How to photograph a circus artist… inside a gym!

There are so many things to say about London! Unfortunately, my stories are always the same… A few weeks back we were back in the UK and the weather was awful at best. It was my 4th time in London and I really admire all you fellow photographers that work there all year long.

Finding an indoor location in London was a must during our stay and if you have ever tried to do so, you must know how difficult the mission is… It is, in my opinion, the worst city for authorizations to shoot anywhere, outside and inside. So really, I am happy that not one but 2 Gyms accepted to welcome us for our shoot.

The first one is Core Collective, where we made these amazing shots :

Unfortunately, our camera refused to work that day so we do not have any behind the scenes images from that session… but we got something from our second session that happened at Third Space Marylebone. You know I’ve worked in Gyms before, but with fitness and CrossFit athletes, which makes sense, but for this one, I had Miranda who (you may have noticed) is an aerialist, and a contortionist! So how did we make it work?

1so lets start with the most difficult shot, with all these mirrors, I wanted to use a flash and I wanted to have multiple reflections. So, I went for a kind of symmetrically centered shot, with my flash placed camera right. My 5D Mark IV was placed on a tripod and once I had my composition right we had to choose and nail the pose. I wanted something low facing the camera… once we got the shot I asked everyone to leave the room to make multiple shots of the scene with the flash placed differently. Basically, I am making an empty background plate shot to help me erase everything in post.

I also made a video on that particular subject!

The 2nd picture was maybe the easiest, Miranda can do anything so we couldn’t run out of options. I just asked her: ” can you hang up there?” and she answered: “yes” right away! For security reasons we used a crash pad, that my partner would pull in and out of the scene, for Miranda to get up and down from there and to make it easier for me in post.

For this 3rd one, I wanted use accessories available around. I deliberately focused more on her because they were people working out in the back and the scene was way too busy for my taste. With the Flash facing her, we avoided any unwanted reflection or bounce of light from the mirror.

This fourth picture wasn’t easy because of the mirrors… again… Like the first one, we had to find a way to hide me and to control the unique light source I had. Plus there was a lot of things going on around so I decided to underexpose my background a little bit more than usual to focus more on Miranda. Shadows were on my mind at that moment so we placed my light at 90 degrees angle on my left t o create that dramatic look!

For this final shot, we couldn’t film because… Usually, fog is not healthy for your lens! We had to make these pictures fast, so we discussed pose and composition beforehand… Like you always should! Once new what we were soing, we got inside, took our pictures. No flash, with the 85mm opened at f1.8 (ISO 2000), we managed to get a few interesting images.

So basically, here is how to make it work:

  1. Try to use different scenes, do not make all your pictures in one place.
  2. Pay attention to details, any distracting elements, your own reflection and the reflection of your flash.
  3. If there are a lot of things going on in your shot, if it’s too busy play with the light, viewers are attracted by highlights, make it dark around and highlight your model
  4. Think your shot beforehand and think of what you are going to do in post. Do I need a clean plate shot with nobody in the scene? Can I somehow make it work without using photoshop later on? The less time you spend in photoshop the better, get it in camera.
  5. Things you decide to keep in your frame is as important as the things you leave out. Sometimes just a few elements can make us understand where we are and a tight shot will be the best solution!

Thank you, Canon for the 5D mark IV, 85mm f1.2L mark II and 35mm f1.4L mark II.

Shoutouts to the Broncolor Family for the light.

Huge thanks to Core Collective and Thirdspace for welcoming us and letting us work in their amazing gyms.

Thank you, Miranda, you rock, thanks for trusting me. There is more London stuff coming up so rendez-vous in my next post!

How to photograph a circus artist... inside a gym!hazekware
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