This post is also available in: Deutsch
For a long time, fitness photography was mainly reserved for the bodybuilder scene. Mountains of tanned muscles shining with body oil were classic images. But with the ideal body image, the image of fitness photography has long since changed. Following the motto “strong is the new skinny”, more and more people are integrating fitness training firmly into their everyday lives and sharing their personal training goals and successes with hashtags such as #fitnessaddict, #getfit and the like on social networks. Before and after pictures under the hashtag #transformationtuesday are especially popular. The motivation and enthusiasm of others for the fitness lifestyle as well as recognition for their own discipline are at the forefront of this social media hype.
Instead of unnaturally illuminated studio pictures with excessive contrasts, today’s fitness photos should appear above all natural and spontaneous. First and foremost, they should inspire, motivate and the viewer or follower should be able to identify with them.
We will give you tips and advice on how to succeed in creating captivating and inspiring fitness shots.
Fitness-Selfie vs. Shooting
The current fitness trend with many enthusiastic followers lives above all through powerful social media such as Instagram. Influencers, fitness coaches, but also ordinary people post about their training, personal successes and progress there. Selfies are particularly popular for regular posts from everyday training. Mostly in front of the mirror, they stage themselves with a targeted pose that is supposed to emphasise certain parts of the body. Especially popular and motivating are before and after pictures that record the changes in the body over a certain period of time. For short training excerpts or full body photos, it is best to ask a friend or your training partner to take a few photos of you.
A shooting is the best way to capture the current state of your physical fitness even more professionally. In modern fitness photography, it is important to record strength and concentration. Sweat and effort can literally be written on the model’s face, so that the shot looks authentic. The focus is on a picture of the athlete that is as realistic as possible. The pauses and moments of exhaustion are also popular motifs here.
Whether it’s a selfie or a photoshoot – the message is always clear: you can do it!
Indoor vs. outdoor fitness photography
Taking pictures of athletes during their training is possible both indoors and outdoors. However, there are some differences you should be aware of. If the location is to be the gym, it is imperative that you obtain written permission from the studio operator in advance. It is important that other athletes are informed in advance, because not everyone wants to be seen sharp or blurred on such pictures. If you photograph in a studio or similar, the atmosphere for the picture is already given. Many modern fitness studios have raw walls made of concrete or brick, which underline the ambience and urban style perfectly. In closed rooms, despite large windows, the light can be too low and professional illumination is usually only possible to a limited extent. For this reason, the fitness model should be able to do certain exercises longer, so that you can capture a few successful shots from that moment.
If you photograph outside a sports facility or in the open, the ambient light is usually stronger. Depending on the time of year or day, the different lighting conditions affect the mood of the picture. The better lighting and the space are particularly suitable for dynamic shots, i.e. of athletes in motion.
Preparation for a fitness shooting
If the level of physical fitness is to be recorded, one should be in top form on the day of the shooting. A professional fitness model changes their diet some time before the shooting, so that the muscles are accentuated in a defined way. Whether you would like to spend this extra time for your shooting is of course up to you. In addition, a slight tanning of the skin is advisable, because this makes it look healthy and younger. A discreet make-up as well as well-groomed nails complement the natural look. The model’s clothes can fit tightly but comfortably. Bright sports fashion is always an eye-catcher and has a very dynamic effect, especially in group pictures. The more discreet the colours of the clothing, the better the skin and muscles will come into their own. Immediately before the shooting, it is advisable to warm up and do short vigorous exercises, so that the blood flows into the muscles and these are shown to advantage.
Photographer and model should decide in advance on a location and certain poses and exercises to be shot one after the other. If the choice falls on a fitness studio, as already mentioned, the agreement with the operator is necessary. With them you can also discuss the possibility of the illumination by light technology and whether you can even reserve a certain studio area for the time of the shooting. Weights, balls and the like are great accessories and add to the ambience if they are placed in the picture section.
You can use tricks
In almost every area of photography, tricks are used to compensate for certain local conditions or to highlight certain things. In fitness photography, tricks can also be used to make the muscles look even better. Many fitness models use the sunbeds or a self-tanner because the complexion lets the skin shine beautifully and accentuates the muscles.
During sports you sweat and you can see that on the pictures. But you don’t actually start sweating at every shooting. Here, too, you can help: With a spray bottle you can imitate small sweat beads on the skin with water. Previously used body oil supports this effect, as the water does not evaporate immediately or is not absorbed by the skin.
Camera setting for fitness photography
The camera setting and lens selection depend on the subject. Do you want to take a close-up picture and capture a certain expression, the moment of a movement or the athlete in their environment?
Almost every modern camera offers the possibility to set a sports mode. If you want to configure your own settings, you should select manual mode. Here it is always advisable to keep the ISO value as low as possible. Depending on whether you want to focus on the whole picture or only on the model and want to blur the background, the aperture should be selected. A blurred background can be achieved with a wide open aperture, i.e. a large aperture value. For a fully sharp image you should close the aperture as far as possible. In closed rooms it is normally only possible to use the method with the open aperture without any further lighting equipment, as the ambient light is not sufficient for a closed aperture.
To capture motion sharply and without blurring, it is important to keep the shutter speed short. 1/2000 or shorter is optimal. But also here, a shorter shutter speed reduces the amount of light that falls on the sensor, which must be compensated for with the aperture or additional lighting equipment.
In our articles on sports photography you can get further tips and suggestions on settings or subject selection.
The trend in fitness photography has expanded and changed greatly in recent years. The focus is no longer on perfection, but on the idea of motivating others and doing something good for oneself. It is important to depict the model naturally and to capture concentration and strength. The once smiling models without beads of sweat are now replaced by realistic snapshots full of dynamics.