Article originally written for Tether Tools "How I Got the Shot" guide. Download the guide and see how 12 pros got the shot here
While I was confined to working off a pretty extensive shot list provided by the client, the goal was to help rebrand. In the past Mountainside Fitness had been known as a high-end luxury gym, and through large growth periods over the years, they have let their image veer towards the average commercial gym. My goal was to provide photos that presented the feeling of a high-end lifestyle when working out at Mountainside Fitness. I accomplished this through impactful and clean imagery.
Logistics and Gear
The location was straightforward, the newest Mountainside Fitness in a southern part of Phoenix. We had a shot list that should have been spread out over 3 days, but we accomplished it in one long 13-hour day on set. This was achieved in two ways. Flexible lighting set ups, and an amazing team consisting of two assistants, an art director/graphic designer and the director of marketing from Mountainside Fitness. I’m not sure we could have been efficient enough to complete the lengthy shot list without tethering to Capture One 10. It allowed the art director and director of marketing to review as we shot and signal when it was okay to move onto the next shot on the list.
Another hurdle we faced was the fact that we were not able to shut down the gym while shooting. It was a live gym and we were working around members getting their workouts in. We did our best to turn this into an advantage and make the other gym goers background elements in our shots when applicable.
With a long day ahead of us, it was also important to keep the team well fed. Bagels in the morning and a nice lunch in the afternoon kept us going!
When working inside a facility like this, whether it’s well-lit or dark in the case of the spin class room, using artificial lighting to shape the mood of each shot is key. To do this, I used an arsenal of Profoto lighting gear, including multiple D1 1000w heads, a B1 500w head, Profoto beauty dish and magnum reflector with grids, as well as an Elinchrom 4-foot octa and Lastolite 6×6 scrim.
When it came to achieving the desired look, I chose to go with the Canon 70-200 f/2.8 version II for almost the entire shoot. Luckily it was a spacious gym and I was able to stand back, shooting at longer focal lengths to compress the background elements of the gym, and isolate our subject with a shallow depth of field. This “look” really made for some impactful images with great distraction free areas for copy in the final ads.
Benefits of Tethering
I can’t imagine doing a shoot of this size and importance without tethering. When shooting for billboard and print advertising you’ll almost always be working with an art director on set so tethering is vital. They are there to make sure the what is being shot aligns with the end medium, allowing graphic design enough space for copy and any other important information that needs to be displayed. Another benefit to tethering is the ability for my assistant or tech to check critical focus while shooting. This was very important on this shoot since we had to shoot at 2.8 for most of the shoot to achieve the look that Mountainside Fitness wanted.
Tethering to Capture One 10 made tethering a breeze. There was very little lag time between me shooting and the images appearing on screen for viewing pleasure. Not to mention the ability to apply a simple grade to the images as they come in to get them close to how the final might look. Which brings me to my favorite benefit of tethering. When working long days, 13 hours on set for this shoot, keeping a good energy and morale with the team is so important. There’s nothing like the rush of energy you get when you hear your client in the background getting excited as they see the images appear on screen.
Lighting Set Ups
For the first shot, our main light was a Profoto D1 gelled blue with a gridded magnum reflector on it. We gridded the magnum reflector to avoid any spill onto the background which would pollute the red color. Our second light was a Profoto B1, gelled red, attached to a 4 foot octa. This was positioned camera left and slightly behind our subject providing a contrasting red rim light as well as popping some red onto the wall behind her. The colors of red and blue were chosen to match the neon lighting inside the near pitch black spin room. I decided to make the main light blue because it gave the feeling of being in the dark, as opposed to if it were normal white light it would have felt “flashed” or spotlighted.
Lighting of the second shot was much different. Still an easy two light setup, but this time utilizing three modifiers. I positioned a 6×6 scrim in front of the treadmill our subject would be running at, and behind that was a Profoto B1 with a 4-foot octa attached to it with both layers of diffusion on. For our rim light, I decided to use the Profoto magnum reflector attached to a 1000 watt D1 head. This was positioned very high up close to the ceiling and was gridded to really focus the beam of light on his back. I wanted it to feel like there was a big window right in front of him and a skylight shining down behind him.
The nice thing about tethering was the ability to have my assistant and the art director start culling images as we were shooting. This gave me a good starting point when I got back to my office and helped speed up the process. As mentioned before a lot of these images would be displayed very large so retouching was vital. This involved cleaning up skin and any distractions from the images and applying a nice clean color grade. Some basic adjustments were applied in Capture One before being exported into Photoshop where the bulk of the work was done. Luckily there wasn’t need for any compositing in any of the images.
Here are a few other examples of the collateral/billboards/signage the shots were used on.
Billboard as seen off the 101 & 202 freeway in Phoenix, AZ.