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How to Shoot Fitness Photography for Social Media and Magazines

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Fitness photography is all about strength and healthy living. As a fitness photographer, your job is to capture that and make your pictures look like they belong in a wellness magazine.

Here are tips on how you can achieve that.

A woman working out in the gym
Photo by Sabel Blanco from Pexels

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What You’ll Need

  • Camera
  • Lens
  • Editing program

Talk to Your Model About Their Fitness Journey

Every athlete has their own fitness story. This can give you ideas, help you bond with the athlete, and show you what they’re comfortable with. It can also help you choose the right location and props for your shoot.

Don’t be afraid to ask them about their favourite poses. Since they’re professionals, they can help you take photos that are authentic to their story. This can bring you closer to taking fitness photos that will look good on social media and in magazines.

Also, ask them if they’re comfortable with giving you feedback during your photoshoot.

A woman working out on the beach

Take Test Photos in a Gym Before the Photoshoot

Gyms don’t have the best lighting for fitness photography. You don’t want to start your photoshoot feeling confused! You can avoid this confusion by taking test photos with a friend before your photoshoot.

Ideally, the gym should be the same one you’ll be using with the athlete. This is a great time to find spots with the best lighting. Adjust your ISO and white balance and take as many test photos as possible. You can even use these photos as references during your photo shoot, if you want.A man working out in the gym for a fitness photoshoot

Shoot in a Simple Location to Focus on the Athlete’s Moves

If you take photos in a busy gym, your photos won’t look appealing. Blogs, social media accounts, and magazines all look for clean photos that tell a story. You can achieve this by choosing a visually appealing location. All you need is a simple background that doesn’t clash with your model’s outfit.

If possible, take photos outdoors. Make sure there aren’t too many people around so that you don’t get accidental photobombs!

It’s not always possible to take fitness photos outdoors. If you must shoot in a gym, pick a corner that looks tidy. Get close to your model so that the surrounding equipment doesn’t take the spotlight.A woman posing on the beach for a fitness photoshoot

Use a Large Aperture to Blur out Distractions

In fitness photography, a large aperture is your best friend. For example, f/1.2 or f/2.8. The smaller the number, the blurrier your background will look.

An aperture like f/2.8 is enough to capture details on your model’s faces and blur out distractions. Of course, the aperture you choose depends on your shooting style. Experiment with different apertures to find the perfect blur/sharpness ratio.A line of people working out on the beach

Shoot Through Objects to Make Your Fitness Photos Look Candid

Fitness photography isn’t usually candid, but that doesn’t mean you can’t fake it.

You can make your photos look spontaneous by shooting through objects. If you use a large aperture, the object you’re shooting through will look blurred. This will frame your photo and get rid of distractions.

Ask the athlete to do their usual routine. This will make it seem like they’re completely unaware of your camera.A man lifting weights in the gym for a fitness photoshoot

Take Photos Next to a Window for Flattering Fitness Portraits

A large window is perfect for workouts that don’t involve equipment. Yoga is a great example of this. You can use a large window to create direct light, side light, or backlight. This can give you lots of variety in your pictures. (It can also give a blog or magazine more pictures to choose from.)

For individual portraits, make sure your model is as close to the window as possible. For group pictures, you can shoot from a distance. The larger the window, the better.A woman lifting weights in the gym for a fitness photoshoot

Focus on Details to Emphasise the Athlete’s Strength

Another way to make your fitness pictures more diverse is to focus on details. You can do this at the end of your photoshoot. Focus on getting the most important shots first, and then move on to details that can support your story.

Details can be the model’s outfit, muscles, arms, or facial expressions. Use oil to give the bodybuilders a healthy glow. Dramatic top lighting will make their muscles stand out. Use a zoom lens so that you can create some distance between yourself and the model. If you get too close, you could make them feel uncomfortable.

A woman posing for a fitness photoshoot

Use Props to Make Your Fitness Photography Unique

If you have a studio (and some extra time), you can add props to your photoshoot. This can increase your chances of getting featured in fitness blogs or magazines. The reason is that props can make fitness photos look even more unique and eye-catching.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Costumes: This is great for editorial photoshoots for magazines. Costumes aren’t as comfortable as fitness outfits, but they can make your photos look fun.
  • Smoke bombs: You can use smoke bombs outdoors. Make sure there aren’t any flammable objects around. Smoke bombs can add colour to your photoshoot and give your images a surreal look.
  • Flour: You’ll need a studio, a broom, and lots of ventilation. This is ideal for dancers and yogis. Your model, or an assistant, can throw flour around as the model dances. Ideally, the background should be black, and the lighting should be limited. This will make your fitness photos look dramatic and surreal.A man exercising surrounded by flour

Use Selective Colour to Get Rid of Vibrant Distractions

No matter how much hard work you put into your photoshoot, you’ll still need to edit your pictures. Even basic colour correction is enough to make your fitness photos look striking.

Selective colour is your best friend, especially if you have lots of gym photos. You can use this tool to desaturate specific colours. For edgy gym photography, you can desaturate every colour except for your model’s skin tone. This will put the focus on your model and give your images a clean look.

For outdoor fitness photos, you can mute highlights and add contrast. You can also slightly increase the clarity of your images to make them stand out more.A man lifting weights in the gym for a fitness photoshoot


Fitness photography is a diverse genre. Make sure you talk to your model beforehand, so that you know what they’re comfortable with.

Keep lighting and posing in mind throughout your photoshoot. Be open to trying new techniques and listening to your model’s feedback. With the right amount of patience, you’ll be able to take incredible fitness photos.

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