Taking fitness photos can be tricky. You are trying to capture a moment of a body in motion, an image that inspires people and catches their eye. But often people end up with blurred photos or someone red in the face looking like they’re about to keel over from too much exertion. Here are some practical tips that will help you produce high-quality fitness photos.
Your settings are critical
Using a fast shutter speed is critical in action shots to prevent the photos from being blurry. Depending on the type of action you may have to have a shutter speed of 1/500 sec or even faster. Open your aperture so it is fairly wide to be able to have a fast shutter speed and also a shallow depth of field. You may have to increase your ISO to accommodate a higher shutter speed.
Always shoot in burst mode to increase your chance of capturing that perfect shot. It will be impossible to catch the perfect frame with just one shot in a fast-moving scenario.
Take plenty of memory cards
Unless you will be shooting in JPEG (which you really shouldn’t be), you’ll need plenty of memory cards. RAW files are considerably bigger than JPEGs but offer much better quality and editing flexibility. Because you will be shooting in burst mode, you will go through memory cards very quickly. So make sure you have enough.
Adjust the white balance
Take your time to get your white balance right. If you set your camera to auto white balance it will often need to be tweaked. This is especially important indoors where the artificial light will play havoc with auto white balance. If you are shooting in one place (i.e. in the gym) you can adjust your white balance manually so you are set. Alternatively, if you shoot in RAW files you can adjust this easily in post-production.
The trickiest part of fitness shots is focusing correctly. This isn’t much of an issue if someone is standing still. But when they are moving it an be difficult to focus on the right thing. If your subject is moving, you should put your camera onto continuous focus. This will ensure that your camera will keep focusing on the subject if, for example, they are running towards you. Use the central points to focus ideally on your subject’s face and remember to shoot in burst mode.
It’s important to focus correctly because you’ll be using a wide aperture. If you accidentally focus on the background then your subject will be blurred.
Shade or soft light works best
Direct sunlight is harsh, so always take outdoor photos in the shade or in the soft light that occurs in the morning of late afternoon. Not only does sunlight make people squint, it creates harsh shadows, and the stark contrast can detract from the subject. The early morning or late afternoon light has a beautiful golden glow which can bring to life the colours in a photo. Whilst shooting in the shade softens shadows, making them highlight the subjects’ features more naturally.
If shooting indoors, you may need to use additional lighting. Keep things simple. Start with a single light and use it to target areas that are getting lost in the shadows. Avoid a direct flash onto your subject. Instead either bounce it off a surface or better still use a softbox or diffuser. LED lights have also become widespread and can provide much more control in being able to direct the light to where you need it.
Aim for natural poses
Another big challenge in good fitness photos is making sure that your model looks natural. A posed or staged shot won’t have the same impact as one that looks real. To achieve this you can either try to capture photos of an actual training session or you have to art direct your model to give a natural pose. The benefit of photographing real training sessions is that you can often capture photos of people resting, sweating or even with the pain of a hard training session on their face.
TIP: If you want to create some fake sweat, mix glycerin and water in a spray bottle. You can then spray your subject and beads will stick to their body or face rather than streaming down.
Crop into your image
Remember that a fitness photo doesn’t always have to be a full-body shot or even include the person’s face. You can zoom in and capture details or contours of the body. You can also focus on equipment and accessories. For example, a pair of boxing gloves still sends the message out without featuring a person.
Play around with angles
A photo that is taken at an unusual angle always attracts more attention. So play around with different and unconventional views. Whether that is low to the ground looking up or even looking directly down at someone laying on the ground, these can give your shots more variety than just standard eye-level shots.
A bit of blur isn’t bad
Don’t be afraid to have a little bit of motion blur in your fitness shots. These can help add a dynamic element to your shots showing movement. The key with this is to ensure that some part of their body is sharp (ideally their face). If you don’t have a sharp part in your photo that sense of movement won’t be evident and instead you will have a blurred photo.
These tips and unique techniques for taking better fitness photos will make a big difference to the pics you take. There are all sorts of factors you have to take into account, and you may not need them all at once but, whether you’re shooting indoors or outdoors, you’ll find this list extremely useful, and you’ll see the difference in the quality of the fitness photos you produce.
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. No usage without permission. Dreamstime.