Preparing For Your Contest Photo Shoot – Part 2: Photography And Lighting

The deadline for the 7th Venus Index Transformation Contest on April 15th is quickly approaching.  This article is part of a 3 part series to help gear you up with ideas on how to make your photo shoot fun and successful.  We will cover posing practice, lighting, photography, scene setup, water load and deplete, bikini and shoe selection, tanning and other grooming ideas. In part 1 we talked about posing practice.  Today lets talk about photography and lighting.

Take pictures at home or hire a professional photographer?

You can take awesome pictures at home or hire a professional photographer.  I did both.  One advantage of using a professional is they have special lighting equipment, experience, a variety of backdrops and props, and usually more powerful camera equipment.  The professional who took my pictures used a couple of remote flashes around me which had an amazing effect.

There is no way I could have duplicated this exact effect at home without the special equipment.  I watched and learned and then I improvised with lights at home but we’ll get to that in a moment.

The photographer used remote flashes in this picture

The photographer used remote flashes in this picture

The photographer I used was not nearly as expensive as I thought, especially for the quality of service I received.  His name is Donnie Newton and he did an amazing job.  He clearly loves photography.  I would highly recommend him to anyone in California; A day with Donnie in Sacramento is well worth the drive.

Donnie used special colored filters in the gym, but the photographer can create the same effect later when processing the photo.

Donnie used special colored filters for these photos

Donnie used special colored filters for these photos

Lighting at home

I saw what Donnie did with lighting so I decided to take some pictures at home.  I used my husbands Nikon D300s digital camera on a tripod.  I tried putting lamps behind me but I couldn’t get the pictures to turn out.  They either wouldn’t focus or were completely washed out.  I did some research online and it turns out that light shining into the lens messes up the camera.

The remote flashes Donnie used were timed and adjusted by the equipment.  You can purchase special umbrellas and light boxes but I didn’t have that option if I wanted to get my pictures done that day.  So I improvised with my husbands construction lights, tar paper, and duct tape.  These items were handy since the room was under construction.

I improvised with construction lamps, tar paper, and duct tape

I improvised with construction lamps, tar paper, and duct tape

The construction lamps were hot and needed to be turned off in between sets.  I did not dare leave the room with those hot lamps on.

The tar paper funnels kept the light shining on me but did not interfere with the camera lens.

One thing I could have done to improve the picture quality was to bring the camera closer so that my image filled the screen.  I wasted valuable resolution by having my image so small and cropping so much off.  The picture with the lamps is actually cropped from the original.

Here is the cropped version of the picture

Here is the cropped version of the picture

Sometimes you get “surprise” pictures

One of the fun things about this photo is that it was just a test.  I was using the camera timer and was testing the camera setup and lighting before “posing”.  I had mentally “discarded” this picture.  When I had my friend Lisa help me narrow down the pictures to select for the mandatory front picture she said she liked this one the best.  This surprised me.  You never know what surprises you will get if you have someone snapping away with the camera for you.

Lisa liked what my facial expression said to her.  I think I was just having fun enjoying the process and the progress I had made.  I had just finished a successful photo shoot with Donnie and was trying out some ideas of my own.  I was having fun and I think it showed.  Lisa said it looked to her like I was saying “I have a secret!” and I think I kind of felt like I did have a secret bubbling up inside.  I had not yet had a chance to show off my work.

The most important factor is still the months and weeks of hard work

One other important point about this picture and all the others I took at home during this session is that I had a full meal the night before.  In fact I had eaten a fair amount of calories and drank a lot of water because I was water depleted during the previous day’s session with Donnie.  The meal was a kind of “stress relief meal” that the photo session was complete.

I had not quite decided if I would take pictures again at home.  I nibbled at some food and took a few sips of water in the morning before this session at home.  This session was done with just a normal nightly fast and simply not consuming too much food or water until the session was over.

I will talk more about the diet and water deplete in part 3 but for now remember that it is not really necessary to do all that for a good photo shoot.  Of course you don’t want to eat a whole pizza the night before, or eat a lot of foods that make you bloated.  The most important factor for your shape is the exercise and diet for the weeks and months leading up to the time of the photo session.

It is not necessary to do a long fast or water deplete for good photos.  The most important factor is still your months of hard work with diet and exercise

It is not necessary to do a long fast or water deplete for good photos. The most important factor is still your months of hard work with diet and exercise

Indoor scene setup at home

  • Select a backdrop; I like to use thick fleece blankets for the backdrop and on the floor because they don’t wrinkle like the sheets do.
  • Make sure the color of the backdrop goes well with the color of your suit and shoes
  • Make the scene clean from clutter; move items out of the scene, i.e. toys, trash cans, etc.
  • Try a variety of lamps
  • Try using daylight streaming in through a window

Outside pictures

There are a lot of nice outdoor settings that can be used; parks, gardens, fields, lakes, ocean and beach, forests, and pool settings.  Lighting can be tricky.  Like the problem I had with the lamps you don’t want the sun shining directly into the lens unless there is special equipment.  You can get some nice effects with early morning sun or evening sunsets.  A sunset scene can really show off your tan but you only have a few minutes before it gets dark.

Donnie had the right equipment to get the lighting just right for this pool scene

Donnie had the right equipment to get the lighting just right for this pool scene

Make sure you got what you wanted

Whether you are using a timer on a tripod or someone is taking the pictures for you make sure to check them before switching sets or calling it a day.  Zoom in on the pictures and scroll around making sure you like your facial expressions and poses.  Even better download them to a computer and make sure they are what you really wanted.

Zooming in on the picture helps you see if the focus is set correctly as well.  It is difficult to use auto-focus in an indoor setting like I used with the construction lamps so I had to switch to manual focus. If you are by yourself with the camera on a timer it’s a bit more cumbersome to set the manual focus. I used a white sheet of paper marked with a black felt marker as a focus tool.  The sheet of paper was attached to a large cardboard box which I moved to the spot where I would be standing whenever I needed to set the focus.

Don’t forget the newspaper front page with each scene and outfit.

Don’t forget to have fun!

Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the progress you have made.  The reason you are doing this is because of what you have accomplished, be proud of what you have done.

Even of you don’t have time to do all this preparation you can capture your accomplishments in a five minute photo shoot like my friend Kimberley.  She was not planning to submit pictures and was packing for a vacation and knew she wouldn’t get back before the contest deadline.   So at the last minute she threw on some shoes and a bikini and had her husband Roly snap a few pictures.  And just look, she has been labeled the Every Day Venus ever since and her pictures happen to look beautiful.

On Monday we’ll wrap up with part 3 and talk about bikini and shoe selection, and what can be done the final week of the photo shoot; water load and deplete, tanning, and other grooming ideas.

Have a great weekend!



About Roberta Saum

Roberta is a 56 year young Elite Trainer at 1st Phorm. She achieved her fitness dream at age 50 here at The Venus Factor. She is a Fitness Consultant/Motivator for Hopelessly Romantic Media Productions, Venus Factor Coach, Product Developer, Brand Ambassador, Contest Administrator, Author, Editor in Chief for the Venus Factor, and 1st Phorm Ambassador.

More about Coach Roberta

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  1. Great follow up Ro – another ‘gem’ of an article. Your dedication to all of our successes shines through.

    Thanks for putting the time and effort in writing such a detailed accounting of how to make it all come together. Especially when you show us the before and afters of your cropping… who would’ve known that!? Great stuff.

  2. Hi Roberta! Great article, thank you so much, you are such a great inspiration! Especially for women of our age, who thought they could never have the body they had in the twenties. I’m not where you are now, but your upbeat nature and dedication have been an inspiration to me.
    Thanks again, see you at the gym!

  3. Thank you for another insightful and informative post! Seeing your progress through pictures always serves as inspiration to me. Thank you, once again!

  4. Kimberley Dransfield says:

    Another great article Ro. Thanks for sharing all your insights and experience. I know who is going to coach me next time…..partner.

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