Do an Internet search for fitness photography, and most likely your return will be a list of websites with beautiful, fit women. The smart photographer, looking to expand his or her female fitness photography business, will create a section in their portfolio dedicated to male fitness photography.
Photographing a male model, especially a male fitness model, offers a unique set of challenges. The best fitness photograph portrays the model as attractive, muscular, and relaxed. Putting all those elements together in a single frame, with a model that is often inexperienced, can be difficult.
In preparing for a shoot, the male fitness model needs to be well groomed. A fresh haircut will often eliminate the need for extensive post-production to get rid of flyaway hairs. It is also important to discuss whether or not the model needs to shave his face; if the finished image is intended to be edgy, a day-old beard often contributes to the effect. Most fitness models will also shave their body before a shoot, much as they would before a competition. Remind your model that if they shave their body, they need to use a soothing aftershave to eliminate bumps and redness, which are highlighted by today’s high-resolution digital cameras.
A finished male fitness image emphasizes the muscularity of the subject, which is often in contrast to the fit and trim image we try to create with female fitness photography. In order to maximize the muscularity, the male model should come to the session after a workout, when they are at maximum pump. Being slightly dehydrated will also help emphasize their lean muscle mass. Asking the model to do a quick set of pushups and sit-ups between sets will also help their muscles photograph their best. As a photographer, don’t be afraid to ask the model to be well prepared; the finished image that you both receive depends on it!
Perhaps the most difficult task a fitness photographer faces in undertaking male fitness photography is making the subject appear relaxed. In order the create a successful image, the model cannot appear to be straining or grimacing; male fitness images that are currently salable show a relaxed, happy model, who just happens to be incredibly fit and muscular. Any strain on the face or in the body of the subject translates as I am trying too hard, and it is painful to be this fit and muscular. Whether the male fitness image is trying to sell a supplement, a product, or a gym membership, the final image needs to convey ease and fun.
Ease and fun is not often easy with a male model! Especially if they are inexperienced, the male fitness model will want to pose as if he’s on stage in a competition. Giving the model instruction to act as if they were casually interacting with the camera can be especially helpful. His preparation before the shoot should create the appearance of lean muscle mass; no extra flexing or strain should appear on the model’s countenance or body. If the model still wants to flex and pose, giving him a prop to interact with can often distract him enough to get a great image. Props don*t have to be pre-planned; take advantage of what’s available. A cell phone, a pet, a bicycle, or even a water bottle can all create something for the model to interact with, thus distracting them from their thoughts of flexing and posing. Capture the male fitness model looking happy, relaxed, and fit, and you’ve created a winning image!