Tips For Taking Better Stage Photos At Fitness Shows

I’ve written about this on social media in the past because I had never seen any fitness photographers talk about it. Here’s my official blog post that fitness competitors, whether new or seasoned, can refer to in the future. First, I’ve been shooting photos at fitness shows for about six years and I’ve seen all types of strange things with show lighting, tanning dyes, oils, and other products to help competitors show off their definition and hard work to the judges.

Stage Lighting

Stage lighting from one venue to another can change dramatically. Some fitness venues have a lighting crew, they place markers for athletes to stand, etc., whenever possible, I always get to shows early and work with lighting crew to shoot some test shots the day before or early morning before the show. Some venues, the lighting can be moved, adjusted, etc., but some venues, WYSIWYG ~ “What You See Is What You Get” for lights and you have to work with them.

Get to a show early, most stage managers; promoters will let you go on stage to practice your posing. Have a friend or family member take some pics. Better yet, if a photographer is there, see if he or she can snap some sample pics.

If the show you are competing in puts markers on the stage, be sure to stand on them when doing your routine. In some cases, the difference between a great shot or poorly lit shot can be inches depending on the stage lighting situation.

Lastly, all stage lights are not created equally. Some stages are lit with the latest technology, while others use older lights, such as fluorescent lighting, which can change the color of some dyes in photographs.

Tanning Solutions / Oils

As I mentioned above, some tanning solutions react to fluorescent lights harshly by turning athletes orange. This drove me crazy for a while until I started talking to other photographers and tanning providers. Ask other competitors, talk to the official tanning provider at the show. Make sure you know what will work for you and your skin color / type. While I’m not a tanning professional, I think I can safely say, I’ve never seen a home tanning kit that looked good. Also, there are solutions to deal with different types of skin from dry to oily, or athletes that might be prone to sweating. Sometimes this is a learning process to figure out what you need to do to get your body tanned for judges and photographs.

There are some great oils for giving you a bit of shine or sheen on stage. I’ve seen athletes use some crazy stuff. One of the worst things an athlete can do is appear too oily. Being over oiled will cause bright lights to blow your skin out with white over exposed areas no matter how dark your skin is. There are some great oils that have the ability to diffuse light so that it hits your body evenly without creating bright-overexposed areas. Ask other competitors or tanning providers for any tips they might have. I know there are some sprays that do a great job.

Posing Tips

Here are some basic posing tips to help show photographers and friends and family members take better photos of you at your fitness show:

  • Use deliberate pauses in your routine. It’s at these pause points that your best photos will be taken. It’s difficult to get great shots of athletes that pose in a continuous fluid motion with no deliberate stops. Because of the nature of most fitness show photographs, you are shooting low light with slower shutter speeds to gather as much light as possible.
  • If there are stage markers, try to hit the markers or line as stage lights have most likely been adjusted for these areas.
  • Take all of your allotted time. First time competitors often rush through their routines because of nerves. Count if you have to, but take your time and use your full posing time. The longer you are on stage, the more photographs the show photographer(s) can take, including friends and family. I’ve seen some nervous athletes do their routine in 10-15 seconds with barely any time to get great shots.
  • Look out over the top of the audience or even look upward slightly. This will help to prevent dark shadows from covering your eyes due to the angle of lights. Athletes who stare down at the judges typically take pictures with raccoon eyes. Also, ladies, don’t wear excessively long eyelashes, these can act as shades that can also cast a shadow over your eyes. Wear modest eyelashes that won’t black your eyes out in photos.
  • Lastly, SMILE! You’ve trained hard, dieted down, and invested money in registration fees, posing suit, trainers, posing coach, hair, makeup, and tanning. Don’t walk onto the stage looking like you are ready to fight someone. Remember, you’ve got friends, family, and teammates there to see you. Have fun!

If you’ve purchased a photo package, don’t be afraid to see the photographer after pre-judging to see if he or she needs to get additional shots. I try to review images during intermission and will let athlete(s) know if I need to get additional shots.