I took a call from an old friend asking for a favor: Adam Schafer from WeLove2HateAdam and his team, Team Level Up wanted me to come out and help him with his bodybuilding portraits. Adam is preparing for an upcoming bodybuilding show in Sacramento and wanted some high quality portraits of his physique. The best way I photograph any model is to present those pictures in a format they will be happy with and one that is accurate and true to their character and presents their body and personality accurately. I decided I would follow Adam as he explored the gym – these photos were the result as I followed him for a day in the life of a bodybuilder.
Bodybuilding is a unique culture because it is just that, a culture and way of life. The life of bodybuilding and fitness contains a language of its own, an economic system based on supplements, physical trainers, exercises, routines and spontaneity and extreme competition. The closest I come to bodybuilding is a few P90X videos in my bedroom – to watch the dedication and work required behind the scenes with Adam was a whole new world. Throughout my time with Adam I can't count how many times he was asked "How do I get my body to look like that?" and "What should I eat to lose weight and get lean?" These questions supported my quest for these fitness pictures - there is so much behind the scenes work and information that go into answering these questions. The life of a bodybuilder is work, it may not be in an office but it takes care, focus and maintenance.
For those who follow bodybuilding it is a true piece of art. If an area is weak or flat, you focus on it to essentially add clay and define through nutrition, diet and select exercises. Each fitness routine is select to develop and maintain areas of need. Adam explained to me through the day that fitness is indeed an art, and fitness is also focused around science. The science of calories, fats, glycemic indexes and the impact of a single pancake or cheat meal on a dedicated bodybuilder. The process days out of a bodybuilding show takes select focus he said on depleting certain nutrients carefully on a focused timeline. If you miss it by hours your body could appear depleted on the day of the show. This day with Adam was a trial run for him to gauge his body’s timeline and adjust where and when he needed to restrict certain nutrients. He explained I was his practice show – he would then use that photography session to adjust his timeline for his fitness show.
At the same time I was following Adam learning about the tricks to posing to highlight areas of the body – I was also explaining to him the science behind my photography and it’s effect on his body. The key to any good bodybuilding photo is the lighting. Too much light can make a body appear flat and without definition, not enough and your photo is too dark and key areas are lost. For these photos with Adam it had to be a delicate balance in between. I needed enough light to maintain my focus but not enough where I would lose the detail of his physique. For this photoshoot I packed along a suitcase full of items from my Alien Bees strobe and my Nikon battery powered strobes – with plenty of accessories to adjust along the way. As Adam moved through his workouts I lit each scene and adjusted as necessary. I showed him the different effects the angle of a strobe light can have on a portrait while he rested through sets.
The result of the day was a massive success. I was able to document his workouts and show him how his body presented on film through different poses and lighting. This is a key point for all bodybuilders – looking in the mirror and seeing a man’s or woman’s physique and seeing that same physique through camera lighting and on print are two entirely different things. Adam was able to see how I presented his physique while I was able to learn the basics of bodybuilding and the culture of fitness.
These bodybuilding pictures are a sample of the hundreds of pictures I took working with Adam on his bodybuilding show prep. If you want to learn more about the lighting for these fitness pictures or other portrait pictures - contact me by email or follow me on Google+.