Tales From The Gym…

Arm Curls

Image of my friend Keith just after a body building competition.
Nikon D700; Nikon 24-70mm lens @ 58mm; 1/250 sec @ f/2.8; SB-800 through a 24″ Lastolite Softbox (overhead) mounted on a C Stand.

Okay…I’m going to admit it…I don’t care for shooting in gyms. I don’t know of many that actually care to…but I’m sure there are some photographers out there that enjoy a good challenge…or are a glutton for punishment. Recently a buddy of mine competed in a body building competition in San Diego and placed well in his class; naturally he wanted some images of himself ‘in-form’ so he asked me to take some images of him. I was totally on board even though I don’t really specialize in portraiture. How hard can this be…I mean a few quick images and a couple minutes on the computer tweaking a few things here and there and that would be that. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The day prior to the shoot I went to the gym, excited to see what challenges I had to work through and how I could master this beast. Now, I frequent a gym on occasion (requirement for my day job) but for some reason I never really paid it that much attention as a potential place to do a photoshoot (yep, I just admidited that….rookie mistake). Well…now I have a whole new respect for those photographers that can do a photoshoot in a gym, and can do it well.

Here’s a quick list of the challenges that I noticed upon entering the gym: lighting (florecents (and not all the same temp and mixed with daylight), yellow and red walls, fairly limited space in and around the shiny workout equipment, many patrons and mirrors. Did I mention shiny equipment and mirrors? My God the place had a ton of equipment and mirrors!! Trying to hide myself and any of my photography equipment (especially the flashes) was going to be pretty tricky.


Keith performing a side knee-up.
Nikon D700; Nikon 24-70mm @ 36mm; 1/125 sec @ f/3.5; single SB-800 shot through a Lastolite ‘Hotrod’ Striplight.

So armed with the pertiant information I needed to plan the shoot I set about getting my mind wrapped around some of the more apparent obstacles. Needless to say I didn’t get much sleep the night before the shoot as my mind was racing trying to make sure I had all of the issues at bay (at least in my mind). The morning came…and within the first five minutes my plan for the shoot went out the window. Instead of setting up and shooting one area/pose at a time, my client wanted to knock out a formal portrait in a room on the opposite side of the gym. (…uh…formal portrait??) Okay…but can’t we just do it in here where I painstakingly setup for the first shot we discussed earlier? I knew better…the room I thought we would start in was going to be my biggest challenge of the day to pull off well. And so started my workout for the day…lugging all of my equipment all over the gym and quickly trying to get setup for the next shot. Did I mention I was a one-man-show that day?

Once I got the formal portrait done I was expecting to finally start into the nitty-gritty of why we were there…some poses/action images of my buddy doing what he does. Nope, not yet. Now we had to do some images for his sponsors…and a series of shots ensued of him in different shirts, products, locations, etc. Each of these sets required a recalibration of the camera due to the shift in lighting, not to mention a whole new lighting setup. At most I was anticipating 4-6 different poses/looks for the entire day…we surpassed that within the first two hours easy!

Product Shot

One of the many product shots we did during the shoot.
Nikon D700; Nikon 24-70mm @ 35mm; 1/60 sec @ f/4.0; SB-800 shot through a Lastolite ‘Hotrod’ Striplight

By the time we actually started the workout shots I was damn near dead on my feet…sweating my butt off trying to set up the equipment, calibrating the camera and lights and envisioning the best angles to take the shot without interfereing with the patrons (or worse, showing up in the mirrors)! I was beat, thirsty, hungry and not able to clearly focus on everything I needed to (and where a second person would’ve been a tremendous asset to have). In hindsight I should’ve put the brakes on and took 15 minutes between sets to clear my head…however I kept on pushing myself into the red zone.

After almost seven hours of non-stop shooting we walked away with about 6-8 images that I feel are going to help him, his personal training business and his sponsors. I learned a lot of lessons that day…mostly to expect the unexpected and that no matter how much you prepare for the shoot, things will change (or not go according to plan).

Until next time…


One thought on “Tales From The Gym…

  1. If I had been born a man(thank God I wasn’t), that is exactly how I would want to have looked. Excellent photography.

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