Hero portraits

A few months ago I got a call from a designer who wanted me to shoot some pictures at a gym in east London that would be used in many different ways but primarily as huge prints in the window of their high street premises. My instructions were to shoot what he called “hero portraits” of some of the gym staff and of the two owners who are both fitness experts. That was the extent of the advanced briefing.

©Neil Turner. March 2012, London

The designer was there on the day to act as art director and I turned up with plenty of kit: cameras, lighting, backgrounds, clamps, clips, gels and plenty of batteries. The day started with a quick chat, a couple of test shots and then we decided to shoot “black on black on black” – the team were all wearing black gym kit, we made use of the black rubberised floor in the free weights area and I brought in a six foot by four foot matt black folding Lastolite background. We settled on a mixture of strong side and back-light with some very warm gels being used in different ways in each of the four main shots.

Shot one was of one of the owners who uses boxing and boxing training to work with many of his clients and with some of the group classes he teaches. We went for a simple composition with him putting up his guard as if the 24”x36” soft box that was about four feet away from him was his opponent. That gave us the main light and I used a second head with a grid diffuser behind him to accentuate the shape of his shoulders, neck and head. The first few shots featured black boxing gloves but that was just one bit of black too far and so we swapped them for red and the resulting images were very pleasing.

Shot two was his business partner who does fitness classes and we featured her with a large blue medicine ball, three quarter length and slightly less side lighting.

©Neil Turner. London, March 2012

Shot three was of another male instructor who specializes in power training and he suggested that we used a variation on the American Football quarterback starting position. This was the most fun image to shoot because the shapes were instantly graphic and the light was almost instantly correct. The floor featured in this shot for the first time and so I needed to make sure that it didn’t dominate the composition. In the end I made sure that only the smallest area around his feet had any light on it at all and some nearby kit was used to “flag” the area – stopping unwanted light hitting the rubber tiles.

The fourth and final of the hero portraits was about physiotherapy and for that we had a client sitting on one large blue ball using a blue soft tube across his shoulders to stretch and twist. Four very large prints now feature in the window of the gym. Heroic!

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