Irvin Gelb Q&A: Ask An Expert Photographer!

Get complete and accurate answers to any questions you may have about fitness and physique photography. The facts are right here!
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[ Q ] What's the best way for me to get into the magazines?

    A: First of all, you need to ask yourself whether your physique is ready to be in the magazines. Do you look as good as or better than the models that you see in the magazines? If your answer is "yes" then I would say it's worthwhile for you to pursue the possibility of getting photographed for magazines.

    Otherwise, put your energy into getting your body into the best shape of your life and don't waste your time trying to get into the magazines.

    Contacting Magazines:

      There are many ways that you can accomplish this. The first would be to contact the magazine directly. Look up the staff information in what's called the "masthead" of the magazine. This is usually within the first few pages of each issue. Identify who the editor or better yet the "photo editor" is and send them a letter with photos of yourself.

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      Send A Letter With Photos Of Yourself.

      Be brief in your letter and only give basic information on yourself, your location and how best to reach you. They will probably take a quick look at your photos and if you are of interest to them then and only then will they take time to contact you. These people are extremely busy with barely enough time to create a magazine.

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      They Will Contact You If They're Interested.

      You can attempt to email them, if you have their email address, but they probably receive too many emails as it is and opening attachments can be tedious for most editors. If you choose to email them first then follow up with a mailed letter and photos to guarantee that they see your communication.

    Contacting Photographer:

      You can also contact the photographers who a magazine uses the most. Look up their credits in each issue and make a list of those who have the most work in the magazine. Then google their name to see whether you can find their web site which will have a way of contacting them by email.

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      Google A Photographer To Contact Them.

      Soliciting a photographer via email might be more successful but only send them your best photos and limit the quantity. If you send a photographer one incredible photo of yourself they will take notice and contact you to follow up.

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      One Incredible Photo Will Get Their Attention.

      Magazines work with photographers in different ways. Some have staff photographers and in that case the photographer most likely receives an assignment and is given a model selected by the magazine or they can recommend new models to the magazine and do a shoot on spec (non-assigned).

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      Photographers Can Recommend New Models.

      In either case it's always good to contact photographers as they are very motivated to shoot the best models possible.

    Set Up A Web Site:

      If you have the money and the time, create your own web site to promote yourself. If you market your site effectively there's a chance that some of the magazine's staff or photographers will see it and contact you to discuss a possible shoot.

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      Photographers Can Recommend New Models.

      Again, only put the best photos of yourself in your web site and refrain from quantity.

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    Be Aggressive:

      If you compete in a show keep an eye out for who's taking photos in the pit or audience. Ask the promoters whether any magazine photographers are at the contest and try to meet them. Be aggressive. You're at the contest to do your best in the competition and also to reap the benefits of your hard work.

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      Be Aggressive.

      If you're in the best shape of your life take advantage of it and try to get some exposure. If there are locally well known photographers at the show and you like their past work talk to them about taking some photos of you for their portfolio.

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      Take Advantage When You're Looking Good.

      Most local photographers are always happy to photograph a model that looks good. If you get photos that you are happy with from that shoot ask the photographer whether you can send the photos to magazines to promote yourself.

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      Promote Yourself.

      Be careful to advise the magazine that those photos are for their viewing purposes only and not for publication unless they make a deal with the photographer to do so.

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      Make Sure A Deal Is Made.

      These tips will be a good start for you to be considered by the magazines. Be aggressive. If you're a great model the magazines and photographers will appreciate your approach. But don't pursue this if your physique is not ready for it. You'll waste everyone's time.

[ Q ] I'm a hardcore bodybuilder and am preparing for a shoot next month when I do my contest. I'm currently weighing 248 lbs. and I think I'll be around 225 for my show. I still have a lot of weight to lose but I think that I look good at this weight. Currently, I'm big, full and look hard when I get a good pump.

My shoot is going to be on the Wednesday after my contest. How hard should I be for the shoot? I mean should I stay ripped up like I was for my show or should I try to pack on some weight and duplicate how I look now?

    A: This is a loaded question. In a nutshell I can say that you should aim to look the best you can. The type of conditioning needed will depend on several factors. If the shoot is going to be training or posing shots you should probably aim for the ripped look, if you look good in this condition.

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    The Type Of Conditioning Needed Will Depend On Several Factors.

    Some guys get the gaunt/skeletal look in their face when they suck all their water out. This probably won't look good in photos because lighting can accentuate your skeletal structure and give you that "concentration camp" look that no one wants.

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    You Don't Want That "Concentration Camp" Look.

    Generally after a show you'll start to put on some water weight because your body will rebound from the torture you put it through before the show. I would recommend that you watch the salt and try to avoid the bloating that will occur which will wipe out most of your cuts.

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    Try To Avoid The Bloating.

    You want a polished look at any shoot especially if you're a big guy. You can put on some weight that will help to volumize your muscles but be careful not to overdo it. If you're going to do beach shots where you want to look your best and show off striated hams and glutes do a modified water reduction plan before your shoot so that you'll come close to duplicating your contest shape.

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    You Want A Polished Look.

    Don't forget the tan that always makes your muscle look more refined. Keep up the tanning and come to the shoot with a clean and even skin tone. You may need to exfoliate your skin the night after your show and redo the tanning cream because some tend to get patchy a few days after a show.

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    Don't Forget The Tan.

    Finally, never ever do a shoot if you don't feel as if you look your best. If you've gained too much water and have a bloated look talk to the photographer and tell them what happened. They may want to see you before the shoot to see what you currently look like.

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    Only When You Look Your Best.

    I can't tell you how many photo shoots I had to cancel after I had the lights set up because a model came to the shoot looking too bloated without a cut to speak of. This won't be in your benefit either as you don't want "bad" photos of you being seen by the world.

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    Don't Let The World See Bad Photos.

    Remember, a photo will last forever. You'll only be seen by a few hundred people at a contest but thousands will see your photos. Good photo shoots are worth their weight in gold so do your best to look incredible for each shoot and you'll be a happy camper afterwards. It's worth the hard work.

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A Photo Lasts Forever.

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Do You Have A Question?
Are you an aspiring bodybuilder looking to get into the magazines? Do you want to become a cover model but don't know where to start? E-mail Irv your question and it will be featured in the next issue of Ask An Expert Photographer! E-mail him at

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