Irvin Gelb Q&A Part 2: 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 ] I have admired your photography in MuscleMag and other publications for years.

I use an H&P 5 MP camera to take bodybuilding photos. I want to upgrade so I can take decent contest photos. The H&P has a 1-2 second delay between when I press the button and when it takes the pic (making it not an ideal camera for contest photography).

Any recommendations for a guy just starting out as far as cameras and lenses? I am looking into Canon Rebels with a 300mm lens. Does this sound adequate?

Tony M.

    A: Taking contest photos usually requires a digital camera that's fast enough to capture action. Male bodybuilders tend to be less animated onstage that women, however, you're always challenged with capturing them when they strike a pose and it may be difficult to predict that moment when they squeeze and give you a few seconds to shoot.

    When I first started experimenting with digital photography I purchased a high end Sony point & shoot camera with a zoom lens. The number of mega pixels (MP) that a camera shoots has nothing to do with its speed but with the quality of the resolution of the photos and your ability to enlarge the image without any distortion. Point & shoots don't have the speed required to freeze an action for a photo that's sharp without blur.

Click Image To Enlarge.
Point & Shoots Don't Have The Speed For Action Shots.
View More Irv Gelb's Ms. Fitness Olympia Photos Here.

    So if you're gung ho on taking contest photos that look as close as possible to the ones taken by professionals get one of the lower end professional models that have controls for the shutter speed control and the ability to shoot at different distances with a fixed or removable lens. It will be a great investment that you can also use to take professional looking outdoor and training shots with as well.

    Canon has been the digital camera of choice for most professional photographers so I'll recommend any camera in their Powershot line. The Powershot S1 1S has a 10X optical zoom lens that should be more than sufficient. Definitely get a camera with a zoom lens even if you go with a higher end EOS camera.

Click Image To Enlarge.
Get A Camera With A Zoom.
View More Of Irv Gelb's 2005 Mr. Olympia Pre-Judging & Finals Photos Here.

    Fixed lenses might have slightly better quality but these days zoom lenses are made with sufficient quality for great photos, especially for amateurs. The important point is to be able to control the shutter speed so that you can freeze action. Shoot stage shots at a minimum of 1/125 shutter speed. Faster if you can get away with it and if the camera can shoot flash with fast shutter speeds.

    If you want to get a more professional camera and your pocketbook can afford it try the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT. It's a great starter camera for amateurs and allows you to buy different lenses that you can switch depending on your needs.

    For contest shooting I recommend getting either the 28-200mm or the 28-300mm zoom lenses. These will be versatile enough for different stage shots. If there's a camera store in your neighborhood that rents camera equipment try out these products first before buying.

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Stage Shots Require A Versatile Camera.
View More Of Irv Gelb's Wildcard Showdown Photos Here.

    Or if you're not certain about what to use buy the equipment from a reputable camera dealer in your area so that you can exchange it if you find that what you purchased is not suited for your needs.

    The best way for you to develop your contest stage shooting is to practice, practice, and practice. Experiment with different types of shooting methods with and without flash and you will eventually get to the point where you are happy with the results. Most of all, enjoy it!

[ Q ] I wanna go to the Arnold Classic so that I can get some work with the magazines or companies that will be there. I mean I think that I'm ready for the mags. I got the build and the looks to go all the way. Irv, what do you recommend that I do when I'm there.

What type of attitude should I have. Cocky, really out there or what? What types of clothes should I wear? I got some wife beaters that make me look huge. Should I wear those with shorts or jeans? Any help bro?

Tommy G.

    A: Well, it's a good thing that you're confident enough to want to meet people and try to get noticed at one of these big events. The Arnold is a great show to do this at but at the same time a little difficult.

    The Expo is the place to do this at but it gets very busy. So much so that you'll need to muscle your way through the aisles to get from one end of the room to the other. I suggest that you get there about one hour before it's supposed to open up.

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    Muscling Your Way Through
    The Aisles Can Be Difficult.

    View More 2005 Arnold Classic Expo Pictures Here.

    I don't recommend wearing a wife beater. Even if you look great in it you'll be labeled a "musclehead" and besides turning off some companies that you might want to meet girls don't usually like guys who are overly out there with dressing down to show off.

    Find a shirt that looks semi professional and one that you wouldn't wear in the gym. A cut off muscle shirt that shows off the delts and arms but one that makes you look ready for "business" and not the gym would be best. Even a skin tight/slinky shirt with sleeves that shows your physique might be good enough. Lighter colors will make you look bigger.

    Wear tight fitting jeans that make your waist look small and your legs look big. If your wheels aren't huge wear slightly baggy jeans with a small waist that will give you the illusion of having big legs. Don't wear gym clothes. Looking professional while showing off your physique will always get your more respect at shows like this.

    Bring some photos showing your physique in posing trunks or any type of muscle shot. Let people meet you looking like a pro while being able to see what's underneath the clothes with photos.

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Triple H & Ronnie Looking Like Pros.
View More Of Irvin Gelb's 2005 Expo Photos Here.

    A decent tan might be good to get as everyone always looks better with a tan.

    So, back to your early arrival at the expo. Get in line and take your jacket off while waiting to get into the hall. You'll be looking big, in charge and professional while being seen by a lot of people going into the Expo.

    Look at people as they enter the building. Those with badges may be an exhibitor or press. If you see someone from a company that you'd like to meet up with or someone from the press with a magazine that you like and they're nearby approach them.

    Be courteous and introduce yourself. Tell them that you're going to make a dent in the industry and that you're dedicated enough to go all the way. See if you can set up an appointment with them for later on as they are likely in a rush on their way into the hall.

    Take their name and information down so that you can follow up. Your professionalism will impress them and when you meet them later they'll probably remember you in a positive way.

    Before I go into what to do in the Expo Hall, make certain that you've done your homework beforehand. Try to get the Expo exhibitor booklet and make a note of which companies you want to approach and their location in advance.

    Time is valuable so going to your target companies first might be more efficient. You'll want to talk to these companies early in the day because the Expo will only get busier and the people at these booths tend to get pretty tired as the day advances after speaking to several hundred people. Catch them when they're fresh.

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Catch Them Before Everyone Else Does.
View More Of Irvin Gelb's 2005 Expo Photos Here.

    OK, the Expo opens and you enter the hall. Go directly to your target companies but always keep aware of people around you. Look for people with press or company badges or clothing with company logos. Approach them and introduce yourself. You never know who you might meet.

    Most might not be the right person for you but they might know someone who you should talk to. Again, professionalism and a courteous approach will take you a long way especially if you look great. When you get to the company booth ask for the person who is responsible for sponsored athletes and marketing. Introduce yourself and show them your photos.

    Be ready to show some skin if asked. Guys can always show their abs or if you have impressive arms be ready to strike a pose. Be aggressive but always modest.

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Be Ready To Show Skin.
View More Of Irvin Gelb's 2005 Expo Photos Here.

    Most people at the Arnold Classic will be too busy to talk to you in detail so make your presentation short and to the point. Then exchange contact information. Most probably, if you don't have a comp card (a model's card with photos and contact info) you should just get their name and contact info so that you can follow up after the show.

    Take careful notes so that you can email them some photos and detailed information about yourself after the show. Wait until the end of the week because most people are busy traveling and catching up with backlogged work when they get back home. If you send your email to them too soon it may get lost in the shuffle.

    Email information about when you'll be in shape or tell them that you're able to get into photo shape within short notice. Then follow up with them one week later by phone if you haven't received a response to your email.

    Everyone in the industry appreciates approaches by bodybuilders who look good and are professionally aggressive. Don't be a pain in their rear end.

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Jay Doesn't Want To Deal With A Pain In The Rear.
View More Of Irvin Gelb's 2005 Expo Photos Here.

    Again, if you're not ready to model with a physique that still needs more work don't go through this process. It will only piss off the people who you approach and may burn you for any future possibilities with them as they might remember your name and ignore you the next time around. Good luck!

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

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3