Yoga is an ancient eastern discipline that is getting more popular every day in western countries. Yoga combines physical, mental and spiritual practices that help to improve the well-being of the practitioner. My personal story with yoga started four years ago when I decided to take some classes. It was a life-changing experience, not just because of the benefits I got for my mind and body, but also for my career as a photographer. A friend that is a yoga professional asked me to take photos of her in different yoga postures (called asanas) because she needed them for her social media channels and accounts (to promote herself). This is how I got into yoga photography… and I love it!
If you also want to get into yoga photography, first of all, you need to know how to get ready for the photo sessions. Most of the preparations I do for this type of sessions are the same as for another kind of portrait photography. You might be interested in checking my “A How-To Guide on organizing a portrait photo session” to learn in more detail how to get ready. However, there are some special things in yoga photo sessions that are handy to know beforehand.
#1 Get inspiration from yogis on social media
Some yoga professionals have a great social media presence. You can find them on Facebook, Periscope and of course…Instagram! In my opinion, Instagram is one of the best sources for yoga photography inspiration. If you follow some of the great yogis you will have an idea of the trends in the field. The list of yoga professionals you can find on Instagram is endless. Some of my favorite accounts: kinoyoga, yoga_girl, beachyogagirl, nolatrees, carlingnicole, patrickbeach, dylanwerneryoga. And last but not least, the Instagram of my dear yogi friends: reinodenita and lilatotheworld.
Ask your yoga model if she/he has something in mind. Probably she/he is also following other yogis and can provide you a list of asanas she/he would like to try. However, do your own search to increase the variety of options.
#2 Get familiar with the asana’s names
Asana is the name that yoga postures receive. They have names in Sanskrit, such as “Urdhva Mukha Svanasana”. But don’t worry. You won’t need to learn Sanskrit to be a yoga photographer. All the postures have translated names in English. For example “Urdhva Mukha Svanasana” is also known as “Upward-Facing Dog”. Easier, right?
You will get familiar with these names while you are doing your inspirational searches. You can also make yourself a list of names with the corresponding asana posture and take it with you to the photo session. Having an idea about yoga terminology will make it easier for you and your model to communicate and convey your ideas during the session.
#3 Divide the asanas by categories
If you take the list of postures with you to the photo session (like I do), you should have them classified in a way that makes sense to you. This will help you to be more efficient. To find an asana in a big list can get really complicated, especially when your model is waiting for you to tell him or her what to do next! I usually divided them by standing positions, sitting, inversions, bridges, arm balances and so on
#4 Take photos from all the asana categories
Having the asanas organized in several categories has another advantage: you can make sure that you pick asanas belonging to each category and be certain that you have a good variety of photos. Your yogi model would love to have such a variety of photos!
#5 Get close
The whole body is included in the asanas. However, getting close to your model and take photos of just specific body parts can add new perspectives to your images. Hands, feet, back… play with your close ups and you will be surprised by your results!
#6 Clothes matters
Yoga is not about fancy clothes. However, clothes are important for the photo session. First of all, having several outfits will add variety to the photo session, so it is always a good idea. It is also possible that your model is promoting some brand. You should make sure to get photos of all the clothes he/she is interested to be photographed in. In any case, you should include time for changing outfits when you plan the schedule of the photo session. You should also think how/where the yogi model will change the outfits. The solution for this will depend on the location of the photo shoot; if it is held in an urban environment maybe you should contact a local clothing store and ask permission to use their changing rooms if it is held outdoors perhaps you should bring with you a tent…
I also recommend you to tell your models to choose the outfit wisely, especially the underwear. They are going to be moving all the time and sometimes they are going to be upside down. They need outfits that stay perfect in all these different positions. Also, the last thing you want in your photos is underwear coming out. Or if it does…it needs to be a beautiful one! If you don’t want to spend hours on Photoshop retouching clothes, take care of these details during the photo session.
#7 Give the model time to warm up
Yoga asanas are demanding. It is dangerous for the model to start with the yoga positions without warming up. Make sure they have enough time to do it in order to avoid injuries right before or even during the photo session. You should also make sure your model doesn’t get cold during the photo session, especially in between postures. Remember, for them, it is also a workout, they sweat, and between postures they can cold really fast!
#8 Decide when to do the complicated postures
Some asanas are more demanding than others for the models. It is always good to ask them when they prefer to do them. Some yogis prefer to do the hardest positions at the beginning of the photo session because it is when they feel fresher and stronger. Other prefers to leave them to the end either because they need to warm up and stretch first, or because after these hard asanas they won’t be able to do anything else. You need to adjust the photo session to their body requirements.
#9 Never push your client to do something (even if it seems easy)
Some asanas might seem easy when you look from the side, but they are not. In these cases, it is especially easy for you and/or for your model to get carried away in an attempt to get the perfect photo. You mustn’t let your model lose the awareness of their body and their limitations! If they push themselves too far it can end in serious injury. Be respectful and if they tell you that they can’t do something (even if it seems easy to you), believe them. The safety of your model is the most important thing, not the photos. Anyway, there are tons of other asanas, all of them are beautiful!
#10 Go to a yoga class before the photo session to get a feeling
Participate in a yoga session! I’m not telling you to become a yogi now (it is entirely your decision), but yoga is easily available for everybody and there are a lot of yoga studios everywhere. You should attend a class in order to get the yoga feeling and understand where your model comes from and what he/she has to deal with. This will make you a much more empathetic photographer. It is always a good thing to improve the model-photographer relation!
I hope these tips will help you on organizing your yoga photo sessions. Feel free to contact me with any question you might have. I will be happy to help you! I would like to thank all my yogi models for giving me the chance to become a yoga photographer! Nita, Ashley, Ami and Inna… you are amazing! Namaste!