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.
How to Shoot Fitness Photography for Social Media and Magazines
Fitness photography is all about strength and healthy living. As a fitness photographer, your job is to capture that and make your pictures look like they belong in a wellness magazine.
Here are tips on how you can achieve that.
[Note: ExpertPhotography is supported by readers. Product links on ExpertPhotography are referral links. If you use one of these and buy something, we make a little bit of money. Need more info? See how it all works here.]
What You’ll Need
- Editing program
Talk to Your Model About Their Fitness Journey
Every athlete has their own fitness story. This can give you ideas, help you bond with the athlete, and show you what they’re comfortable with. It can also help you choose the right location and props for your shoot.
Don’t be afraid to ask them about their favourite poses. Since they’re professionals, they can help you take photos that are authentic to their story. This can bring you closer to taking fitness photos that will look good on social media and in magazines.
Also, ask them if they’re comfortable with giving you feedback during your photoshoot.
Take Test Photos in a Gym Before the Photoshoot
Gyms don’t have the best lighting for fitness photography. You don’t want to start your photoshoot feeling confused! You can avoid this confusion by taking test photos with a friend before your photoshoot.
Ideally, the gym should be the same one you’ll be using with the athlete. This is a great time to find spots with the best lighting. Adjust your ISO and white balance and take as many test photos as possible. You can even use these photos as references during your photo shoot, if you want.
Shoot in a Simple Location to Focus on the Athlete’s Moves
If you take photos in a busy gym, your photos won’t look appealing. Blogs, social media accounts, and magazines all look for clean photos that tell a story. You can achieve this by choosing a visually appealing location. All you need is a simple background that doesn’t clash with your model’s outfit.
If possible, take photos outdoors. Make sure there aren’t too many people around so that you don’t get accidental photobombs!
It’s not always possible to take fitness photos outdoors. If you must shoot in a gym, pick a corner that looks tidy. Get close to your model so that the surrounding equipment doesn’t take the spotlight.
Use a Large Aperture to Blur out Distractions
In fitness photography, a large aperture is your best friend. For example, f/1.2 or f/2.8. The smaller the number, the blurrier your background will look.
An aperture like f/2.8 is enough to capture details on your model’s faces and blur out distractions. Of course, the aperture you choose depends on your shooting style. Experiment with different apertures to find the perfect blur/sharpness ratio.
Shoot Through Objects to Make Your Fitness Photos Look Candid
Fitness photography isn’t usually candid, but that doesn’t mean you can’t fake it.
You can make your photos look spontaneous by shooting through objects. If you use a large aperture, the object you’re shooting through will look blurred. This will frame your photo and get rid of distractions.
Ask the athlete to do their usual routine. This will make it seem like they’re completely unaware of your camera.
Take Photos Next to a Window for Flattering Fitness Portraits
A large window is perfect for workouts that don’t involve equipment. Yoga is a great example of this. You can use a large window to create direct light, side light, or backlight. This can give you lots of variety in your pictures. (It can also give a blog or magazine more pictures to choose from.)
For individual portraits, make sure your model is as close to the window as possible. For group pictures, you can shoot from a distance. The larger the window, the better.
Focus on Details to Emphasise the Athlete’s Strength
Another way to make your fitness pictures more diverse is to focus on details. You can do this at the end of your photoshoot. Focus on getting the most important shots first, and then move on to details that can support your story.
Details can be the model’s outfit, muscles, arms, or facial expressions. Use oil to give the bodybuilders a healthy glow. Dramatic top lighting will make their muscles stand out. Use a zoom lens so that you can create some distance between yourself and the model. If you get too close, you could make them feel uncomfortable.
Use Props to Make Your Fitness Photography Unique
If you have a studio (and some extra time), you can add props to your photoshoot. This can increase your chances of getting featured in fitness blogs or magazines. The reason is that props can make fitness photos look even more unique and eye-catching.
Here are a few ideas:
- Costumes: This is great for editorial photoshoots for magazines. Costumes aren’t as comfortable as fitness outfits, but they can make your photos look fun.
- Smoke bombs: You can use smoke bombs outdoors. Make sure there aren’t any flammable objects around. Smoke bombs can add colour to your photoshoot and give your images a surreal look.
- Flour: You’ll need a studio, a broom, and lots of ventilation. This is ideal for dancers and yogis. Your model, or an assistant, can throw flour around as the model dances. Ideally, the background should be black, and the lighting should be limited. This will make your fitness photos look dramatic and surreal.
Use Selective Colour to Get Rid of Vibrant Distractions
No matter how much hard work you put into your photoshoot, you’ll still need to edit your pictures. Even basic colour correction is enough to make your fitness photos look striking.
Selective colour is your best friend, especially if you have lots of gym photos. You can use this tool to desaturate specific colours. For edgy gym photography, you can desaturate every colour except for your model’s skin tone. This will put the focus on your model and give your images a clean look.
For outdoor fitness photos, you can mute highlights and add contrast. You can also slightly increase the clarity of your images to make them stand out more.
Fitness photography is a diverse genre. Make sure you talk to your model beforehand, so that you know what they’re comfortable with.
Keep lighting and posing in mind throughout your photoshoot. Be open to trying new techniques and listening to your model’s feedback. With the right amount of patience, you’ll be able to take incredible fitness photos.
Selfie: It’s officially a term in the Oxford Dictionary and Merriam Webster—just Google it and you’ll see. With 240,000,000 search results, it’s evident that selfies have weaved their way into our everyday lives. We take selfies at the park on a nice day, when the lighting in our apartment is just right, and the most obvious of them all: at the gym, before or after a long sweat session. To get the best selfie at the gym, check out these helpful tips.
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Be Confident and Aware
Do you ever get a bit self-conscious while looking in the mirror as you’re about to snap a selfie of yourself flexing? If you look at other people’s gym selfies, it’s guaranteed that they’re striking the same pose, except they all look confident. Forget about your surroundings and just focus on getting your best picture. However, be aware of the environment. Don’t take a selfie in the locker room—the last thing you want is a man with nothing but a towel on in the background of your selfie. Keep in mind that no one is judging you, and the guy next to you is probably worrying about how big his biceps appear in the pic. A little confidence goes a long way, and will translate in your selfie. With that said, don’t look cocky—there’s a big difference.
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Focus on Lighting
Natural lighting may be great when taking headshot selfies. This isn’t the case when taking selfies of your body at the gym. Natural light doesn’t hide anything, that’s why Adam Blanco, personal trainer at Crunch Fitness, recommends looking for artifical light that’s coming from above and in the corners. Artifical light creates angles on your body so that you can show off that hard-earned physique.
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Pick The Best Filter
Want to really display the chisel of your six-pack? Well, thank goodness filters exist. They’ll help emphasize the best features of your body. Some gyms have odd color schemes, making them unappealing to snap a selfie. Black and white filters can completely fix that issue, and they’ll add more of a dramatic effect. Try to stay away from the B/W filters on Instagram and use B1 and B5 on VSCO Cam. As for Instagram, the Hudson filter is great if you want to soften anything, and Ludwig gives the illusion that you were out in the sun. Word to the wise: Just don’t go overboard on filters.
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Horizontal or Vertical?
If you want to show off your lats and pecs, take the photo horizontally. That way your followers know where to focus—their eyes will immediately go there. If you want to show off your entire body, take the photo vertically—it will immediately elongate your body.
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Have Fun and Be Yourself
At the end of the day, no matter how your selfie comes out, have fun with it; there’s no need to take it so seriously. Other lifters can tell when you’re trying too hard to get the perfect angle. The purpose of a gym selfie is to showcase the results that you’ve worked hard for, and perhaps be a positive influence on others.
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