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Fitness and gym photography is a specialised genre that seeks to represent the strength, healthy living and hard work that enthusiasts from all walks of life put into achieving the impressive results that they do!
There are two main commercial aspects to gym photography; on the one hand it is used to promote the athletes themselves and on the other hand it markets gyms, personal training services and fitness products. In both cases the format is similar and the same techniques are used, albeit with a slightly different emphasis.
Good gym photography aims to convey the ethos of the athletes and should inspire the viewers to be their best selves.
What Are The Opportunities for Freelancers in Gym Photography?
There are many people who require top level gym photography for both professional and personal reasons so there’s a growing space in the market for freelancers to provide these crucial services.
- Athletes: It’s important for professional athletes, as well as amateurs, to be able to market themselves with a great portfolio for their social media and websites. They will need top quality photos for business purposes and if you can deliver the results you can leverage excellent financial rewards. In these photoshoots you can use sporting props to illustrate their particular expertise.
- Personal Trainers and Fitness Coaches: A personal trainer will use photos of themselves and their clients to promote their services and display the types of results that you can expect if you sign up for their services. Action shots in the gym are the perfect way to illustrate what they can offer. In any given photo shoot you would be likely to take a whole variety of shots with the fitness instructor demonstrating different techniques and exercises. These photos can be used on their social media, websites and in direct marketing to attract new clients.
- Weightlifting and Fitness Models: With much of their work coming from modelling clothes, gym equipment and workout programs, weightlifters and fitness models need an excellent portfolio showcasing them in different outfits and performing different routines. It’s vital that their portfolio is of the best quality because they will be representing companies and brands to the public and play an important role in the sales process for their clients.
- Individuals who have lost weight: There are many people who have fought hard to lose weight and get into great shape; and they may want to celebrate their accomplishments with a gym photoshoot.
Best Practices For Successful Gym Photography.
Gym and fitness photography is a fairly broad genre to work in but there are some basics that you’ll need to keep in mind. One of the most important things that you can do is to talk with your model, or models, about their own journey. This will make them feel more comfortable working with you but it also lets you find out if they have any favorite poses or prefer certain props and equipment in shoots. You can also ask if there are other photos that they would like to use as inspiration.
- Take Test Photos Before You Get Started on the Shoot: It’s always wise to take a few test photos before you start on the photo shoot proper. Gyms do not usually have very good lighting and it may take a little while to get your camera’s settings right to work in these conditions. You’re probably going to need to use a fast shutter speed so that the athletes are not blurred, even if they’re in motion while you shoot.
- Use the Aperture to Blur Out Background Distractions: Gyms can be very busy spaces, not only in terms of people but also with a lot of equipment in a relatively enclosed space. If you use a small aperture, between, for example, f/1.2-f/5.6, then you can blur out the background and keep the depth of focus very shallow. This will make the athlete stand out from whatever is behind them, whether that’s people or exercise machines.
- Use Simple Compositions: When you are working in a gym try to keep the shots uncluttered and simple in their composition. The focus of the viewer should really be on the athlete so you don’t want their gaze being diverted by background activity, multiple pieces of equipment or exercise machines. This will help you to focus on what the athlete is doing. By keeping the composition simple it makes it easier to create a narrative that is centered on the athlete.
- Try to Keep the Shots Looking Spontaneous: When you’re shooting in a gym the background equipment can be a problem but you can also use exercise machines and other pieces of equipment to frame the photo and make it look more natural and spontaneous. When you’re shooting through machines or objects a small aperture will keep the framing blurred and help to cut out any distractions in the background. Another tactic that you can use to get spontaneous looking photos is to ask the athlete to do their normal workout routine so they are comfortable while you snap your pictures.
- Use Windows and Natural Lighting to Shoot Great Gym Portraits: Although gyms are usually poorly lit you can pose your models next to a window or other sources of natural light. This will give you a flattering light to shoot your model in and is great for portraits. You can use the directed natural light from a window to get backlit shots, side lit or direct lit shots of your model. Taking a selection of these will give your client more to choose from and give you more scope in post production.
- Emphasize the Athlete’s Strength and Muscles: It’s important to focus on the athlete’s muscles and strength and a great way to do this is to zoom in on details. Details can include their arms, face or even their outfit, depending on what type of photoshoot you are doing. When you are focusing on more detailed shots take a wide variety of them during the shoot. When you are taking more close up shots it’s usually better to use a zoom because if you move in very close to the athlete with your camera it could make them feel uncomfortable.
- Use Props to Make Photos Feel More Genuine: Making use of props in gym photography is another way to make the photos feel natural and spontaneous. The right prop can be really eye catching as well which is exactly what you’re aiming for! There’s a lot of potential props that you can use in gym photography that include the model’s outfit or basic fitness equipment. For more elaborate props you can make use of colored smoke bombs, although this is only advisable outdoors! This could give your photoshoot a sci-fi look with a hint of the Terminator! For indoor shoots you can use flour which can be thrown in air to create interesting backdrops that don’t distract from the model.
- Don’t be Afraid of Capturing Sweat in your Shoots: While you are working with your model it’s quite likely they will sweat during the shoot. Depending on the type of look that you are going for this can be a useful thing. A photo of a weight lifter with sweat on their brow is far more authentic than a shot without. It also makes the photo appear to be more natural which will help it to connect with the viewer.
Should You Work With A Model For Gym Photography?
As a general rule you should always try to work with a professional model or fitness enthusiast in your gym photography. If you’re working for a company or brand they will want the very best aesthetics in their promotional material. As well as this, a model or experienced fitness professional will be more comfortable during the photo shoot and be able to work with you to achieve the best results.
Create Inspiring Gym Photography for Your Clients.
There’s a wide scope in gym and fitness photography to showcase your own creativity as well the model in the shoot; and although the gym is not always the easiest environment to take photos in for every problem there is a work around.
Always be sure to communicate with your model and keep the photos looking as natural and authentic as you can. Be prepared to try out new things and pay attention to any feedback you get from the model during the shoot.
Have you ever done a photo shoot inside a gym?