Fitness Modeling 101 – How To Set Up A Photoshoot

how to set up a photoshootI got a TON of positive feedback from yesterdays post on how to get ready for a photo shoot so I figured…why not explain how to break into the business and set up your first test shoot?

After all, we all have to start somewhere and getting started is often the hardest part because there really isn’t a lot of good information out there about how to become a fitness model.

So for anyone who is interested in starting a career as a fitness model and wants to know exactly how to set up the first shoot to get a portfolio started this is your new blueprint.

If you have already done a few shoots and think that you may know all of this stuff, it may still be worth your while to read through it because none of us knows everything and who knows, perhaps you may pick up one tip that could land you a big time booking.

I wrote a bit about this topic in my Fitness Model Blackbook (which is a free pdf download on my site) but for everyone who hates the idea of giving me their email address and getting all sorts of cool free stuff from me delivered regularly to their email this post is for you 🙂

Ok I’ve rambled enough for one post so here’s how it’s done:

I’ve heard it a thousand times. People asking me “how do I become a model?” It’s a legitimate question, but it’s usually one that shows you no love whatsoever on a Google search…leading many people to get caught up believing myths that frankly just aren’t true. This may be totally obvious but…step one is to set up your first test photo shoot.

And don’t worry, you won’t have to shell out thousands of dollars to get this done…trust me…you DO NOT have to spend thousands of dollars on a photo shoot in order to get started…and honestly, all you really need are just a few clear pictures of your body and face.

You can even set up a free test shoot by networking with photographers that are interested in TFP (time for print) shoots on portfolio sharing websites such as and

TFP (time for print) shoots involve working with a test photographer who is in the process of building his or her portfolio. These shoots are free. You get the pictures and the photographer gets to use the photo(s) for his or her portfolio so it is a win-win deal for everyone involved.

When you sign up for the sites listed above you will be able to browse various portfolios of photographers in your area and have the ability to contact them about setting up a test shoot. That is the easiest way to start. Just browse a few online profiles and send them a message or call them (if the number is listed) and set up an appointment.

WARNING: If a photographer has an ugly portfolio or seems sketchy don’t work with them! It is your safety, your career, and your money, so don’t ever feel obligated or compromise your morals.

You can always find the most sought after photographers simply by looking up their credits in the fitness magazines. Once you find their name listed all you’ll have to do next is Google them to find their website and contact information. You can then email the photographer one or two of your best photos and try to set up a shoot.

There are literally hundreds of photographers that shoot fitness, but to make it easier for you, I’ve listed some of the top fitness photographers in the business below. Many shoot for the major fitness publications.

Here are the top fitness photographers in the industry:

Natalie Minh
Jason Ellis
Per Bernal
Charles Worthington
Paul Buceta
Walt Ostarly
David Ford
Thomas Oed
Robert Rieff
Martin Ryter
Alex Ardenti
Michael Neveux
Keith Munyan
Tony Oamg

(at the time of this writing all of these links are known to be working)

Note: Photographers will generally let you choose about 5-8 images from the entire shoot. Make sure you choose the best images possible because you will print these out to use for your portfolio. The standard industry size for printed images is 9″X12″.

Your First Shoot

First of all let me just state that showing up for your shoot in good physical condition is CRITICAL. For every fitness model out there, trust me, there are many other suitable others that can replace you should the photographer call your conditioning into question. I have seen people sent home from shoots many times because they show up out of shape. (Don’t worry you usually won’t get sent home from a test shoot…only from paid shoots when you show up out of shape)

jamin thompsonMe behind the scenes shooting with OAMG

The reason some people show up unprepared is because many projects will give you little notice as to when the shoot will occur and you may not have a long period of time to get your diet and training in gear. This is why it is important to stay lean year round and not fall into the off-season style mass gain and then cut trap. That is a dead end in this industry.

Many of the working fitness models that I know typically only need 3-5 days to be camera ready. Others need 10 to 14 days. As competitive as this industry is, who do you think will be chosen for the project…the person who can show up on short notice in sick shape or the person who asks for “just a few more days”?

You get the point.

Before you show up to the shoot, be sure to contact your agent or the photographer so that you can be 100% sure you will know what to do as far as clothing, hair, and makeup. If you are working on a larger project, wardrobe, hair, and makeup professionals usually take care of this for you, but at the very least, be sure to show up with clean skin.

Keep in mind that a picture lasts forever. Good photo shoots are priceless and can help your career tremendously so try your best to look as good as you can for each shoot. It is always worth the hard work and sacrifice.

Can’t write a post about fitness modeling without AT LEAST one Jamie Eason pic right? 😉

Here are a few shoot day pointers:

Bring your zed card – Whenever you work with a photographer it is always a good idea to bring your zed card. You never know if they may have a job for you in the future, so don’t forget to take it with you to the shoot. Your zed card is basically your business card and it will get you jobs. I usually have mine handy at all times. If you are just starting out, however, and don’t have any pictures yet, you may skip this step.

comp cardSample comp/zed card

Get enough sleep – Be sure to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep the night before your shoot. You definitely don’t want to show up with blood shot eyes and dark circles.

Avoid Self Tanners – The last thing you want to do is show up looking like a muscular orange. It is very important to be tan, but a natural tan is always best.

how to set up a photoshoot

Avoid large meals that day – Large meals on shoot day are generally a bad idea. The last thing you want to happen is for you to get overly bloated and be forced to cancel the shoot. I usually pack a small cooler with healthy foods so I can stick to my nutrition plan and not have to hit up a burger joint mid shoot because I am starving.

Be on time – Fitness modeling is a fast paced business and nobody wants to wait around for an unreliable, flaky model. If you want to work, being on time should be priority number one. Showing up on time shows that you are responsible and that you respect the other people you will be working with and value their time.

Your reputation and relationship with photographers and agents can easily be crushed if you are late for shoots and appointments!

Photographers often rent equipment, assistants, and studios and usually work on a tight schedule. When you are late you cost them money and they will refuse to work with you on future projects. I always try to show up 15 minutes early for my shoots and even earlier if it is a big project.

While you are shooting, always remember that you are working. Modeling is a business and you should treat it as such. A good reputation is VERY important in this industry if you want to book jobs.

I was actually late for my shoot with Powertec this past Saturday because my brakes blew out and I had to take a taxi across town to the shoot. Most photographers are cool if you have an emergency though so be sure to contact them asap and let them know the situation. I phoned in as soon as possible to let the Powertec shoot photographer (Natalie Minh) know about the emergency and I ended up showing up about 10 minutes late but everything was cool. 🙂

Remove body hair – Most fitness modeling gigs require the removal of body hair. Be sure to experiment a few weeks in advance with any hair removal methods you have never tried in the past. If you are one of those dudes who think that shaving your body isn’t “manly”…well buddy…fitness modeling isn’t for you.

Avoid tight fitting clothes – It is best to avoid wearing tight fitting clothes before your shoot. Nothing will annoy the photographer more than having to edit out skin dimples and creases caused by tight fitting clothes. It is also a good idea to avoid wearing sunglasses a few hours before shooting also so that you don’t get those pesky red marks on your nose.

how to set up a photoshoot

Be camera ready – In order to be “camera ready” you need to take certain steps to ensure you can properly show off your hard earned muscle. This generally means getting rid of any subcutaneous water from underneath your skin, and being lean and tan. Most working fitness models have no problem being camera ready in a short period of time because they live a healthy lifestyle all year and will rarely have to cut drastic amounts of weight or do anything else that is extreme to prepare for a shoot.

As I mentioned above, the elite working fitness models only need about 3 to 5 days to get ready for a shoot. Many can even do an emergency fill in and show up immediately.

Don’t get caught up in the in-season and off-season garbage. If you are gaining weight (10, 20 or more pounds) in your so-called off-season, chances are you won’t be booking many jobs. Try as best you can to look your absolute best year round.

Have a positive attitude and be humble– The importance of humility and a positive attitude cannot be understated. You might think that you are God’s gift to the world, but just don’t tell anyone. Be respectful, polite, easy to work with, have a positive attitude, and most importantly be fun to be around. It takes more than just a good looking model to make a shoot successful, it is a team effort.

jamin thompson

Will from OAMG coaching me up. Team on 3!

Nobody wants to be on a team with a cocky player who has a bad attitude, regardless of how “good” they are. Take responsibility to not show up with an huge ego and people will respect you. Always be gracious and conduct yourself like a true professional.

And that’s about it! Hopefully now you have enough info to be able to set up your first photo shoot and start your fitness modeling career…now you won’t have to Google your life away trying to figure out “how do I become a model” anymore. So whats next? Just go CRUSH IT!

See you on the magazine rack baby.

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Jamin Thompson
Over the past 10 years, Jamin Thompson – actor, sport & fitness model, and former world ranked tennis player – has appeared in or on publications such as Men’s Fitness, Muscle & Fitness,; as well as worked as a sponsored athlete for and/or been featured in commercials and print ads for Nike, Reebok, ESPN, Wilson Sporting Goods, Powertec Fitness, Gifted Nutrition and more. Using his real world, in the trenches experience, writes to help others dominate in the gym, on the field, and in life. His book, The 6 Pack Secret, has been sold in over 50 countries and has helped thousands of folks from all walks of life get cut and jacked the healthy way.
Jamin Thompson


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6 Responses to Fitness Modeling 101 – How To Set Up A Photoshoot

  1. Parker November 24, 2010 at 8:13 pm #

    I love these posts about fitness modeling, yesterdays was great but this info is a lifesaver. I’ve been trying to figure out how to get a portfolio started but seems like everyone just gave me bad advice. Keep it coming!


    • Jamin Thompson January 11, 2011 at 9:10 am #

      Glad you like em bro. You should head over to to set up a profile and then contact a few TFP photographers off of the site that work in your area. That’s the easiest way to get your portfolio started.

  2. Jessica November 24, 2010 at 8:25 pm #

    Nice article, really helpful actually. So how much on average let’s say should one typically spend on a test shoot with one of the top photographers?

    • Jamin Thompson January 11, 2011 at 9:13 am #

      There is no set answer really Jessica…it all depends on the photographer. The really good photographers usually always charge around $500 or more to test but you can find some up and coming photographers who are still building their portfolio (but still do good work) who may be willing to shoot you for free. Many times, if you build up a good working relationship with the photographer they will be more inclined to test with you for free more and more. I hope that helps.

  3. Mariya Mova November 3, 2011 at 2:24 am #

    hehe you forgot
    Jennifer Chamberlin and
    me Mariya Mova in the photographers section

  4. Kenny April 15, 2013 at 8:45 am #

    Hello, I am Kenny Silva, professional photographer and broadcasting media producer.

    I have a lot of experience shooting for modeling and helping models get gigs here and there. Please call me or write me if interested:

    (305) 999 5882 Office


    Hope you can contact me!

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