nice and exciting experience because there are lots of props to work with to set the background for your shoot especially if it is a big gym. You can shoot your model running on the treadmill, bench-pressing some weights, squatting, or when he or she is doing a dumbbell press.
Professionals who do commercial gym photography usually have the best equipment including powerful cameras and lighting equipment. As an amateur photographer, you are probably going to be making due with any camera you can afford. However, there are some things that you can do to enhance your pictures without spending a single cent.
You can keep your frame tight. This will help you to avoid capturing other individuals or parts of the gym that you may not want to appear in your shot. You can also ask your model to warm up a bit with some very light workouts. This will pump their muscles and make them sweat a bit making your gym shots to look even more realistic.
You can also ask your model to do some slow movements so that you can capture those moments instead of poses. Poses may make things look unrealistic while light movements can make everything to look magical and aspirational.
Lastly, you can ask your model to repeat movements so that you can capture multiple shots of the same set. This will automatically boost your chances of snapping just the perfect moment.
Bodybuilders feature on front pages of fitness magazines, on the covers of supplements, on calendars, and on promotional materials. There are also plenty of bodybuilding events held in gyms, regionally, and nationally. Bodybuilders also want pics of themselves to post online. So there is plenty of money to be earned doing bodybuilding shoots.
However, for those who are new to bodybuilding photography, it can be pretty confusing when you get invited to do such shoots. Nevertheless, by getting the basics down, you can easily get some outstanding shots of your subjects.
One of the key things you will have to understand is that bodybuilding photography is all about showing off your subject’s muscles. So that’s where your focus should be.
To have the best photos, you will need to set up the set. So you will need some light source at least one meter above your model. The light source should be pointed towards the model. You can have more light sources if you feel that you need more. Some studios lease such equipment, so you do not necessarily need to buy them.
However, you have to make sure that your lighting is low-key; accentuates the muscles of the model but still creates shadows. High-key lighting can make everything in your shot to look a bit dull and undefined.
You will also need to use a dark background if in a studio or you will need to find such a background in the gym you are going to do your shoot.
You can also get your model to warm up a bit or to do a few workout sets to get his muscles showing. After that, spray a bit of water on his face and hair to create the impression that he is sweating.
When ready, take the photographs from different angles. Make sure you focus on the muscles. To make things even more interesting you can use props or get your model to start doing a workout set they are really good at and capture them in the moment.
Remember to balance between being creative and being realistic. This is because you want people to be excited with your shot but you also want them to believe that the people in the pics are actually doing the workouts.
Male and Female Fitness Photos
Male and female fitness photos are the ones you see your friends posting on their social media accounts. These are just regular photos taken using smartphones. You probably have taken one of yourself after a vigorous workout or after a long run.
People can always do these types of photos with their phones. However, since they are not trained they will not get the same kind of results celebrities get when they take pics after workouts.
The main difference is that most celebrities hire photographers to do their fitness photos. So if you have been thinking that your favourite hunk of a celebrity, movie star, or Kardashian clan socialite takes their own pictures, you are wrong. They get help and you should equally get help if you want photos of a similar quality.
If you are a newbie photographer and you think you can shoot such photos, then you definitely can. With massive belief in self, you can have the discipline to learn more and to continue practicing shooting male and female fitness photos. With enough practice, shooting such photos will be like second nature to you. You will be able to take amazing mid-workout, post-workout or jogging pics effortlessly.
And you never know; if you do a good enough job taking photos of your friends and acquaintances during their workouts, someone could recommend you to someone and your next client could be your favourite celebrity or that supermodel you have always wanted to work with.
How to take the best fitness photos
We have given quite a number of tips when discussing the different types of photography above. In this section, we highlight the general tips to make you a better fitness photographer.
Get the model/ athlete involved
You can have the best camera, the most expensive lighting source, or the best props and background but if you are not moving in tune with the athlete or model, you will not get the best results.
The key to getting them involved is communication. Tell the athlete to look natural and tell them the look you are going for in your pics. What is even better than telling them is showing them; you can show them some sample photos of what you are looking for. This will give them the confidence that they are doing the right thing and enable you to capture the perfect moments faster than before.
You are an expert at photography, the athlete is the expert at fitness, hearing what he or she has to say can provide you with plenty of feedback that you can use to change things and get even better shots. So always consult them, and get them to tell you as much as they can about how you could improve the shot before commencing your shoot.
Get the right camera for the job
Cameras are what make a photographer. Ever seen a photograph taken by a cheap smartphone? What about a photograph shot using the latest iPhone or Samsung phone? Well, if you have then you have probably seen the contrast between the types of images that the two types of devices can provide. The Samsung/ iPhone image you saw was most likely the better one.
Powerful cameras provide even better images than the iPhones and Samsung phones of this world. One of the most powerful cameras of 2018 is the Nikon D850 digital SLR. It has a powerful sensor (45.7MP) and allows the capture of 9 frames per second. This pro-level camera can get you multiple superb HD shots in the blink of an eye.
If you want to be taken as a serious photographer, you will eventually need to invest in the right equipment and this camera is one of them.
Get familiar with your camera
In bodybuilding photography, you will not have much time to think or to fumble with settings to get your camera shooting the right way. The shoot is also not the place to try out a new camera.
If your camera is new or you are not yet familiar and comfortable with it, leave it at home. Use your old camera for the shoot and get more time with the new one during practice sets before you make it your go-to camera.
Write down all the shots you will need
Shoots are serious business. You should not approach them with a wait and see attitude. You should write down and describe all the shots you need and how you will approach them. This will help you to avoid wasting time.
Also, failure to write down all the shots you need could result in you missing some important stills. And considering the fact that you may be leasing equipment, this could force you to rehire the same equipment increasing or doubling the cost of your shoot.
Ask the model to carry multiple sets of clothes
No matter how good you are, shooting the same person in the same set of clothes could result in a not-so-good collection of pictures. So unless you are going for nude shots, you should ask your model to carry multiple sets of workout clothes and possibly shoes so as to ensure that the collection of photos, in the end, have the right variety.
Get an assistant
It is probably going to be very difficult for you to successfully complete an entire professional shoot without having an assistant. An assistant will help you set the background, prepare your model (make-up, hair, or posing), modify the lighting, and do several other things that you cannot do with your camera in hand.
Your assistant could also help you to secure your equipment especially if you are doing your shoot in a gym where there are many people or in a public place.
Get the poses right
Getting the perfect picture is a combination of multiple factors including the lighting, the equipment, the background, the subject/ model himself or herself, and the pose.
With regards to the pose, you should get the athlete to do little movements so that you can capture just the right moment, after all, these are fitness photographs you are taking. They should show fitness and movement and not anything else.
Combine the movements with angles from your side. Try to make sure you are still (get a tripod) and that there are some shadows across the muscles so as to create the impression that the muscles are really bulging and that the athlete is really sculpted.
With all these tips, you should be able to easily shoot great pictures and get the right market for your pics.
If the pics are your own, you could sell them on various online platforms, if they are not yours, you could still post them online and on social media to get more people asking about your pics and your skills.
If the pics are good enough you will soon get recommended to more clients and you may soon be turning away some of them because of lack of time.