Muscle & Fitness Photography

In the last couple of weeks I have found myself out and about shooting a variety of fitness shoots and i wanted to take a second to reflect on them. Im fortunate enough to have a the use of a huge hardcore fitness gym out of hours so can invite people interested in having fitness photography done a place which provides privacy and plenty of opportunity and diversity.


Firstly lets discuss style, my style is a simple but effective one, I like to utalise and manipulate light to create mood, drama, and definition to my photos. I also feel context and environment are important to making an image work. I often see shoots of muscular individuals being photographed against a backdrop, all oiled up, hit with loads of light, and airbrushed to perfection. This to me is not fitness photography, its closer to glamour photography and as such isnt my cup of tea.

Coming back to how I like to shoot, light is hugely important, its without a doubt the most important element to this style of work. I generally work in a gym or training environment and prefer to work with as little environmental light as possible so i can control the light to create the mood. This can mean working in almost complete darkness sometimes using model lights to compose the image and acquire focus and then using spot flash to illuminate the subject. This can take a little bit of time to get right at first as the chance of over exposing or under exposing goes up quite high when moving lights around.


Here you can see iv shot Nikki during a Kick on the bag, the flash was setup at about 10ft high, fired at about 45 degress to her it was great at catching the action whilst casting a flattering light across her abdominal muscles. We did this shot about 10 times until we had perfect leg extension.


Another key to all of my photos is to create a believable context, by this i mean have them in a realistic environment to what they are doing in the image. Sometimes people are exercising or posed in an exercise for the photo, sometimes they are photographed free standing and in space.


Here is a great example of Kristian in the gym, weights in hand looking as if hes about to start. Shot with only a little background light and a front light to illuminate him


Here we have Kristian again not exercising but simply posing, i decided that a little heavy metal on him and the metal shutters doors still fit in theme with the hardcore style shoot he was after.


Fitness lends itself very well to shooting in black and white and in my particular lighting style it really does make a photograph classy and timeless. As much as i love the look of black and white in this style of shoot i have to sometimes stop myself and switch back to colour. This work particularly well with Kristian, pictured above as he had very toned skin and very bright clothes so the pictures were quite vibrant as a result.

I will always shoot a mixture of both for this sort of work, it provides variety in similar looking shots and you can make the call later in post which you prefer.


This is one of my favourite fitness shots of late. I took this by sitting my tripod on its lowest setting and used a 70-200mm lens to zoom in to provide some foreground background separation. I then used 2 remote flash guns in this photo, one to illuminate the rear shutters as i liked the texture they provided and a high flash off to the right. The light creates a half moon effect on Jacks face and compliments his muscle and definition. He looks like a fighter in this photo about to pounce and being a wrestler that was exactly the type of look we wanted.

Fitness style work although isnt a huge money spinner for me it is a great subject to shoot. The subjects have all worked tremendously hard to get into the state where they are then confident enough to request and implement a photography shoot. I think of the fitness work as my guilty pleasure really… its my ice cream before dinner.


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