How to take fitness shots for a magazine cover

Mar 13, 2017

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

How to take fitness shots for a magazine cover

Mar 13, 2017

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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Do you know those classic fitness magazine cover shots? White background, clean and flattering lighting, recognizable poses and really fit and happy-looking subject? In this video, Joe Edelman shares some tips for taking these kinds of fitness shots. He covers everything, from choosing the right model, to preparation, shooting and even choosing the outfits. These shots are not difficult to make if you have the right gear and invest some time into planning the shots.

YouTube video

Photos like this are great for the model’s booking portfolio. They show that the model is in great shape and feels good about her or himself. Because these shots look like they were from a magazine cover, they create an impression that the model was featured on some of them, which can add up to their portfolio.

Keep in mind that, in order to show off the body, the model doesn’t need to pose nude, or even in swimsuit or lingerie. It’s important that the model feels comfortable, and that’s why fitness shots are a great way to show off the body without shoeing too much skin.

Keep in mind that fitness models only pose one type of sport and activity. For example, a body builder usually won’t pose as a cyclist. Their bodies are built differently, and it would simply be unconvincing. Also, it’s important that you’re honest with your client. Don’t take their money and convince them they will be a fitness model if they are not actually in great shape. No matter how it sounds, it’s far less hurtful.

Shoot Prep

Now, before you start taking the shots, there are some things to prepare. Discuss the outfits with the model and prepare them in advance. Keep it simple, without too many details, prints, patterns, and florals. They need to fit well and be flattering. And it’s recommended that they show off the abs.

Props are important, but don’t overuse them. It’s about the model and showing their body and personality. So, keep the props minimal, simple and small, and don’t let them hide the body.

As you want to make your model look their best, it’s recommended that you hire a make-up artist. If the model has long hair, it’s better if they let it loose. Add a bit of “wind” to the hair, but don’t overdo it. It just needs to add some motion and playfulness to the photos.

Before the photo shoot, have the model to a few sit-ups, crunches and the like. But only a few, as you don’t want them to get sweaty and ruin the make-up. If you want the sweaty look, you can use water-based lotion, baby oil and water solution, even Vaseline (you can find some tricks for fake sweat here).

The lighting

Joe’s shots were made with a clam-shell lighting setup. Two 320 V AlienBees B800 strobes with medium Photoflex softboxes were places in front of the model. One is places on the floor, below the model, and the other one is above her; the top one is slightly brighter.

There are two AlienBees B800 lighting the white background, there are two stops brighter than the lights reaching the subject. The subject is places 7 ft in front of the background.

Lastly, two more AlienBees B800 were placed behind the model on each side as rim lights, to make the subject pop.

Shooting tips

When you setup the lighting and the model, make sure to take test shots. Use a flash meter if you have one, to avoid overexposing the model or the background. Make god lighting balance so you make the light look natural, and emphasize the model’s fit look. You can find some of the examples for shooting abs here.

Don’t shoot down on the subject, because it will undermine their physical strength and fit look. Shoot right below the eyes (but not too low, either). Make camera sensor parallel to the subject’s body, so you can show realistic body proportions.

Posing tips

When there are no props, hands on the hips, head or neck are easy poses and look good. Have the model keep legs shoulder-wide apart and shift the hips a little to the side (but not too much).

With props, it’s not about making it realistic, but about the model looking good. Keep the props simple and small, and don’t let them hide the body. When the model is turned to the side, bend the leg closet to the camera to keep the butt curved. If the model sits, turn him or her slightly to the side.

Lighting options

Although these classic “magazine cover” shots usually have a white background, you can think out of the box and get creative. You can leave out the rim lights and work with one strobe for the background light. You can also work with backdrops in different colors, or add a strobe with gels on the black background for a colored glow. As usual, it’s all about what you have and about your creativity. As Joe puts it: the possibilities are only limited by your own imagination.

[How to shoot a fitness magazine cover shot. Prep, poses & lighting for fitness photography | Joe Edelman]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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One response to “How to take fitness shots for a magazine cover”

  1. Vanitas Foto Avatar
    Vanitas Foto

    Gotta love Joe!!! His positive attitude and his advice given from his experience is what made me suscribe to his channel.

    J.P. Morgan, Gaving Hoey, Joe Edelman are some of the most positive and talented people sharing their knowled without the case of “attitude”.