Yoga photography is a really interesting subgenre of sports photography because of how different yoga is to a traditional sport. Inhabiting a meditational space between actual meditation and athleticism, yoga allows you, the photographer, a lot of creative control when you are planning your compositions and exposures. Whether you are photographing a yoga workout of women, men, athletes, or whomever, the same yoga photography rules apply in 2020.
Because of the limited tools necessary for someone to practice yoga, you are able to use a variety of locations and poses for some really intense and amazing exposures. Let’s look at some different ways you can better yourself, or begin, as a yoga photographer.
1. Using a low perspective can make for interesting yoga photos
Low perspective allows the body of the person performing yoga to be really accentuated and feel grand. Using a lower perspective will also allow you to put more emphasis on the subject, as you can choose to either have your subject dominate the composition or simply be a part of a much grander image.
A composition like this allows for a more minimal look. Try some lower perspectives, especially for the more seemingly impressive poses an athlete may strike, as these can be when you put focus on the person as the subject, rather than the location.
2. Take a breath and your time
One of the best parts of photographing yoga is that you can take your time with everything. As long as you have the time to work with your model, you can plan out each shot and get it as perfect as you want to in-camera. Someone with a lot of experience in yoga will both be able to hold a pose for a long time and make it look as good as possible for the camera. This simplifies your photo editing process and will yield much better final images.
Don’t rush through the process and miss out on key poses that your model really wanted to showcase. It can take a while for someone doing yoga to really get into their rhythm and present you with the best shots, so take a breath, and take your time. You don’t want to rush the person practicing yoga, especially since, as they spend more time doing it, they will ease up to the camera and pose with more fluidity.
3. Make the ordinary interesting
Not every yoga photography shot has to be in an incredible location with the most ridiculous poses. You can do a lot with basic yoga poses and proper artistic execution. For example, the yoga photo above uses the architecture of the building, good framing of the space, well thought out dimensions, and a lot of muted earth tones to really set itself apart. The clothes are simple yet match the composition both with the tightness of the fabric and the muted olive tone.
It isn’t the most interesting shot, but I do find it quite pleasing, especially because of the colors. It might just be filler from a session, but the boring photos can still be rather interesting; and good.
4. Take advantage of specific yoga lighting
There are times when you can really take advantage of natural light, and yoga lends itself incredibly well to this. Silhouettes cast from traditional yoga poses are incredibly interesting, so even boring typical silhouette shots can really shine. Using the sun and other natural elements with yoga photography allows for a lot of creativity with very meager technological necessities.
The use of specific natural lighting is a great way to get images like these. Take advantage of the angle of the sun at dusk or dawn, when a simple pose can be manipulated with the use of natural lighting.
Take your time and wait for the light to make your shot work, it’s both incredibly rewarding and can really brighten up your yoga photography portfolio. This delicate nature also applies to mature boudoir photography (see our guide here).
5. Experiment with longer exposures
Yoga photography tips generally focuses on a lot of different styles of shot, and you can get even more creative with some longer exposures. Long exposures in populated areas can allow you to really isolate the sensation of doing yoga, while long exposures with someone holding a position can also make very interesting photos, like the one above. Sometimes, a longer exposure in a simple space can really give the image an abstract and painterly quality, which I love.
You can take this even further by isolating different positions by adding light. Out in the daylight, the use of a neutral density filter will allow you to take several seconds to several minute exposures. With a talented enough model, you can receive amazing results through the use of longer exposures.
Furthermore, outside of long exposures, it’s important to know that yoga differs from traditional action photography in terms of shutter speed. Because the positions are generally held longer, you can shoot at a typical 1/125th or 1/250th of a second without worrying about blur, for simpler positions. For positions that are harder for the practitioner to attempt, bump that shutter speed up a bit. Certainly, if you are new to yoga photography, it is important to be constantly double-checking unique exposures!
6. Try some deeper depth of fields
It’s easy for a photographer to dial into f/2.8, or whatever minimum aperture their fancy prime lens has, and start snapping away. This is especially true if you’re jumping into yoga photography from a different genre, like portraiture. Take your time, and think to yourself how changes in settings like aperture or shutter speed will impact your images in the space.
With the myriad of interesting backgrounds that you can incorporate into your yoga photography, shooting at a wide aperture can really waste a tremendous scene. Stop down that aperture and see what shots you can make.
7. Let your yoga models help you
You probably don’t know too much about yoga, especially compared to an actual practitioner. Let your model help you with your shots.
Make sure that, when you photograph a specific position, the angle from which you are shooting makes the position true to the position itself. One way to do this is to work with your model to ensure that the photos you take display their level of skill in the form, and that both of you are happy with the results and how they reflect the pose itself.
8. Locations matter – a lot
Locations impact the majority of photography, but for yoga, they matter more than normal. If you aren’t trying something new, yoga photography can get overly repetitive. Outside of being out of the box with your compositions and exposures, you can try different locations and vary the other parameters of your photography as well. Once you have gotten down those basic shots of someone practicing yoga, do something with creative spirit and intention.
Certainly, some images and brazen compositions look fantastic, but if you never take the typical photos, and people don’t see that you can, you might run into people thinking you don’t actually know how to take a normal good-looking yoga photo. Nowadays, a trap that photographers fall into is trying to be too unique, and losing out the majority of their audience. If an image is a creative experiment, and you consider it to be a failure, don’t just throw it out, but analyze what you could have done to make it a success.
9. Keep it clean
Not every shot needs to be minimalist, but typically, you want yoga to look fairly clean. This can range from a blank canvas of a sky, as seen in the image above, or a luxurious location. Make sure that all the different parts of your image are clean, from location to model to equipment. Specifically, pay a lot of attention to the clothing worn by the model, as well as their mat if they are using one.
You want to make sure that your model is lint-free, as well as make sure that the fabric is clean and that any ripples or bends within it are intentional.
Certainly, shooting models wearing modern athletic clothing makes this easier. Take the time to make sure you don’t have repeated headaches while editing the images you take. Use reference images such as product photography of yoga clothing to see what things should look like.
10. Variety is the spice of life!
When building up a portfolio of yoga images, make sure you are keeping things varied. While you can delve into a particularly nuanced area of yoga photography, having a stock of images that show professional-level shots in a relatively wide yet typical range allows you to show you both respect yoga and the practitioners of it, and display your own creativity and the thought you put into this array of images.
3 Must Watch Yoga Photography Videos:
Not all budding yoga photographers can jump into yoga photography with a few written tips, and that’s totally fine! There is some incredible yoga photography and yoga photo shoot content out there. We scoured YouTube and hand-picked the three best yoga photography videos. We believe these will help any up-and-coming yoga photographer ramp up their talents.
1) Yoga Photoshoot – Behind the Scenes
Andrew Prod gives us an inside look into what it means to conduct a photo shoot with a yogi. This yoga photo shoot was conducted with mostly natural light and no flash.
2) How I Take My Instagram Photos
Famous yoga Instagrammer Sjana Elise gives some insider tips on how to become a well known Instagram yoga influencer, and how she takes her stunning yoga photos. She has a huge Instagram network, so her yoga photography tips are definitely worth taking into serious consideration! The additional benefit here is that you can see what others in the Yoga world find appealing in images.
3) Take BETTER Yoga Photos TODAY:
The people behind Breathe & Flow show us how to stop wasting time thinking and to get outside and start taking pics with your camera. This video is interesting as it uses less traditional clothing and poses. Now, this isn’t what you’re going to see overriding Instagram! Yoga photography has many levels to it, but the first and most important step is to start photographing.
Featured yoga photograph image: https://unsplash.com/photos/pFyKRmDiWEA