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April 18, 2011

Fitness Modeling 101 with Photographer Mike Byerly

Mike Byerly is one of the most well-recognized photographers in the fitness modeling business, having shot most of the top fitness models and having been published many times over.  Mike and I have been in touch for the past 4 years trying to work out a shoot (he on the west coast and me on the east) and it had never worked out until recently when I was fortunate enough to break into his packed shooting schedule on a business trip to California last month.  Some of the images we created are below, Mike is so VERY talented, it was an honor to work with him!  Also, for you east coast ladies (and men!), Mike will making a trip to North Carolina mid-June this year so if you are wanting to shoot, be sure to contact him via his contact info at that bottom of this interview! Enjoy! ox Jill

Hi Mike, congratulations on becoming one of the most sought-after fitness photographers in the industry! With the new breed of fitness professional hybrids (trainer/blogger/model) coming on board, many want to get ready for shoot (if not a competition) and would like to know from a pro (you!) the ins and outs of getting ready for a shoot and then how to bring their “A game” in order to get their best shots.  Thank you for taking the time to give JillFit some tips and tricks of the pros!

1] If an aspiring fitness model wants to shoot with you, where should they start and what is considered “the norm” when setting up a shoot–I think it’s safe to say you don’t do TFCD anymore :)

The first step is to contact me via email, phone, or facebook. Before you write or call, have an idea of what you want to get out of the shoot and the time its going to take to get it done. Photoshoots take vision and very specific planning. The more planning one puts into the shoot, the better the shoot is going to be in general. If you’re unsure of how many locations, wardrobe changes, and makeup changes it’s going to take, then give me a call and I can talk it through with you. Then you can decide what is best for you. In general, with me, you make a 1/3 deposit and pay the balance at the time of the shoot. I’ve heard that’s how many professional photographers work.

2] How far in advance do you recommend they schedule their shoot?

I recommend models to plan on booking a shoot 2 to 3 months in advance. Peak months for photographers in my region are March to October.

3] What are the TOP 5 things they can do to prepare for the big day?

The top 5 things to do to prepare for the photoshoot are:

1. Get to know the photographer and get excited about the shoot together!!
2. Plan all creative goals and concepts and wardrobe well ahead of time.
3. Know posing expecations and “moral” values. Make sure both the model and photographer share values for the shoot.
4. Have natural looking healthy skin tan
5. Have all the logistics worked out well ahead of time. That includes payment options, flights, transportation to and from studio, makeup call times, meals, …and who’s paying for all of the previous. :-)


4] What’s the biggest mistake you see new fitness models making?

The biggest mistake I see new fitness models making is in thinking they are going to be discovered once and for all…not understanding that modeling involves working hard for every new job. With most jobs, you interview once or twice and then maintain that job for quite a while. With modeling, every new booked shoot or commercial typically requires a new job interview. This casting call process must be done frequently and with not much success at times. It takes a very patient and determined person.

Also, many fitness models don’t realize there is not much money in fitness modeling. In general, fitness modeling is a means to some ends. It can be used as a way of generating a public following that can be turned into business opportunities. But again, the models need to have a business plan and need to know how they are going to use modeling as a means to their end. For some, that may mean earning a spokesmodel position with a supplement company where for others its building clientele for personal training or some other business endeavor. Most new models don’t have any idea about how to use modeling for any use other than gaining popularity. I would advise models to use every bit of business savvy they possess. They must view themselves as a product/brand.

5] How does a new fitness model know how to pose, stand, move or look? Do they have to practice?

In my experience, the best models have had experience in either athletics, dance, or acting. What those activities have in common is a sense of body control/performance and following very specific directions on command. All models need to have good body awareness and yes that takes practice. I advise all models to practice in front of the mirror…a lot! Know your facial expressions and best body positions. There are books and online sources you can go to for posing ideas. Another aspect of that process is the photographer you are working with. Make sure if you are an inexperienced model to work with a photographer who can train you in the basics as you shoot. If you’re unsure who those photographers are just ask experienced models who have worked with lots of photographers.


6] What about attire? Can you bring TOO MUCH stuff?  What are the outfits that work the best and which ones should they leave at home? :)

The only time I’ve been frustrated as a photographer is when a model doesn’t bring enough options. Here are some basic tips for photoshoot prep that I normally mention to models I shoot:

  • No stripes, plaid, or random patterns –solids photograph much better
  • Avoid large bold brand names
  • Vary the styles, talk to photographer ahead of time to make sure you’re on the same page. (most people get 2-3 looks per hour when the shoot is well planned)
  • Bring various colored undershirts and undergarments
  • Plan outfits completely head to toe with all accessories
  • Have clothes on hangars and/or covered with a bag and grouped with accessories and shoes
  • Make sure your clothing flatters you. For example, a baby doll style almost never photographs well.
  • If you’re wondering whether an outfit is appropriate, bring it, but also bring other options to shoot if it doesn’t work out.
  • Black outfits look great in black and white images, if you want that dramatic look, make sure to bring that as an option.

7] Do you recommend doing hair and make-up yourself or get it professionally done?

Definitely get your hair and makeup done by a professional. The only exception to that is if you have a particular skill in that area. In general, most models tell me that are so glad they hired a professional the day of the shoot so they can focus on other things that day.

8] Any things that new models should look out for when researching a photographer?  Any “red flags”?

The first step to selecting a photographer is to do your research. Do an internet search and find all the work you can possibly find on that photographer. The rule of thumb is that a person’s portfolio is as good as their worst image(that goes for photographers and models). Ideally you will want to work with someone who consistently puts out great work and fits your style and needs.The next step is to do a little background work on that person. Talk to former clients of the photographer. A good photographer has good professional habits and makes people feel amazing. I think a person should leave a shoot feeling like that was the best day they’ve had in a long time! :)

9] And finally, what is one MUST-KNOW for any new model–one single pearl you can give them?

Keep the career in balance. Strive hard to maintain your values while creating powerful images. Also, with respect to fitness and health, walk the talk. If you are a fitness model, then you are a fitness role model. Have a strong knowledge base. Because as soon as your face starts getting published, many people are going to come to you asking questions about weight loss, health, nurtrition, training, etc. Be prepared with knowledge and excellent resources.

Thanks so much, Mike!! Where can we find you?

Facebook: Find Mike Byerly
Twitter: mikebyerlyphoto

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