How to shoot a fitness magazine cover shot. Prep, poses & lighting for fitness photography

Hey gang! Thanks for checking out this episode of The
Last Frame! In this episode I want to show you the prep,
the poses and the lighting that go into shooting one of those classic fitness magazine covers
that you see in the supermarket checkout line. Stay tuned! Fitness Magazine Covers – White background,
clean, crisp commercial lighting, three quarter length pose, really fit and sexy subject who
looks really happy. Now do you know what I am talking about? You see these all the time when you are in
the checkout line at the supermarket. Those shots are actually pretty easy to do
with the right gear and planning. So let’s talk first about why you would
do it or should you do it the next time you are working with a model on his or her portfolio. Let me be clear – when I say model – I am
referring to someone who is either signed with or planning to sign with an agency in
order to get paid professional work. I am not talking about someone with tattoos
on 60% of their body who has a profile on an amateur modeling website and is modeling
for fun. If you are a photographer that works with
models this type of fitness shot can serve several purposes in a models portfolio. 1. It looks like a tearsheet. I am not suggesting you ad a title and words
and make a pretend magazine cover. Please don’t be that photographer. I am simply pointing out the psychology – since
the photo looks like one of those shots you see on the magazines – it has a subliminal
effect of making the model look experienced. We are not saying that he or she was actually
on a cover. 2. This shot is a great body shot for the models
book. Contrary to what Tyra Banks and Janice Dickinson
claimed in their reality TV shows – a model doesn’t have to pose nude. In fact a model doesn’t have to pose in
lingerie or even a swimsuit if that makes them uncomfortable. From a business perspective it is an economy
of scale – the more things the model is comfortable with – then the more opportunities that may
exist. All that said, if you are working with a model
that is uncomfortable being photographed in swimwear or lingerie – the fitness shot is
a great way to be able to show off body proportions without showing too much skin. 3. It’s a great way to show that the model really
is in great shape. Action fitness poses are often not the most
flattering. Even though this type of shot is very commercial
and even kind of cheesy – it provides a modeling agency and potential client with a LOT of
valuable information about the model. A few warnings about doing this kind of shot
for a modeling portfolio… A lot of models or potential models will come
to you thinking that because they are skinny and go to the gym regularly or because they
just lost 40lbs and are working out every day that they are prime candidates to be fitness
models – you know – because they are fit. Fitness models are REALLY fit and very beautiful
or handsome. Understand that most fitness models only model
for one type of sport or activity. In other words – a person who looks convincing
as a weightlifter doesn’t look like the models you see doing yoga in the magazines. A person who is a cyclist is probably not
built like a volleyball player… and the list goes on. Also, understand that those magazine covers
that you see in the supermarket – they generally don’t have models on the cover. Models don’t sell magazines. Famous faces sell magazines. The covers are usually reserved for celebrities. It IS your responsibility as a photographer
to be honest with your subjects. Don’t take their money and let them think
they are going to be a fitness model if they are actually not in great shape or are still
10lbs overweight. Now that you have decided to do this shot
you need to discuss outfits with your subject. They need to be solid colors – no prints,
patterns or florals. They need to fit well and be flattering. Show off the stomach. If your model feels the need to cover his
or her stomach because it still needs a little work – you shouldn’t be doing that shot. Props are important – but go easy. This shot is about showing the models build
and personality. Too many props and too much detail will take
away from that message. So Kiss it! Keep it simple stupid. Of course you are going to use a makeup artist
because you want your model to look his or her best. For the women if they have a lot of hair – make
it full bodied. Even consider using a light fan. Don’t make it look like she is in a windstorm
– use just enough to get a little motion on her hair – remember – messy hair equals messy
picture. If your subject has great muscle definition
have them too a few curls or squats or situps before they walk onto the set. Don’t let them over due it – you don’t
want them to be sweaty or ruin the hair and makeup. If you want a little sheen to their skin use
a water based lotion right before they walk onto the set. Water based lotions like Suave are soaked
into the skin quickly, so it won’t cause you lighting problems and doesn’t stain
the clothing. These shots were done with a clamshell lighting
setup. Two 320ws Paul C Buff Alienbee B800’s mounted
in medium sized Photoflex softboxes. One is place on the floor in front of the
model and the other is on a boom arm in front of and slightly above the models head. Generally the top strobe should be a bit brighter
– you do still want a very soft hint of a shadow on the bottom of things like the nose
and jawline so that things look natural. You can see here that I also have two AlienBee
B800’s set on either side of the white background and they are powered to be approximately two
stops brighter than the light that is reaching my subject who is posed 7 feet in front of
the background. Last, I added two more Alienbee B800’s,
one on each side and behind my subject to create the rim lighting that gives the shots
a little pop and in the case of a sideways pose like this one – will also add to the
muscle definition in the stomach. The rims are only about a half a stop to a
stop brighter than the front lighting. This set-up also works really well on a black
background by simply turning off the two background strobes and using a four light set-up. Take your time and do lots of test shots while
setting up your lighting. I said previously that this is a simple lighting
set-up. It is simple in that it creates a lighting
style that is all about the subject – not your lighting. It is difficult in that if you are not careful
your background lights can be too bright, your rims can be too bright or misplaced so
that they are making your subjects nose glow or your bottom box on the clamshell setup
can be too bright and causing shadows on top of things instead of below. So if you have a flash meter – use it. If not – chimp often while testing this set-up
and even while you are shooting to be sure that things are balanced the way you want
them. The mistakes that I just mentioned are difficult
to fix in post. Also remember these subjects are attractive
and physically fit – don’t shoot down on them and diminish their strength. For the three quarters length shots shoot
from just below the eyes – I generally line my lens up right around the collar bone. For full length shots shoot at the midpoint
of the body or slightly lower. Ideally you want your cameras sensor to be
parallel to your subjects body so that you are showing them with realistic proportions. Remember this shot is about two things – personality
and looks. Without props – hands on the hips, above the
head or even on the neck are easy and work great. Keep the legs shoulder width apart and the
model can shift her hips a little to the side – but not to much. With props, it’s not about realism – it’s
about looking good. Keep the props simple and small and don’t
let them hide the body. For shots with the model turned to her side
– bend the leg closest to the camera to keep the butt curved. If you are going to have your model sit – turn
her slightly – no need to make it a crotch shot. You can of course do this with speedlights
and if you are really in a pinch you could leave out the rim lights and work with one
strobe for the background light. It will take a little more work to set-up
up just right – but it is doable if you have enough space. You can also work with different colored backdrops
or add a strobe with gels on the black background for a colored glow if you want the shot to
be a bit more creative. As always – the possibilities are only limited
by your own imagination. I hope that sparks some ideas for you, take
this idea and run with it – go create and show me what you come up with. Don’t forget, your BEST shot – its your
next shot! So keep learning – keep thinking and keep
shooting – Adios!


  1. Thanks a lot, you are the best one.

  2. Good stuff. Very helpful.

  3. Another excellent tutorial.
    I may have to give this a shot.

  4. what is the app you were using for simulating the light ? , btw nice vedio!!!

  5. you're one amazing photographer and seem like a very cool guy…you're quickly rising to the top of my favorite photographers to follow…thank you so much!

  6. Another great video Joe.

  7. Thanks Joe

  8. Great video! I was worried when I saw the set required six lights! But I'm glad you also showed a four light set up. Now I'm looking for a model for this. Should be fun!!!

  9. I've been missing these "last frame" videos. Glad they're back.

  10. Hola! Desde hace algunos meses te sigo desde Barcelona. Soy bailarina pero tambien diseñadora y desde hace unos años estoy especializandome en fotografia. Mi web es Me encantan tus videos y sigo tus tips. Son de gran valor para mi.
    Quisiera preguntarte algo. Tengo 2 flashes elichrom de 400w con modelador y me gustaria poder hacer este tipo de fotografias q muestras en el video. Qué tipo de flashes extra deberia comprar? No dispongo de presupuesto, asi que seria algo senzillo. Seria perfecto si pudiera comprarlo online! Algun consejo? Muchas gracias!!!

  11. Awesome 🙂

  12. Great tutorial Joe!!!

  13. Great video!!!

  14. One of my next projects.
    THX Joe

  15. Love your stuff and your presentation style Joe. You're one of my best 'finds' on the internet !

  16. nice video

  17. That was very insightful, thanks Joe.

  18. If you're renting, six lights can be costly indeed. make sure to include that in your total ;]

  19. Great info, thanks Joe

  20. Great video! What do you think abut the profoto b2 location?

  21. Love how you tie in all the technical side of lighting together with the artistic interpretation. What F stop range would you recommend for such shoot and do you have a go to lens for the work? Thanks Joe.

  22. Thanks Joe. Good looking model too!

  23. Hi Joe, I have a question … in one of your previous videos you mentioned that lightning should always come from above since our mind is used to this. But in the lightning setup in this video there is a softbox below the model aiming upwards. Ain't this causing weird shadows ? thanks Mike

  24. Joe, thank you for the great video! I especially like the technical aspects you bring to each situation. I never "thought" about camera placement for the full-body shot, I always shoot head shots or shoulder on up. Please keep the videos coming and keep us "thinking"!

  25. Great video. I find your work inspirational.

  26. Joe, thanks for this great video. We will be having our first fitness model shoot in several weeks. I have a question: can softboxes be replaced with shoot-through or silver umbrellas? Large ones. Thanks

  27. You are my hero m8

  28. I really like the interesting and simple way you are explaining. I have learned a lot. Thank you!

  29. Nice! I just got an internship with an elite fitness magazine. I'm so stoked to have come across this.

  30. Joe, you are unsurpassable when it comes to tutorials. I have learned from you more than from any other photographer out there, and I've seen quite a few, thanks a millior sir, wish you lots of health!

  31. Is that Nicole Matthews?

  32. Cute model ❤️ I definitely learned a lot from you and have been on 2 covers since!! A photographer I’m shooting with sent me this link, he loves your work and tutorials. Hope all is well! Xo Nicole

  33. What is the name of the software ur usin

  34. Some very valuable pointers – Thanks 🙂

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