Being a photographer can sometimes be a stressful job but most of the time it’s a very rewarding one. Creating images that others enjoy as well as meeting new people with inspirational stories. When I first started photography my passion was capturing my friends skateboarding. Now however, my photography genre and style has changed massively! I still capture the odd skateboarding photo and event. My passion now tends to be within the world of fitness. Photographing transformations, personal training portraits and pre/post show athletes. Looking back over some of my very first fitness photos, it’s clear I wasn’t totally confident. Compared to my work now, it’s like they were shot by someone else. My equipment might have changed a little but the biggest change has been my ideas and understanding of creating layering plus using different angles within the shot.

Just like any hobby or art you either have to be extremely gifted to pick something up once and be amazing. The same with photography. You work hard day after day till you finally have that result and skill crafted. I’ve always enjoyed being a photographer but the last 3 years are when things really started to lift off.

How it all Started

It all came about when I attended my very first BodyPower Expo back in 2014. I was quite new to the whole fitness industry but I enjoyed working out and keeping fit. So this was my chance to meet the athletes, listen to some pro seminars and watch a few stage shows. On one of the stages a local athlete, Craig Mathews was competing. After the show on the final day, The Gym owner James Churchill had come to support Craig. During the post show chat, James suggested trying to arrange a shoot for Craig. I offered my services seeing at the time I was shooting skateboarding, I thought how hard could it be.

Fast forward a week and the day of my first fitness shoot at The Gym on Bristol Road. Looking for inspiration and ideas within magazines such as Muscle and Fitness. For a first shoot, I thought it wasn’t too bad at the time, however when I compare with my current batch of photography – I don’t know what I was thinking!! Don’t get me wrong it isn’t awful but the dark moody look in the editing and somewhat poor composition just looks a little boring. At the time I thought this “look” was the style.

The equipment I was using at the time has a factor to play. On my very first shoot the lighting equipment I owned was a Lumedyne P2XX Action Pack, Quantum QFlash T2 and 3x SB-800’s. The same lighting I was using on my skateboard photography. Fast flash duration and quite direct. The Lumedyne pack had three settings and from memory I always left it at 200w/s. Why I didn’t lower the power I don’t know. That’s how I shot skateboarding so I just left. I did use a silver umbrella to bounce the light on the subject to soften the light from being too direct. In terms of booming the lighting, I could only go as high as my tallest light stand and point the lights down. Compared to the equipment I use now, none of those older flashes are still around. All of the flash equipment has now been transferred over to Elinchrom ELB 400’s as well as a heavy duty boom!

Gaining Inspiration

A lot of these changes in style have been over a few years. Practice, practice and research. Since my first shoot and catching that fitness bug, I’ve been building a selection of ideas and inspiration. Reading magazines, watching behind the scenes or recently I’ve been using Instagram to gain inspiration. The social media platform which has over 700 million users!!

Whether it’s following some of the top fitness models or athletes, interacting with other photographers Instagram now tends to be THE social media platform. Within the explore page displaying content you might be want to see or like. What I tend to do is use the search, pick a hashtag I’d like to search and view the results. Filtering through the selfies and random content you can come across some interesting ideas.

The Secret Saved Collections

Last year Instagram introduced the ability to not only like a photo but save a photo. Similar to Pinterest where you can pin content, within Instagram all you have to do is just press the bookmark icon and this saves the photo to a collection. These collections are private so only yourself can view the content. I’ve separated my collections into two folders – Male Fitness and Female Fitness. Rather than having to look through all the liked photos, I tend to stick only the best of best. Images that impressed me so much I’d love to try and create similar during my photo shoots.

Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.

- Arthur Ashe

Developing and Adapting

Fast forward to today and after researching, developing and adapting I’ve managed to change my style of fitness quite dramatically. Some of this has been due to photographic equipment investments. However most of the change has been from the inspiration gathered from magazines and social media. I know when I first started my own Instagram account I had no clue what I was doing! Now with almost 6,000 followers thanks to hard work and being social on the app, I’ve had more enquires for shoots via Instagram than Facebook.

Even within a year I’ve noticed my improvements. Here’s a photo shot in the same gym, same exercise and even the same athlete. Still using a Nikon D800, the lens was the same – Nikon 70-200mm f.28G VRI. There might of been one more Elinchrom ELB in the 2017 version. However, the main difference is down to developing the editing as well as learning about lighting to enhance the tone and shape more.

Shaun - 2016 Shaun - 2017
The difference a year can make! 2016 (first photo) and 2017 (second photo)

Never give up chasing what you want! I know if I’d given up or thought – “well I’m not shooting the big names….what’s the point” – I wouldn’t be where I am today! Daily having enquires, racked highly on Google for fitness photography as well as being featured in magazines. They sometimes say it’s who you know not what you know. I’d like to disagree as down to what I’ve learnt and know now is the main reason I’ve managed to progress to being successful.