Choosing A Fitness Photographer

Behind the Scenes with a Professional

So you’ve done all the hard work and the “dream body” you’ve always wanted is no longer a dream… it’s yours! You’re very proud of yourself and you should be. Maybe you got ready for a competition, an event or just because. Whatever the case, you’ve decided you would like to take some professional photographs to capture this moment for you. But you’ve never worked with a photographer before and you don’t even know where to begin. You see photographers all over social media, but you’re just not really sure how to tell who’s who and what’s what!

I decided to reach out to James Patrick, an award-winning and internationally published editorial and commercial photographer to get some answers.

Choosing A Fitness Photographer

How long have you been working as a photographer?
I was figuratively tossed into photography when I was in college. At the time I was actually working for the newspaper as a beat reporter for the arts and entertainment section. Late one evening I had to cover an assignment, but all of our staff photographers were already out on separate projects or off for the night, so my editor tossed a camera into my hands and told me to get some images to go along with my article. I suppose that was the start of it. A few years later, however, is when I had a great mentor really encourage and push me to be a photographer. He made me a staff photographer at a newspaper he ran, soon promoted me to the photo editor position, helped me get another photo editor position at a startup magazine and supported me as I worked to grow my own freelance business. Thus from my first shutter click until today has been about 14 years.

How long have you been working in the fitness industry?
Getting into the fitness industry was a mix of serendipity along with intentional drive. It was probably about six or seven years ago I started to meet and work with numerous fitness talents in my home state of Arizona. However, at this time, the industry was a spec of what it has become today. It was so completely finite that I could probably count every fitness talent in the state on a single hand. I’m also a voracious reader and I love to do research. So many business and entrepreneur publications I found at this time were hypothesizing about an impending boom in the health, fitness and wellness industry. I looked at my area and realized that there was no one really specializing in that style here. So I pushed my work, which at the time was heavy on fashion and beauty portraiture, into the field of fitness and sports. I’m happy to stay it was the right decision at the right time.

How often do you shoot first-time models?
Our team often works with models with all levels of experience from seasoned professionals to those just dipping their toes into the water. Although a lot of work our is either publication or commercial based, we still love working with individual talents developing their portfolios as well as creating images for magazine submissions.

Choosing A Fitness Photographer

Is there anything I should consider first before I start looking for a photographer?
Before you even start looking for a photographer, you as the talent need to first determine the type of model you want to be and the style of imagery you want to represent you. Spend some time to flesh out your brand before investing into anything. It does not need to be perfect by any means, but your brand should have some direction. This could involve, in part, just doing research on the industry you want to be a part of.

If I was looking for a fitness photographer for the first time, where is the best place to look?
If your goal is fitness work, find the photographers working in the fitness industry, not the ones offering you low cost to free photos, but the ones actually shooting for the magazines you want to work with, for the companies you follow, for the agencies you wish to be signed with. You can also ask working professional talents for referrals to photographers who assisted them. Your portfolio is the most important piece of collateral you can have as a modeling talent. It is far too important to squander on a gamble. We have had to work with our clients to cast numerous projects and I’ve seen countless qualified talents passed up because of a cheap looking portfolio. Another resource available to you are the American Society of Media Photographer’s Find A Photographer search on their website to search qualified ASMP member photographers in your area.

About how many photographers should I consider? One, two, three or more?
Honestly there is no perfect answer for this. Contact as many photographers as you feel you need to. Realize that no one photographer can give you everything you require for your entire career. You may have one you use for headshots, one for studio shots, one for action shots, one for lifestyle shots and so on. You also need to realize that you don’t need to hire everyone at once. Your portfolio is not a static document. It needs to be dynamic and scalable. Ideally, you will forever be creative images for it to keep it fresh as well as relevant to your brand and your goals.

Choosing A Fitness Photographer

Once I have chosen the ones that I am interested in, how should I proceed and what kinds of questions should I ask?
I would suggest that talents should introduce themselves and present their goals for the shoot so the photographer can begin to set the foundation for the shoot’s creative approach. You will want to inquire as to how the photographer handles portfolio shoots and what you can expect, what exactly you would be receiving, in what format and in what time frame. You should ask about what you’re allowed to do with the images or not do. It is important to know that there are few industry standards here. Every individual photographer has the right to decide how he or she wants to run their business and what their price points are based upon their experience. So expect a wide array of responses. You can also ask for their expertise and guidance on what images you should be doing, but remember that you are the paying client so in the end it is what you want and need.

What should I be looking for that are good signs?
Look for photographers who respond promptly, professionally and thoughtfully. These are early signs of what the character of the person you may hire really is. At this stage you should have already weeded out most and are only approaching the ones vetted by your research. Additional things you should be looking for are photographers with a strong work history, a portfolio that resonates with you, successful client base and is willing to give or already has referrals.

What should I be aware of that are bad signs?
Be careful when dealing with photographers who try to push their own agenda on you as opposed to listen to your goals and directions for the shoot. Other bad signs are photographers that are very slow to respond to correspondence on a regular basis, photographers that make it hard to believe egregious claims about their work history, false promises and name-dropping. Finally, just avoid working with photographers who have work in their portfolio that does not align with your goals.

Choosing A Fitness Photographer

What kinds of prices should I expect?
Professional photographers charge professional rates. That said, every photographer will have different rates based upon their experience, expertise in a field, what they provide, the shoot details such the location, the length of the shoot, number of edits and so on. Working with professional photographers is something you’ll need to budget. It is not about cutting corners to hire the least expensive, but it is also not about immediately hiring the most expensive assuming they are the best because of their high rates. It is about finding the right photographer or photographers for you at the prices you can budget and afford. Thus, you should be booking the ones who can get you the images you need to achieve your goals.

Should I book a hair and makeup artist or should I do my own?
In my career, I have met maybe a dozen or so people who were really good at doing their own hair and makeup for a photo shoot. The rest I would highly encourage to hire a makeup artist. Makeup for a photo shoot is entirely different from makeup one would wear out. A professional makeup artist will work to contour the face, creating dimension, highlights and shadow to accent certain areas and diminish others. Why invest so much into a photo shoot and not take that extra step to work with someone who can help give your look in the images that extra polish? A professional, talented, experienced makeup artist can help give you the right look to be on camera.

How do I know what kinds of clothes or outfits to bring?
When it comes to wardrobe, bring what you see in the magazines you aspire to be in, the ads that resonate with you and in the portfolios of the agencies you want to work with. Those will show you what styles are working and selling right now. It is also encouraged that talents bring a model bag to every photo shoot. This could includes a pair of heels, undergarments such as a strapless bra and nude bottoms to not be visible in certain outfits, jewelry, backup hair and makeup supplies, accessories for the photo shoot and so on.

Choosing A Fitness Photographer

Do I get to keep all the photos?
Once again, this entirely depends on the photographer you work with and is a question that you can ask before booking. However, be prepared for many professional photographers to say “no.” It is important to understand that when you are booking a photo shoot, you are technically not buying photos. You are buying the rights to use a certain number of photos from the photo shoot. Most professional shoots you will do include a certain number of photos and edits with the base price and you can scale up from there. However, we always advise our clients to not purchase too many additional photos from any one session because a portfolio is more about diversity than about quantity. A client would rather see five to 10 amazing images rather than 20 to 30 subpar images. That said, there are photographers who will sell the rights to all the images from the photo shoot at a higher price point. Just goes back to what you really need.

How long will it take before I can see the images?
The time frame on when you review proofs and when you can expect edits is a discussion to have with the photographer prior to booking. Our team has a very strict window we put on our bookings to turn the proofs and edits around in a quick and efficient time frame that we discuss with our clients during the booking process. Don’t be afraid to ask a photographer what their policy is for turn-around time so you are not left waiting without seeing any results. Ask up front and hold them to that. You are the paying client, after all.

Where can we find out more information about you?
I keep my galleries updated regularly on my website, which also includes information on what it is like to book with us and what you can expect when you are on set. Also, be sure to subscribe to our free blog on the website to get one to two articles a week on career development in the talent industry.

Our team posts casting calls and new work samples on Instagram @jpatrickphoto and

My e-book, Fit Model Guide, covers everything models need to know on getting published and is available exclusively as

My annual conference FITposium, which teaches talents how to establish, market and profit from their brand in the industry, has details about upcoming events at and

Also you can listen to more than 70 podcasts I’ve recorded on growing a career in the talent industry at

Callie Bundy

Callie Bundy is the Editor of an IFBB Bikini Pro & StrongGirl Ambassador. She has a passion for sports and training, she played 3 sports in high school & NCAA Division 1 softball in college. She has previously worked as both a TV and Radio Host for a variety of programs.

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