I’ve photographed people in a lot of different occupations, but this is the first time I’ve worked with a professional fitness trainer. Sarah Gearino (“Body Evolution by Sarah”) is taking on more clients and she wanted photos for her Web site (which is currently in the planning stages).
My first surprise in preparing for this shoot was researching the kind of images that are currently used by female fitness trainers. Loose gray sweats are gone. Figure revealing swimwear and abbreviated exercise clothes are now the norm.
“Light and shadow” are the keys to showing the contours of a well toned body. Flat, even front lighting (light that is shining on the front of the subject) is out. Side lighting creates the right kind of shadows. For the photo above, I used “cross lighting”, one light to the right and another to the left. Imagine a large analog clock face on the floor. Sarah is in the middle of the clock’s face, the backdrop is at 12, the camera is on the number 6, one flash is around 9:30 and another flash is around 3:30. Sarah’s body is facing 7:30 and her face is looking at 4:30.
Positioning the lights was critical. Moving the lights just a few inches around the edge of the clock face made a dramatic difference between great lighting and not very good lighting. The lights were also higher than Sarah’s head, pointing down at a slight angle. I used the continuous “modeling lights” (not the flashes) on the studio lighting units to preview the location of the shadows. When the position of the lighting units was right for the shadows on her body, I had her turn her head so I had the light I wanted on her face. When everything was just right, I used the flashes on the studio lights to create the photo.
You can use an incident flash meter, digital camera histogram, or the LCD image on the camera to determine the exposure, but the LCD image is the least accurate method.
The camera was level with Sarah’s waist, which creates a pleasing perspective. Doing a 3/4 portrait with the camera eye level to the subject will enlarge the upper body and shrink the lower body, creating an unnatural perspective. The focal length of the lens was 55mm, which also gives a natural look for a 3/4 portrait. Using a wider focal length lens and moving in closer to the subject will distort the proportions of the body. Sometimes I deliberately distort perspective but not in the case of this image.
I set the flash at camera right (3:30 on the floor clock) for the primary exposure. I set the flash at camera left (9:30) for a slight amount of overexposure which creates the “sheen” that outlines the curves to camera left (Sarah’s right).
There is a lot more information on exposure, portrait photography, studio lighting, and perspective in my highly rated photography book, Digital Photography Exposure for Dummies. Reading and applying the chapters on exposure, light, flash, and people photography will take your portrait photography to the next level.