On Assignment: Choosing Wellness

by | Nov 3, 2023 | Assignments | 3 comments

At first, I thought this month’s assignment was going to be a difficult one. For one thing, it required finding a model. And for another, if I really wanted to apply myself and get the best photos I could for the assignment, it would require getting permission to photograph at a location that was outside of my comfort zone. But depending on the Lord to pave the way before me, supply the needed permissions, and provide publishing-worthy results that would be glorifying to Him, I set out to shoot a kind of genre I had never tried photographing before!

The first thing that I thought was going to be a major roadblock was finding a model. In retrospect, however, this part was actually not difficult at all! The assignment is broad enough that you could photograph just about anyone doing any kind of sport or exercise. Who do you know who loves some exercise-related activity? Jogging, running, biking, playing soccer, wrestling, working out, exercising in general, or, as was in my case, lifting weights. The age of your model doesn’t matter. Just show them the demonstration video, and ask if you can take pictures of them doing what they love to do. If they are zoned in and having fun doing what they are doing, you’ll get some great photos!

231026_James Staddon_9491 Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 35 mm, 1-200 sec at f - 2.8, ISO 200

And don’t forget to photograph peripheral things surrounding the activity! Stretching, tying shoes, stretching . . . drinking from a water bottle! These can all carry the idea of choosing a healthy lifestyle to viewers.

231026_James Staddon_9431 Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 50 mm, 1-200 sec at f - 2.5, ISO 200

The second thing I thought was going to be a major roadblock was finding a place to photograph my model doing what he loved to do. To help the photo feel sophisticated and modern, I wanted to do the photos in a sophisticated and modern place. But this really doesn’t have to be a big deal. First, my model suggested a place to go right at the get-go. I didn’t know where to lift weights, but of course Caleb would!

He mentioned the local gym. I happened to be driving by the spot the next day while running errands. So I stopped by, walked in, and talked to the receptionist. I said I was a local photographer photographing an assignment for a company that needed pictures of someone working out, so was wondering what policies they had in place for people taking pictures at their gym. I told her I already had a friend who I would be photographing, and gave a time frame of when I needed the photos. The lady said she would talk with the folks who could give me that answer and get back with me at the number on the business card I gave her. Of course, in a written paragraph, this all sounds very simple and straightforward. But every conversation is going to be different, so just go with the flow.

Turns out, on a follow-up call a few days later, they said they still weren’t able to have the needed conversations with the management yet, so they still didn’t have an answer for me. I think if I hadn’t been on a deadline to get the photos, I could have waited long enough for that location to work things out. But I had only given myself a week to shoot this thing, so I couldn’t wait for them. After looking around on Google Maps for other places, I called the local YMCA the next morning. I basically said the same thing (only this time a little more smoothly since it was my second time around!) and the lady responded in basically the same way as the first location. My brother Jonathan happened to be acquainted with the fellow in charge there, so I made sure to mention that I was Jonathan’s brother in hopes that that might give me a little more leverage. A few hours later they called back and said to come on over!

If they hadn’t said that, then I probably would have fallen back on a non-specific location outside on a trail or something and photographed Caleb running or stretching. In fact, if neither Caleb nor the YMCA had worked out, then I could have fallen back on just about any random person willing to eat a nutritious meal or grin contentedly at the setting sun. "Choosing wellness" is a very broad topic.

In retrospect, the two hardest parts of the assignment were actually not that hard at all.

231026_James Staddon_9474 Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 16 mm, 1-200 sec at f - 2.8, ISO 200

Once at the YMCA, I could just have fun exploring and experimenting with different lighting types! As you saw in the video, there were 3 different lighting types that I tried.

1. Available Light

231026_James Staddon_9415 Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 50 mm, 1-100 sec at f - 2.5, ISO 800

Whatever the light sources happened to be, that’s what I would use. It’s up to me to position myself and the subject to capitalize on the light that is available. I saw bright lights up on the ceiling, so I tried putting them behind the subject. It was a pretty well-let room, so the lighting was nice and even.

231026_James Staddon_9398 Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 50 mm, 1-100 sec at f - 2.5, ISO 800

231026_James Staddon_9409 Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 50 mm, 1-100 sec at f - 2.5, ISO 800

However, I found myself shooting at ISO 800 and higher. With the camera I have, that produces a little more noise than I like. So I moved on to another type of lighting.

2. Bounce Flash

231026_James Staddon_9461 Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 30 mm, 1-200 sec at f - 2.8, ISO 200

Bounce flash was better because now I could start shooting at ISO 200. I was adding more light to the scene. I could also bump my shutter speed up to 1/200sec or more. Much needed for the movement I was trying to freeze. I was having some problems with it, however. The second room we went into where the weights were was much more confined. While the ceiling was white, it was low. And there were mirrors all over the place. Instead of being able to bounce the flash, it was more reflecting off of things, which doesn’t make for flattering, soft light. I still got some photos, but I didn’t like them as well.

231026_James Staddon_9481 Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 35 mm, 1-200 sec at f - 2.8, ISO 200

I quickly moved to the final type of lighting that I was looking forward to using most!

3. Off-Camera Flash

I knew directional lighting that created dramatic light/dark contrasts would be good for this kind of photoshoot. I also really wanted the messy background to be as underexposed as possible while exposing for a flash-lit subject in the foreground. I really needed some separation in that environment. And I got exactly what I was going for!

231026_James Staddon_9504 Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 16 mm, 1-200 sec at f - 2.8, ISO 200

It wasn’t easy. I had problems getting the flash to fire. It took me a while to figure out where to place the light. Yeah, I ran into a lot of problems. But I was patient. I kept working with it until I got what I wanted.

231026_James Staddon_9539 Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 50 mm, 1-250 sec at f - 2.5, ISO 100

231026_James Staddon_9548 Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 50 mm, 1-250 sec at f - 2.5, ISO 100

231026_James Staddon_9508 Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 16 mm, 1-250 sec at f - 2.8, ISO 100

Now It’s Your Turn!

Who do you know that likes to work out? Or any other kind of exercise-related activity? Show them the demonstration video and ask you could do the same thing as me! Challenge yourself. Raise the bar. It’s your turn to shoot Choosing Wellness!

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  1. Warrior Princess

    Wow! What a great job you did! I would’ve thought you were a professional exercise photographer!


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