CrossFit photography is an obsession of mine and I don’t care who knows! I took a ton of pictures while I worked at KMF CrossFit for almost two years. I thought I was a pretty decent self-taught photographer…until I went to school for it and actually learned what I was doing, ha!
A few weeks after finishing school, I had an itch to handle studio equipment. Not only that, but I recently started a job very far away from my box, and had to find a CrossFit gym closer to work. I was going to have to say goodbye to some genuine friends and supportive teammates, but I wanted to give the members something to remember me by.
Lucky for me, my favorite model and shooting partner, Rachel Alexandria was free for the weekend!
My idea for a little photo shoot took a turn for the complex when we decided to turn it into a fundraiser for a local rescue I often volunteered for, Pitbulls and Friends San Diego. To raise as many donations as possible, we added the extra challenge of booking as many mini 15-minute shoots to squeeze in as many members as possible. If you’re doing the math and it sounds like a lot, you are correct! 13 shoots, 20 models, four hours of shooting and two hours to set up…woh. We would have to be laser-focused, speedy and efficient.
We arrived at the gym two hours before the models were going to be arriving with two Profotos and a reflector. We decided on four different “sets” that we would move the members through. I totally underestimated the amount of time it took to “clean up” the sets: lining up weights just right, removing random gym equipment/apparel, randomly throwing chalk for effect, ect. Even though we spent lots of time setting the shots up, there was still tons of distracting objects in the scene I had to remove in post.
We knew we wanted something gritty that would highlight the athletes muscles they worked so hard for, so we aligned most of the lights to one side of the models, angled down. The results were incredible, I especially love the family pictures we got. A family that sweats together, stays together!
CROSSFIT PHOTOGRAPHY — THE SETUP:
- Equipment: 5-in-1 Reflector to fill in faces (handy for multiple models within a set)
- Lighting: Single Profoto (see diagrams for specific settings on each set) with a beauty dish or bare-bulbed, to the right of the model angled down
- Camera: Nikon D610
- Lens: Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G
- Shutter: 160
- Aperture: f/1.8-4.5 (see diagram for each set)
- ISO: 200
• Lots of coconut oil
Have your models apply coconut oil to their skin right before the shoot, I’ve found it most effective for getting a faux post-workout gleam.
• Keep poses dynamic and elongated
Unless you’re working with actual models, keep a ton of poses and movements in the back of your head to direct. I started out the shoot asking what they could do: handstands, pistols, anything involving a kettlebell, and shoulder presses all look great. If your model is subconscious about their weight or they’re a little heavier, stick with movements that elongate the body, like the one-handed overhead kettlebell snatches vs. a pose that would crunch their torso, like an overhead squat.
• “Think about the photo, not how much weight you’re pulling”
Reiterate to your models this is a photo shoot and not a WOD, the main thing they should focus on is relaxing their face while maintaining a tight core. A photo can quickly get ruined by a model who decides to lift very heavy, but have a serious I’m-taking-a-shit face. Not cute. This is simply CrossFit photography, not the CrossFit Games. Have fun and worry about PR’ing some other day!
CROSSFIT PHOTOGRAPHY — POST PRODUCTION:
In Lightroom, I created four presets for each set and applied them in bulk to save me time. The raw footage was a little too cold for my liking, so most of the post production was doing some temperature tweaking, vignette effects, and bringing down highlights/upping exposure. A lot of the “American Flag” shots had to be cropped severely to eliminate a gnarly wall even too gritty for a CrossFit photography shoot. We should have moved our tripod over, or stacked weights in front of it. Again, hindsight is 20/20.