Men’s Fitness pictures are tough – you can go several different routes, spontaneous – planned poses, staged scenes – but in the end there are several principles to adhere to. The key elements of my portraits comes back to three basic things: (1) Lighting, (2) Emotion, (3) Composition.
When I go out for a portrait photoshoot, whether that be for a wedding couple or for men’s fitness portraits – I always research and plan for proper lighting. I have shot amazing portraits using only natural light, and also created fantastic scenes using 4-5 different lights. The key to a good portrait is planning ahead for your environment and how much light you need to create your scene. For this photograph I knew I would be working in a medium sized gym with access to a variety of exercise equipment. I figured I would be working indoors with halogen lights. To overcome this I would use one main strobe to operate as my main source of light.
The key to muscle pictures and men’s fitness pictures is to light your subject but from a high angle to maintain definition of the muscles. If you blast your model with a high key light you will overpower the shadows and create a flat image. I knew my client wanted a specific focus on muscle definition – this required a boom setup with my main light set approximately 8 feet in the air.
I operated with a secondary smaller strobe to give me accent lighting, at times that would be to fill light in the face area or around the rib cage. But like I said, overpowering the shadows will leave you with an uninteresting flat image. For this men’s fitness picture I wanted a dramatic highlight from behind my model. I placed a small strobe directly behind him with my main light source overhead. The result was a dramatic monochrome bodybuilding picture. I love it.
This is perhaps the most overlooked element of a successful portrait. In fact, emotion is often the main difference between a great portrait and an average portrait. The key to this photograph is to capture the seriousness and passion of the work required for bodybuilding. It is a culture, not a moment – and I wanted this picture to capture that. I want the model to be vain and care about flexing but at the same time be serious with the work necessary to get to this point. To maintain that storybook emotion this had to be a black and white image. Leaving it in color would lose something from the image.
I love taking portraits because capturing the emotion of your model and your photograph is one of the biggest challenges in photography, but when both you and the client feel you nailed their emotion – the picture becomes priceless. For some critics this image may not be the most dramatic and may not win awards, but the photo isn’t designed to fill those categories. This picture is a part of the entire series and plays a role as part of the entire compilation. Remember the emotion of your different pictures, you will undoubtedly shoot a mass amount of pictures – but maintain a focus on emotion.
Absolutely one of the top 3 elements of an excellent picture – composition. I have always shot in the feel of the moment, sometimes absolutely loving my original eye in the field – but often I love to tighten my view in post-processing. In this photo my composition was very important to maintain a clear focus on the body and the muscle definition. I also wanted to make sure the photo maintains a bit of the entire scene in the picture. To me, a poorly composed photograph will ruin the overall image. You may have a fantastic portrait, but if it is poorly composed or every image is composed the same – your photography will suffer over time.