CrossFit is taking the world by storm. With 11,000 affiliates and growing, it has become a great way to get into shape and is an untapped resource for photographers to sharpen their skills. I started shooting CrossFit as a member in 2010 and learned many things along the way. This is what I learned and how you can improve your skill set.
Stay Healthy- As photographers we tend to work long hours. Personally I shoot weddings, fitness and also work in the AD Department on films. This means being on my feet for 12-18 hours a day. The better shape I am in, the better I feel. If you hang with healthy people it will eventually rub off. Connecting with people at a CrossFit affiliate can mean more opportunities to better yourself. World class wedding photographer Jerry Ghionis says "If you want to be a better photographer, be a better person". Furthermore, exercise is a great way to relieve stress. I find that when I am less stressful, my client interaction and set relationships only get better.
Master a 50m- Several years ago when I started photography, I was really intimidated by the price of gear. Although I use L-Series glass now, it seamed so out of reach to buy or even rent something of this caliber. So I took the advice of my peers and invested in a 50m lens. This is a priceless investment. I have shot everything from portraits to actions shots with this lens. This is a great lens because it is reasonably priced, has a wide aperture and allows you to learn to move on your feet with a fixed focal length. I know exactly how to frame a shot and can feel it before the view finder hits my eye. Knowing the gear that you use is essential and only comes with hours of practice.
Lighting - A CrossFit affiliate is referred to as a "Box." This is because it is usually a warehouse space lined with black rubber from doors to walls. This makes it easy to throw weights around but hard to find enough light to get a proper exposure. I needed to find a solution. I decided to invest in some lighting gear. I purchased a few small flashes so that I could get a pop of light and take my images from good to great. You can start with the flash on the camera for fill, then move to getting the flash off of the hot shoe to get some more creative light. There are thousands of free lighting tutorials available these days like this one featured here. But nothing can replace experience. Make friends with some athletes and you will never have a shortage of people to practice on.
Social Media and Networking- My favorite attribute about shooting the sport of fitness is the people I meet and opportunities it presents.I find that being a member of a box or visiting one is the a powerful way to network. Whenever I shoot a group class or an environmental portrait session, I edit quickly and share to Facebook. This allows the subject and affiliate owner to tag themselves, which allows other members and their friends to connect with me and associate me a with "being a photographer". My dad sells real estate, he refers to this as "filling the hopper." The more people I connect with the better more opportunities I have for business. Some of my best clients are people that I have met and photographed at a class.
Capturing intimate moments- It is really easy to get a good shot of a really ripped up and strong athlete lifting a barbell. But the thing that separates a good shooter from a great one is the ability to capitalize on a beautiful moment. An intimate moment between a coach and athlete, a moment of complete exhaustion or a spit second of fear in someone's eyes can make for a powerful image. A great shooter has the patience and discipline to nail the moment with in a moment. These athletes train for hours, days and even years. It is really satisfying when you can offer them a tangible moment in time.
Anticipation- The CrossFit work out of the day or "wod", usually consists of several movements repeated a few times. For example....10 pushups, 20 sit ups, 200 meter run. Three rounds for time! This is a photographer's dream. The fact that you know what they will be doing next allows you to take a shot, adjust and reposition to improve on the next shot. Don't allow yourself to get frustrated-- get better. The only way to improve your skill set is to practice over and over. Get out, get in shape and improve your photography skills with some CrossFit shots!