In business, first impressions are incredibly important and high-quality original photographs make a powerful impact on consumers. Way back in 2011, a survey done by BrightLocal found that 60% of consumers give more consideration to local search results that have images.

This preference has only increased in recent years, proving that strong photos define your brand, instill credibility and improve your business’s SEO.

Photography is particularly important for the fitness industry – though twice as challenging – due to the many moving parts involved. But the truth is that you don’t need a Master of Fine Arts in Photography to take organic and inspiring photos of your gym, yoga or Pilates studio, or training center.

“This is something anybody can do as long as they have a camera, some environmental awareness and a plan,” says Maria Duffey, customer design manager at Vagaro.

Below is a list of simple things to consider when planning and executing a successful photo shoot.

Think Like a Photographer

A woman stretching by a window#1: Keep it Bright

Light is possibly the most crucial element to any photo shoot, and Duffey and her colleagues on the Vagaro Creative Services Team have reviewed and edited enough customer photos to know that lighting tends to be poor in many fitness facilities. She suggests taking plenty of test shots beforehand to find the best-lit spots in yours. These will vary depending on the time of day, and the best times to look are usually between mid-morning and noon.

Once you’ve found the right spots to shoot, position your model(s) so that the brightest light is in front of them – though not head on, and not directly above, behind or coming in from the sides. You have all the light you need now, so disable the flash on your camera.

#2: Keep it Colorful

Your models might be eager to show off their stylish new track suit, sports bra or yoga pants. Remind them that you prefer they show up wearing solid, bright colors. That means no stripes, checkers or other distracting patterns. Be mindful of contrast, which is the difference between tones in the image. If your space has orange walls and an orange ceiling, then suggest a color other than orange.

Simple, plain backgrounds work best – and be careful around mirrors, which can create glares and other optical illusions. If you are using a smartphone, remove any filters, highlights or special effects. Let your models’ aesthetic speak for itself.

A woman lifts weights

#3: Keep it Clean

Kettlebells, resistance bands, boxing gloves and sweat-soaked yoga mats may all be evidence of a hard day’s work, but you wouldn’t go home without sanitizing and putting them away. You provide your clients with a clean, welcoming and professional space each day, and your photos should reflect this commitment.

Dingy, cluttered images send an unwanted message, says Kitera Dent, creative director at Vagaro.

“It distracts from the subject and the action while showing the world you aren’t invested in your business,” Dent says.

Some equipment is fine, but should be relevant to the action, or the part of your business you are trying to highlight. (More on that below.)

In keeping with the theme of cleanliness, remember to clean your lens before starting. Whether you’re using a smartphone or a digital camera, remove dust, fingerprints or smudges of any kind that can diminish the vibrance of the photo.

#4: Have a Strategy

Equipment and props featured in your shots should be intentional, reflect services that you offer and reveal the most popular features of your business.

“This is your chance to show off what’s unique and give a sense of what your vibe is like to potential clients,” Dent says.

If you aren’t sure what those unique features are, ask around. Keep it authentic and use the spaces you shoot as they would normally be used. If there’s a row of heavy bags in the frame, then shoot your model firing off some combos.

What you choose to photograph may also depend on your model’s best features and abilities. If they have a 30-inch vertical and shredded quads, then box jumps are the way to go. If their core strength and flexibility enable them to hold the boomerang pose for minutes at a time, then focus on that. Plan to shoot Thursday night’s CrossFit class if it’s the most energetic of the lot.

Be sure to highlight different body types and people of all backgrounds at distinct phases in their fitness journeys. Let your photos feel welcoming and inclusive to everyone.

#5: The Great Outdoors

It’s important to include a good mix of outdoor photos. Natural outdoor light is abundant, free and rarely causes unwanted tints called color casts. Shooting outside is great for most activities, and particularly effective for results-focused shots, group shots and headshots.

The same rules for shooting indoors apply to shooting outside. Use simple, plain backgrounds free of distracting objects and only feature equipment relevant to the action and service you provide. You have plenty of space to get creative out there, but Dent warns that shooting certain things outdoors can create an expectation among potential customers.

“They might think that you actually run classes or keep equipment outside,” she says. “Certain things are best saved for indoor shots.”

A man works out with heavy ropes

#6: Get in on the Action

Fitness may be a noun, but it’s an action-packed word and your photos should convey plenty of action. Capture your models in motion doing something that is obvious and offered at your business.

Be ready to get physical yourself once the shooting starts. Get high and get low. Squat and lunge from side to side. Avoid shooting straight on or straight behind unless you are highlighting something specific and opt instead for interesting angles. Move backwards instead of zooming out for wide shots, especially with group or class shots.

“If someone is doing box jumps, you want to face them from the side or at a 45-degree angle to capture the nuances of the movement,” Duffey says.

Take as many shots as possible until you find the right ones—then take some more. It’s essential to have a deep well of photos for present and future use. Vagaro customers can upload as many as 100 photos to their business’ venue gallery. You can never have too many keepers.

#7: Tricks and Tips

You can take effective, stylish photos without expensive equipment. In fact, many recent versions of the iPhone and Android-based smartphones have features that can help you capture that perfect moment while leaving unnecessary elements out of the frame.

Here are five that Giorgio Trovato, photographer and designer at Vagaro, finds particularly useful.

  • Technique #1: Portrait mode. We recommend using Portrait mode for close-up action shots instead of manually zooming in, which usually distorts the image. Portrait mode will blur the background and keep your model at the forefront for a detailed and intimate shot.
  • Technique #2: Square mode. If you are using an iPhone, square mode shrinks the frame of your camera screen to–you guessed it–a square. Another alternative to manually zooming, doing this creates the ideal photo size for various social media apps. (42Works, a Maryland-based digital ad agency, has a simple tutorial for enabling square mode on Android-based phones.)
  • Technique #3: Burst mode. Using burst mode enables you to take multiple shots continuously in a fraction of a second. Choose which one(s) you like best in that sequence.
  • Technique #4: Live mode. A potential alternative to using burst mode, a live photo is a three-second moving image. You can choose which point in those three seconds you want to use as a still photo.
  • Technique #5: Tripod mode. A tripod is an accessory, not a phone feature, but we suggest investing in one. Most smartphone tripods are inexpensive, lightweight and portable. Mounting your phone on a tripod steadies your shot, makes hitting certain angles easier and is great for portraits and wide shots.

Going Pro

If you feel more comfortable leaving photography to a professional, that’s fine; just remember that creative decision making is up to you. Have a plan in mind for your photographer to follow.

If budget is a concern, there are things you can do to potentially mitigate the cost of hiring a professional photographer. Trading is an effective way for business owners to use their services to offset the cost of another service. A local photographer might think that a month of discounted personal training is worth a discounted photo shoot. You may also find a photography student on a nearby college campus who is willing to take pictures of your business for the price of a few credits.

Put your networking sweatband on and see what you can find.

In addition to marketing your business, strong photos express its mission, values and identity while standing for its credibility. While nuanced and a bit challenging, fitness photography doesn’t have to be an exercise in frustration or futility.

Vagaro customers can always count on our Creative Services Team to help them lead with the strongest photos possible. After getting permission from your models, post your photos to social media and be sure to tag Vagaro. We regularly feature outstanding photos from our customers on our own social media channels, so be sure to apply our tips and we may feature your business next!

P.S. If you own or manage a business that charges rent and fees, learn more about how you can do that with Vagaro’s new Automatic Rent & Fees feature.