Usually, when shooting with models, you don’t say “Completely knacker yourselves out, get sweaty and out of breath”. Normally, you’re looking for calm and quiet… but this is not your usual brand, and not your usual photography shoot!
Armed with a brief of visual power and action, working for international weightlifting brand Eleiko, of Sweden, was a corker of a job. Shooting across a range of gyms throughout London and Bristol threw up some photography challenges, but these were outweighed completely by the epic display of strength and power from amazing athletes.
Eleiko provides individuals and business with the pinnacle of weightlifting equipment. You might recognise them and their brand from weightlifting at the Olympics (they provided the equipment used in London 2012, as well as others).
The brand’s brief set out the areas where they felt that their product interacts best with the athletes who use it. The areas they wanted to capture were: performance, learning, and friendship. They wanted to see the lifestyle that came with their product, the beauty in movement and fitness, not just the standard product shot.
Keeping these guidelines in mind, we shot images during classes, watching real movements be taught, seeing the development, mistakes and successes of the athletes. We were able to capture real emotion and genuine laughs, which are so important when shooting this type of lifestyle imagery. When a model pretends to laugh, it will always look fake in a photograph, and I’m sure you’ll agree, I’m sick of the fake smiles and laughter still used in advertising today.
The shoots threw up a number of challenges for photography. Most of all, my nemesis when photographing in gyms: the mirrors. Everywhere I looked, there were mirrors. The last thing you want is to get a great looking shot then see your crouched self staring down at you from the background! The second biggest challenge was lighting. The basement setting, neon lit areas and fast movement meant getting enough light was difficult. I used portable LED panels, which are compact, mobile and easy to use. They can be squeezed into corners, and in some cases, taped onto weightlifting bars. Being adaptable during a shoot is imperative, but it’s important to note that no matter how much you plan, something will always come up.
You might think that photographing in the mists of neon lighting would be great, as neon and other incandescent lighting fixtures are not meant to provide bright illumination. Instead, these lights are supposed to be colourful, eye-catching and not too bright to look at. To counter this, I kept the camera on a tripod and used a low shutter speed, like 1/60. This project, however, needed a fast shutter speed, as the speed of the athlete was incredible and I did not want any motion blur, so lots of extra light was needed.
For more images in this series please visit www.heffersphotography.com or find us on social media @heffersphoto