As a professional portrait photographer and a fellow fitness enthusiast, I can emphatically say that it’s way easier to capture portraits of other people, then it is to capture photos of yourself. That said, I’m going to help make your life easier and show you some tricks so you can learn how to take your own fitness photos!
I want to emphasize that there is very little gear that you’ll need to take great photos. That said, great gear will get you better photos then lesser gear will. For example, a dedicated camera will likely capture better images then your phone will.
Some looks will also require a few tools while other looks will only require your camera. Throughout this post I’ll mention some of the gear I used to create the images you’ll see. I’ll also show you some images where I just used my camera to give you some ideas of no cost ways you can photograph yourself.
How to Take Your Own Fitness Photos:
- Prepare your body
- Adjust Your Camera Settings
- Find The Light or Make It
- Decide on a Background
- Shoot From Creative Angles
This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links at no cost to you. Please read my disclosure for more info.
1. Preparing Your Body For Your Fitness Photos
Before we start talking about how to take your own diy fitness photos, you’re going to want to first prepare your body. This is important because for the best quality photos (and most accurate representation of your progress) you’re going to want to try and capture everything in camera (without editing) as much as possible.
For example, with regards to tan lines, you’re either going to want to give them time to fade away, or tan the rest of your body so they can catch up with the darker areas of your body.
Alternatively you can also opt to get a spray tan to help even out your tan lines. It should go without saying that you should resist the temptation to go too dark with your spray tan for photos. You’ll also want to choose a tech that ‘s good at spray tanning rather than get your tan applied by a machine.
Both men and women should also consider removing their body hair for their fitness photos. Even if you’re not usually one to remove your body hair, this can make a big difference for your fitness photos (especially for men).
The reason for this is because body hair will blur the lines of you musculature. So if you want to showcase your progress in the best light, you’ll want to at least take a trimmer to your body.
To get the best definition for your photos consider getting some wax strips or having your hair professionally removed 3-5 days before your photos to give your skin a chance to heal. Also make sure and allow at least 2-3 weeks of hair growth before waxing to give the strips something to grab onto.
If you want to show even sharper lines in your musculature, you can apply Pam cooking spray to your skin before you photos. This oil will make your skin shiny which will further increase the range between highlight and shadow.
Note that applying oil is generally best done for very muscular and lean bodies. Making your skin shiny will highlight all the features of your body (good and bad). Try doing test photos both with and without it if you’ve never tried it before as sometimes it’s more flattering to go without the oil.
2. Cameras, Tools and Settings to Consider For Your Fitness Photos
Now that you’ve prepared your body, you’re now ready to capture your fitness photos! It should go without saying that a digital camera of a similar age to your phone will almost always capture better photos. With this in mind, always capture your photos on the best device you can.
In any case weather you decide to capture your photos on a digital camera or your phone, you’ll get the best results if you capture your photos in manual. This will give you the most control over how your final photos will look over letting the camera choose your exposure for you.
Android phones have manual control over their cameras in the native app. Iphone users have semi manual control in the native app, but as an iphone user, I’ve had better luck capturing selfies using third party camera apps like Halide.
No matter the device you use to capture your photos you’re going to want to get a tripod and remote control for your digital camera. This will allow you the freedom to capture you photos from different angles and take your pictures without having to run back and forth while you rely on the internal timer. These two items will make capturing your photos MUCH easier.
For those capturing their photos with their phone, I recommend you get a tripod and remote kit like this. These tools will again allow you capture your photos from different angles rather than propping your phone on a book. You’ll get more diversity in your photos with a tripod. The remote trigger will again make capturing your photos a lot easier than running back and forth to your phone. Posing into the right light is hard enough without the back and forth of working with your camera’s timer function.
3. Lighting Your Fitness Photos
As a professional photographer I have lots of fancy lighting that I can use to sculp people for their portraits. That said you don’t need any of these tools if you know how to pose into natural lighting.
Although a full lighting course is beyond the scope of this post, you can absolutely get incredible photos using just the bare sun to sculpt your body. For men, your muscles will generally look biggest with top down lighting, however I generally find cross lighting more flattering for women.
For top down lighting you can use the sun at high noon and a simple white background. A window in your home on the other hand is a good light source to capture cross lit photos. North facing windows in particular are the most forgiving as they will offer the softest cross light.
When I capture my own fitness photos, I like to do it in a room with complete light control (like my garage) and use studio strobes with gridded modifiers to sculpt myself. Gridded modifiers are a good way to create high contrast black and white photos. This is because the the grids will contain the light so you can put it right where you want it and nowhere else.
For those that don’t have strobes, these light wands with barn doors can give you a similar look to a gridded softbox (with slightly less control) for less money.
These light wands are also great to use with both your digital camera or your phone as they are what’s called a constant light source. This means they’re a light that shines rather than a strobe which emits a brief flash of light. Constant lights are advantageous for beginners because you won’t have to sync them to your device.
Another benefit to constant light sources (like light wands or the sun) is that you’ll be able to see how the light falls across your body before you capture your shot. By contrast you won’t always be able to see what you’re posing into with some flash units.
I find it really helpful to set up a full length mirror next to my camera so I can pose myself into the constant light source before I take the picture. If you don’t set up a mirror you’ll have to take a million photos while you try to nail the lighting falling across your body blind.
4. Choose A Background For Your Fitness Photos
I’m really a fan of photographing fitness photos on white or black seamless papers. Aiming for this look, so long as you nail your light pattern, you can then convert your photos to black and white which will give them a timeless feel.
A background stand kit and a roll of your favorite color seamless paper are pretty inexpensive and you can pose into the sun or a window for free. Legendary photographer Herb Ritts was famous for doing stuff like this for famous people back in the 80’s and 90’s
You can also include your background in your photos if you want. For example, sometimes it’s really cool to get the background of your gym in your photos for context.
5. Capture Your Fitness Photos From Different Angles With Different Poses
The last thing you’ll want to keep in mind when capturing your fitness photos is composition. To generate variety among your images you want to change up:
- The angles you capture your photos from
- The focal length (if you have interchangeable lenses)
- Your poses
There are some very skilled body builders on YouTube that will give you some great advice with regard to posing. Most of posing comes down to making mind muscle connections and practicing the hell out of them in front of a mirror for whatever works best for your body.
Once you learn how to turn on different muscle groups you can then play with setting up your camera at different angles to capture your body in interesting ways. There’s also other tricks you can do to make certain areas look larger. For example you can pin your biceps against your body to make them or your pecks look larger for certain poses.
However you decide to pose yourself, just try to get the light to skip across the muscle groups that you want to highlight. You can then experiment with different looks by combining the ideas highlighted throughout this post.
For example, you can use a window in your house as the main light source, the light wand as a kicker light, and a black seamless as the background. Alternatively you could set up a white seamless paper out in your backyard and pose yourself into the afternoon sun.
Done well, and with proper finesse, the above items are pretty much all you’ll need to create world class fitness photos for yourself.
Like, Share & Comment!
I hope this post helped give you some ideas for how to take quality fitness photos of yourself. In short, just remember to just keep things as simple as possible when taking pictures of yourself. It’s hard enough as it is to try and make mind muscle connections, show good expressions and photograph your own photos yourself without adding in additional complexity. Keep things simple and follow the tips in this post and you should be happy with your captures!
If on the other hand all of this sounds overwhelming and you’d rather just have your fitness photos captured professionally, I suggest you reach out to a skilled photographer in your area. If you’re located in the Northern Bay Area of California, or would like to travel in to come do a session with me, you can contact me here.
Should you have any questions about anything mentioned in this post or feel like I missed something, let me know in the comments. Otherwise go back and review this post as needed and you should have a better understanding of how to take your own fitness photos!