What do I know about fitness photography tips?
Well, I’ve shot for a fitness apparel brand for the past 4 years on a weekly basis (that’s over 200 shoots!). That’s given me invaluable experience and insights through lots of lessons and failures.
Today I’ll share those fitness photography tips with you to help elevate you images to the next level.
Have a read and let me know if there’s anything missing!
So here goes; my 7 best fitness photography tips:
No. 1 | Get an expert, not a model.
This is probably the most important of my fitness photography tips. Models look beautiful, but if they can’t do the movement you need the shots won’t look real. Even the simplest movements might not look 100% right.
Firstly, make better photos by finding an expert at the movement(s) in addition to having the look you want.
This isn’t to knock models. A good model can make a huge difference to both the final look and efficiency on shoot. However if you want to photograph Astavakrasana pose, then you’re better off getting a yogi who can do that asana.
If you can find a model who happens to be an expert, then you’re really setting yourself up for success.
No. 2 | Make them work work work work work
Nothing will make your images look more real than having your talent actually do the activity. The realism of a hair flick, heavy breathing, actual sweat or little athletic expressions are difference-makers.
One thing I always tell the talent before we start is that they need to listen to their body (just like in yoga). This is to make sure they’re not pushing themselves to the point of injury. I would hate if anyone got hurt on shoot.
I’ll request tweaks (see below), but I always create an environment where the talent can say “no”. I prefer someone to be able to do the same movement 5 times, than hold it once for so long that they can’t do it again.
No. 3 | Don’t settle
Another way to keep it real is to have your talent keep moving and prevent them from settling into a “pose”. Even a static pose can show more movement.
When someone settles into a pose (like a lunge, or downward dog), their athletic expression changes as their musculature relaxes and they use their skeleton to hold their body weight.
In addition to planning a flow or workout, I usually ask the talent to do little micro movements. Things like shifting their weight in their feet and hands or changing where they’re looking to keep that feeling of capturing a moment of action.
No. 4 | Tweak it real good
Sometimes, movements can benefit from tweaks in order to achieve a more aesthetically pleasing athletic expression.
For example, marathon runners generally run in a way to save energy, and their jog/shuffle may not look super-inspirational. This is where you can give the talent a little direction. Things like:
- Where to look & facial expression
- Stride length
- How they plant their foot
- How to hold their hands
- How much to bend their elbows
- Where should their arm swing finish
All movements can benefit from little tweaks that maintain authenticity, while resulting in a more powerful image.
My advice is to not give talent too much direction at one time. Build them up one-at-a-time and see how well they deal with each tweak. If I give it to them all at once, they are overwhelmed and lack the in-the-moment facial expressions I’m want.
No. 5 | Open mouth breathing
See No. 2 for how to get this naturally. However, sometimes the pace of a shoot isn’t enough to make the talent breathe heavy (since they’re so fit). In those cases, asking the talent to relax their mouth open can also make it seem like a full workout.
This is one of the fitness photography tips that will make a huge difference to the final image.
That allows the first few shots to already look like she’s be doing it for a while, while saving energy for other movements.
I prefer a relaxed open mouth since I don’t find that shaped mouths (i.e. the letter “O”) work as well.
No. 6 | Express(ion) yourself
Beyond athletic expression of a movement, your viewer will look at the talent’s facial expression. That’s because it allows them to make sense of the story. Photographers forget about this important fitness photography tip all the time.
Which of the following is your photo demonstrating?
- Something else?
I change the scenario I give talent so I can tell a different narrative. Remember that the eyes are the window to the soul.
No. 7 | Repeat
Finally, photographers underrate repetition. Repeat movements to increase your chances of a winning photo. Especially if you combine this with No. 4.
That’s because you want everyone to look good however you’ll reject many shots due to one person. It is probably a different person in each shot.
Make sure you don’t repeat too many times, otherwise the talent may get sick of the activity which will impact their facial expression. So keep it energetic and fun.
On shoot, you can often hear me say “let’s do that one more time”…
So did I get them all?
Let me know what’s missing from my list of fitness photography tips in the comments below. I’ll be sure to respond.
PS If you found this post helpful, please share it with the world!
Love these tips Matt! Catchy titles too helps one remember. Not that I shoot fitness, but these can apply to other niches as well. Work, work, work, work, work!
So great to hear Rachel. Glad you enjoyed the post!
I agree with Rachel! Love articles like this!
That’s great Derek! I will keep them coming!
Been following your work for a while, great post on this . Thanks
Hey Nick, you’re very welcome! Always great to hear when I can help someone along. Let me know if you have any questions!
Perfect Matt. Exactly what I needed. Nothing more nothing less. And your photos look awesome. Tom from Geneva Switzerland .
Glad you found it helpful Tom! I’d be keen to see what you’ve come up with.