by Michelle Marchildon, The Yogi Muse
How to get ready for a yoga photo shoot, and what’s the deal with Robert Sturman?
Flip through Instagram and you will see gorgeous pictures of yogis balancing on cliffs, at the beach, underwater or on a rooftop, and the question begs: How do they get those photos?
The answer is usually by hiring a professional. Whether you are a teacher who needs to upgrade a website, or a longtime yogi who just wants to celebrate your practice, there may come a day when you are ready to hire a photographer.
Professional photos are expensive. They cost time and money, and often a new outfit. No matter how big or small your budget, no one wants a disaster at their photo shoot.
Here are some tips and techniques to keep in mind so you end up looking picture perfect at your shoot.
(Photo credit Kimberly Benfield)
1. Ask for help.
Before the shoot ask the photographer if he or she has an information sheet about what to expect. This will get everyone on the same page about the session: how long it will be, how many poses, if you will change locations or outfits. You want to be clear about who provides a mat and props. If you bring them, consider the color so they don’t distract from you. Black is always a safe bet.
2. Make a list. Check it twice.
Think of the poses you can do and write them down. You can also get inspiration from Pinterest and Instagram. Pick some that are vertical in nature and some that are horizontal. You may need both sizes for marketing layouts. Then practice until you can do your poses cold. Bring the list with you so you stay on track during the shoot.
3. Take a photo.
Take a picture of the poses you want to use. Figure out what angle looks best. A gifted photographer will have his own ideas, but it’s good if you also know how a pose should look. This simple step will eliminate certain poses that just don’t translate well on the page, or look flattering to your body.
4. To Style or not to Style.
Whether or not you want to spend a lot of time on hair and makeup is a personal decision. Many yoga poses don’t feature the face, and others get you kind of wrecked in doing them (think headstand with hairspray). Of course, if you are having headshots taken then you must pull yourself together. My advice is to do a headshot separately, or first if possible, so your yoga shoot can concentrate on the practice.
5. More is better.
If you agree to take photos of 10 poses, then plan for at least 15. Some days you just can’t do everything. This way if you can’t do a certain pose you have another ready to go.
6. Assess as you go.
Ask the photographer if you can check your poses after a shot. There is nothing more frustrating than discovering after a shoot that only one or two photos are usable because a pose was misaligned, or (and this happened to me once) your foot was cut out of the frame.
7. You need a spotter.
If possible bring a friend who can tell you if you are aligned. The photographer is doing a lot of other things with light, angles, composition and artistry. Do not rely on him/her to tell you if your leg is straight. Bring a friend, and make sure he/she is brutally honest.
8. What to wear?
What you wear is a personal decision, but know this: tights show off a pose better than loose pants. A snug top creates less wrinkles and distraction. If you have the time take a snapshot of your outfit in various poses and see how it looks. I once took a series of photos with a baggy pant which I thought was very cool, and now it only looks messy to me.
9. Warm up first.
Ask if you might arrive early before the shoot to warm up. If you have an hour scheduled, and you use half of it to warm up, you have lost half of your session. If this is not possible, then pick poses you can do without being limber.
10. Have fun.
This seems obvious, but to be honest it’s hard to feel happy when you are stressed. However, if you are having a good time it will show in the photos. Have fun. Try to be relaxed. Be aware of the expression on your face and find your breath. This will translate to a calmer, more enhanced pose on the page.
What’s the deal with Robert Sturman?
Robert Sturman just might be the yoga photographer of our time. A dedicated practitioner, Sturman seems to be where the action is, always. His photographs capture the embodied mindfulness of asana along with a playfulness in attitude. They have a unique quality of pose and artistry that is unrivaled and inimitable. Or maybe I just have a crush on him?
KiraGrace and Robert Sturman have partnered to create the Seva Tight, which features photographs from his journey to Nepal. It is a colorful collage of prayer flags surrounded by Tibetan monks in prayer. What’s more, 100% of profits are donated to a seva fund for charity.
If you manage to score a sitting with him in Nepal or New York, this is what you can expect.
- He’s nice, amusing and down to earth.
- You will have fun. If you don’t, you might be doing it wrong.
- He works fast and the session is often based on the light. So hit your pose quickly.
- You may not have time to warm up, so get there early.
- You may not have time to change outfits more than once, if at all.
- He has quirky ideas about composition, so go with it. After all, that’s why you chose him.
- Forget about a mat. Or props. Or the other 200 things I brought in my bag.
- Forget about hair and make-up. You are going for the pose and the overall artistic effect.
- Chillax. Even if you are upside down in a street you (probably) won’t get hit by a car, or run over by a moose, or drown in an ocean. He’s got this, and you. All you have to do is the pose.
- You get outstanding yoga photos. He finds the yogi inside and clicks until he sets you free. I’m already booking him for my 60th birthday.
Michelle Marchildon is The Yogi Muse. She’s an award-winning journalist and the author of Finding More on the Mat: How I Grew Better, Wiser and Stronger through Yoga. You can find her writing on Yoga International, Mantra Yoga and Health Magazine, and Sports Illustrated. She’s a longtime, dedicated Kiragrace Ambassador. For more, go to www.YogiMuse.com