Article by professional photographer Chad Heller of Chad Heller Photography.
Recently, my dear friend and frequent modeling subject Jonah Taylor of Modeling Wisdom contacted me for the reason of writing on my experience and thoughts involving the importance of fitness in the modeling/photography world. Of course, if you are reading this you are probably thinking, “Well duh, you need to be fit to be a model”. Well, you may be shocked to find out how many models are not as fit as you think. We all have read or heard the debates about models being too skinny, and I agree that nothing is more beautiful than a healthy model. But there are a few reasons why being in shape is so important and can significantly help an individual in modeling AND photography. What I want you to understand after reading this is the importance of a healthy lifestyle!
Take a moment to check out my website (chadheller.com) and you will quickly notice that much of my early successes within my photography career are with two types of clients: Pageant contestants and Brides (maybe it’s because I married a beauty queen!); two groups that understand the importance of being in shape. As far as myself and being a busy photographer, I was blessed to have a very athletic ability at a young age, partnered with a great metabolism. But after two years of marriage and approaching my 30’s, I noticed my jeans didn’t fit like they used to – I needed a lifestyle change. Gabrielle (my wife) and I reached out to Adam Foote of Fitness Mentality for help with a customized fitness routine and diet plan. Two months and a lot of sweat later, I lost over 25lbs! This helped me immensely as a photographer. Trust me, it’s not easy lugging around heavy gear all day to shoots; getting into various/strange positions to land the shot I need, or shooting a wedding for over 12 hours!
The modeling world is not easy, if it was everyone would be a model. I might even say that you need to be born with the “IT-Factor” to be a supermodel. But if you aren’t born with the looks of Tyson Beckford or Naomi Campbell, there IS still something that can separate you from everyone else. Maybe two things, but they go hand in hand: Lifestyle & Fitness. How can Lifestyle and Fitness give me an edge with modeling? Here is how:
Editing: We all have seen the photos of celebrities without makeup. The same goes into consideration with the time it takes to edit photos of a model, i.e. if a model is not physically fit, it takes a lot of time for photo editors to perfect your physique for print ready advertisement. Imagine if you were so focused on your health and body that you were always prepared for a shoot, even if you were called last minute. Could you imagine if you had to chance of a lifetime, but you needed weeks or months to prepare your body. What if the photographer wanted to shoot in a matter of days? You could miss an opportunity of a lifetime! Also, if it takes longer than the normal rate to re-touch your series of photos – you may be overlooked and viewed as unprepared or even unprofessional!
Go-Sees: This is probably more focused to my runway models than my advertisement models, the point still remains. Maintaining a healthy fit lifestyle will help you sustain precise measurements listed on your composite card. This is a no-brainer especially from a designer’s point of view. Imagine you skipped the gym for a month or so (you lost your focus). Your agent calls you to go for a fitting for an upcoming designer in NYC – pretty cool right? Well, what if the designer has clothing ready for your meeting and when you try them on, they don’t fit! Chances are you probably won’t get the call for that fashion show, even if you could get back to your original body size in time.
Lifestyle: Obviously more than once I’ve used the word, “lifestyle”. This is more than a workout routine or a diet plan. The person you are outside of your career means more than your accomplishments. The impact you make on others will be your legacy. I’m sure you’ve heard the horror stories of many successful people in the industry who succumb to alcoholism and drug addiction. We all will have issues in life, nothing comes easy but your fame and success can be taken away overnight. Respecting your body is something you should practice 24/7. Modeling is not about selling yourself but empowering people to aspire to be like you.
Nutrition: The modeling and photography business is a very high energy business! I can’t express how important it is to be focused with your nutrition and rest, (my biggest battles). Models have to bring so much to a photo-shoot; sometimes you can be in the studio for 8-12 hours or more! If you have been up partying the night before – there isn’t enough 5-hour energy in this world to keep you focused! If you are serious about this career then get your nutrition in order – starving yourself is not the answer!
Often when I’m getting to know my clients, especially upcoming models in test shoots or the occasional pageant contestant; I will be asked, “What is something I can do to improve”? I will always give them a round-a-bout reply similar to the bullets you’ve just read. The answer isn’t easy to accept or easy to accomplish. The fact is Beckford & Campbell are normal people just like you and I; they were born with a blank canvas and through a lifetime of hard work and focus they became the supermodels they are today! Fitness is something that all models and photographers can do to separate themselves to help maintain long lasting careers.