All photography is not created equally. Serious professionals choose a niche and hone the specific skills it takes to master that style. Fitness photography requires some unique skills and equipment to get the most out of an athletic subject. Here’s an overview of what it takes for us to capture the visual testimony of our subject’s hard work.
Light is the most important aspect of any photograph. The way light bounces off the subject and back to the lens determines the quality, mood and emotion of a photograph. An athletic portrait demands impeccable lighting all over the body. For fitness photography shoots we know that muscles are a series of peaks and valleys; highlights and shadows. We command the light of as many as 5 independent light sources to accentuate and exploit those contrasts. Most wedding or “natural light” portrait photographers rely on a single flash, if any at all. For athletes like yogis or dancers light is just as important; it sets the mood and highlights the strength it takes to make challenging contortions look effortless.
Obviously, yogis are looking for something different than bodybuilders. An image must have purpose. We ask ourself a series of questions before each shoot. Is this a commercial image or an accomplishment highlight for social media? What emotion are we trying to evoke: strength, grace, poise? What does the subject see about herself that everyone else may not? Each answer is compiled to calculate the location, focal length, lighting setup, and the pose.
Our first newborn shots were pretty amateur. A $3000 camera/lens and a garage full of equipment didn’t put us even close to the level of the newborn photographer we recommend. A few days later we shot some of our best fitness shots yet. No amount of fancy equipment can replace on the job training. With every shoot we learn more about how to construct the perfect environmental fitness photograph. Great composition, lighting and posing happen when the photographer knows what the image is going to look like before the client even arrives. You just can’t do that if you shoot everything and specialize in nothing.