Preparing For Your Contest Photo Shoot – Part 3: The Final Week

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 covered posing practice in part 1 and Photography and lighting in part 2.  Today let’s wrap things up and talk about the final week.

Bikini and shoes

I’m told by more experienced Venus girls and models, although not required for our contests, that a solid colored bikini and neutral colored 5″ competition style heels are the best because they don’t distract from your overall look and shape;  This is exactly what one of our recent contest winners Deanne Hernandez used.

Deanne used a solid color bikini and neutral colored competition style heels.  I think the overall effect on her is quite beautiful

Deanne used a solid color bikini and neutral colored competition style heels.

The bikinis in my pictures from part 1 and part 2:

  • My white bikini top is from Venus Swimwear.  I like this brand because they have “enhancer tops” which are necessary for those of us who may have lost most of our body fat in that area, or perhaps we are not otherwise genetically gifted or surgically enhanced in that area.  Victoria Secret makes some good enhancer products that go well with the Venus tops.
  • My white bikini bottom is from Berrydog company.  I’m fairly conservative so this was a difficult change for me (getting such a small bikini).  First of all only months prior to this photo session I’d bought my first bikini ever in over 30 years, let alone a Brazilian style bikini.  I’m sure less conservative girls would laugh at this difficulty as the Brazilian style is still relatively conservative by other standards.  It turns out if you want to show off your best shape smaller is the way to go.  The bigger the suit bottom the bigger your behind will look; it’s not fair but that’s how it is.
Five inch competition heels

Five inch competition heels

  • My shoes were from the brand Pleaser, but the shoes I got had a thin strap which kind of cut into my feet.  The shoes in the picture above are similar but the clear straps look more comfortable.

Once you’ve taken bikini pictures it’s fun to take some more sporty gym pictures as well.  Just remember you need the current days newspaper front page with each scene and for each outfit.

Tan, makeup, and other ideas


Having a tan definitely looks nice and shows off your shape.   You don’t want a tan as dark as fitness competitors.  Some people have fair skin and need a spray tan or lotion.  There are a variety of products you can apply yourself.  Try them out ahead of time with a camera.  I tend to tan easily and get fairly dark naturally so I get a base tan in the sun naturally (or a tanning booth once a week in the winter).  Then I use a VersiSpa spray tanning booth at the local tanning salon the evening prior to the photo session.  One important note for any spray tanning product is they work best if you exfoliate your skin first.


I was lucky enough to have my friend and model Lauren Monday help me with my photo shoot.  She lined up the photographer and told me to prepare myself by practicing and bringing the pictures of the poses I wanted.  She also helped me with makeup of which I am a complete novice.  I learned from Lauren that you need to apply your makeup really thick and dark for the photos.  I couldn’t believe how thick it was!

Lauren did an awesome job helping me.  She held up the fitness model pictures and told me how to adjust my poses.  She helped me improvise when it wasn’t working right.  Many of the poses I ended up with were completely Lauren’s own imagination.  I can’t imagine having done as well without her help.  If you can, try to find someone who is used to being in front of a camera to help you.

Nails and eyebrows

I got my nails done and my eyebrows waxed for the first time ever.  The nails were kind of fun but I didn’t realize how much it hinders a tomboy like me.  I couldn’t take out my own contacts when I got home and I had to clip them off within days because of Sheriff training.  It turns out the training I needed to participate in was called “weaponless defense” and we were not supposed to have weapons, yet my nails qualified as a dangerous weapon!  Needless to say they were quickly trimmed and filed down to normal.

Teeth whitening

Some people make an appointment with the dentist to get their teeth whitened.  I just used the whitening strips you can purchase at the store a couple times during the photo prep week.


I also had my hair colored and styled the morning of the photo shoot.  I had a fill-in hairdresser and everything turned out different compared my normal style and it made me a little nervous.  I thought my hair was too “big” and it wasn’t the right color, but it seemed like everything turned out okay.  There wasn’t much I could do to change it so I had to go with it.  So I guess my only advice here is if you use a hairdresser it’s not the best day to try out someone new.

To water load or not?

To water load or not?  Only you can decide.

To water load or not? Only you can decide.

I did both.

Water load

For the professional photo session I did a 3 day water load.  For my size at 5’1″ that meant about 2 gallons of water a day for 3 days prior to the photo session.  I typically drink about 1.5 gallons so this wasn’t such a big deal for me.  For me the hard part was the depletion day.  I only had sips of water and some coffee and constantly felt thirsty, but I was busy so that helped keep my mind distracted.

Muscle cramps

The other difficulty I experienced is that my muscles cramp and this makes posing more difficult than it already is.  If you look closely at my pool scene picture you will notice that 1) I’m not smiling so much, and 2) my right upper abdominal muscle is in the midst of a charlie horse session (which is why I was not smiling, it hurt!).  Even though I took my calcium and mineral supplement and my Electrolyte Mix this problem always occurs for me during a water deplete.  The problem is that I was dehydrated.  There could be health risks associated with this temporary procedure.  Only you can decide if you are willing to take the risk.


During this week you don’t need to do much different with diet except do not eat foods that make you bloat.  For me this meant I needed to eat gluten free carbohydrates.  Everyone is different.  You have to find what works for you.  By this point in your diet and fitness journey you are likely to know what makes you bloat.  During the water deplete I add in wheat crackers and that works okay for me.

Sodium and depletion workout

I didn’t add salt to my foods this week but I still ate foods that contained some natural sodium.  The day before the photo shoot I ate only protein and vegetables in the morning.  I fasted for 4 hours and hit the gym for a 45 minute “depletion workout” which was just a circuit and 30 minutes of cardio with only tiny sips of water.  I went home and added some fruit, crackers, and honey to my diet, along with protein and some vegetables.

In the morning I did another fasted depletion circuit and cardio. After the workout I snacked on fruit, almond butter, honey, and crackers the morning of the photo shoot.  I drank a Starbucks double shot espresso drink right before the photo session to help keep my energy up.

I did not do a water load or depletion workout for the 2nd photo shoot

For the next days photo shoot at home I was not water loaded nor depleted other than to not consume too much water or food until the photo’s were complete.  I did not do any depletion workouts the 2nd day.

Practice, practice, practice

If you do plan to try a water load you really should experiment at least once if not more to see how it goes for you, and of course if you have any medical concerns you should check with your doctor.  It’s not necessary to do a water load or deplete if you are uncomfortable with it in any way.

I did 3 practice photo shoot sessions at home the during the 6 weeks prior, once with no water load but one day of water depletion, once with one day of water load and one day of water depletion, and once with two days of water load load and one day of water depletion.

For the last two experiments I did the diet and depletion workouts I described above.

The visual results for me:

I took pictures during the experiments and it turns out the only real visual difference showed in my abs.  My arms, legs, and back all looked exactly the same whether I was full of water or not.

The visual results seemed the same for me no matter how many days of water load, but the real difference for me depended on how long I depleted.  I typically already have some ab definition but it took around 17 hours to see the deeper lines and then they rapidly turned to deep crevices after that.  The only reason I continued to do without much water after 17 hours was because taking pictures always took longer than I expected.

Because I learned from the experiments that it took so long to get the deep ab definition I had to stop drinking water around 5pm the day before the actual photo shoot which was scheduled for noon.  We were late getting started and had a lot of setup, Lauren helping with makeup, etc, so by the time many of the bikini shots were taken it was getting later in the afternoon.  It was pretty late in the day when we did the gym pictures which is why the lines in my abs were so deep.

The metric results for me:

The morning of the photo shoot with Donnie I weighed 118 lbs and I was pretty nervous about not losing the water in time.  By 5pm when we just finished the last photo I weighed 109lbs and my waist was finally right at VI ideal for that moment in time.

I didn’t take any measurements except when I weighed 109 lbs I took all my VI measurements for the contest chart.

The months of hard work and proper calories are still the most important factor

All of the processes for water loading, water depleting, carbohydrate depleting, carbohydrate loading, depletion workouts, etc are not necessary to have a successful photo shoot.  They will only have an effect if you are already fairly lean.  The level of leanness varies for each person.  Most of these processes are uncomfortable.  It’s important to experiment well in advance before the actual photo shoot in order to not ruin your special day.

The most important factor is still the healthy lifestyle you embraced all the months ahead of time;  The hard work and fat loss over time.  This alone plus posing practice and good photography will get you a superior photo shoot.

Kimberley’s five day water load experiment

Kimberley day 5 1pm

Kimberley did a 5 day water load experiment.  This is her on day five.

My friend Kimberley did a 5 day water load experiment.  You are welcome to check out her pictures and results.

Process and select your final photos

Going through the process of selecting photo’s takes quite a bit of time.  Make sure you allow at least a day before the deadline to get this done.  Once you narrow down the selection crop them and make them look nice.  I have found that cropping takes out the distractions and helps put the focus on you in the picture.

I’ve found it helpful to have others help choose the pictures. If I didn’t have help I would have discarded what ended up being one of John’s favorite pictures of me.

Resize them so they aren’t too big for the download process.  Once you are ready to submit them you can use the community forum and there is a tab labeled “contest” at the top right.

Don’t forget the newspaper!

The day of your photo shoot don’t forget the current days newspaper front page!

An unusual and highly structured week

If you choose to structure your diet for less bloating and do a water load this final week it will be a strange mix of days.  It will not resemble a normal week in your life.  It is highly structured and not sustainable for a long period.  Most people who complete the process are exhausted at the end and will not likely want to do it again.  It’s hard.  It’s something most people will only want to do once or twice a year, if that.

Of course you can always forgo all the hard work and discipline, put health and longevity aside, and rely on the beauty industries “Fotoshop“.  You know I am just kidding, right?  Be proud of the fact that you have improved your health and have embraced a difficult yet rewarding lifestyle and don’t need to rely on Photoshop to look fit and fabulous.

This wraps up this 3 part series.  It is my sincere hope that this helps.  I know many of you have been working hard toward your goals.  It’s not easy.  Everyone struggles and yet seems to keep moving forward at whatever pace they can handle.  That is all you can do.  I am looking forward to seeing the beautiful results.

Have an awesome week and keep up the great work!



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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.

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