15 03 2015
The Cat’s musings – On the Importance of photography for making it in the fitness industry
Well, the last few weeks for me have been centered on photography, almost completely. This could be to the disappointment of a few people who would rather I stick to the hardcore science of things to explain the intricacies of physique and performance enhancement, but sadly, “just that” doesn’t sell anymore. It’s a social media world, people, especially young people are visually oriented, and even texts like this are hard for them to focus on. It’s a sad state of affairs indeed, but it is what it is.
There was a time people flocked to bodybuilding.com to finally read my pieces on science-based training and nutrition, because this info is unique and important. Now I can’t get anyone to bother unless I throw visuals in. The bitter truth is, people don’t even want to believe you anymore unless you can prove you practice what you preach. In my case that’s not a huge problem, in fact I willingly admit my current 6’1” and 212lbs frame is the result of pure knowledge and routine. I have poor genetics and almost zero discipline (at least in regards to what I eat, I luckily have some in regards to how much I eat during some months of the year :p). It’s what always made me a good personal trainer, I’m convinced that anyone with the talent, genetics and discipline to go far, can and should achieve more than me, or they aren’t getting the most out of what they do. And visuals only reinforce that notion. But when I started training top amateurs and even pro bodybuilders, I was a 160lbs pipsqueak (140lbs when I started training). I was no less effective then.
But there is also a one huge benefit to photography and the need for visual affirmation people have nowadays. Social media sells. It’s word to mouth, but so much faster :p Companies no longer look for the biggest in a sport of business, they look for the ones with the most social media reach who can get their product recognized by the most amount of people. The good thing about that is, by yourself, in a photograph, you can play to your strong suits. You can look much bigger than you are purely on the basis of shape and symmetry. You no longer have to stand in a line-up and see your hard work or relative inexperience washed away by a mountain of muscle eclipsing you from the jury’s line of sight, you no longer have to win, you no longer have to be a pro. You need a presentable body, know how to present it and a good story to go with it, and you can amass a legion of followers that is worth more to any company than winning any type of championship. Actually coming out of nowhere to do that is a bonus, because when a company hires Ronnie Coleman to promote something, people know he promotes it because he gets paid. They don’t jump to those conclusions as quickly with random people on the net who happen to have a big following.
It’s slowly getting to a point where photography is going to be the next big thing. Because there are visuals, and then there is what I did this past month : working with professionals who have years of experience, a keen eye for the muscular physique and the know-how to use lighting and editing to bring out the best in you, without actually changing or photoshopping anything in or out. And good photography screams high-class, high-society, you name it. Because I’m always going to look better than your crappy selfie in your messy room wearing the same dirty underwear :p And I’m not a real model. But putting time in getting photoshoots and getting the right (work on looks, posing, fluent motion, different positions, finding your best sides and angles, getting into your best shape) shots, will make me (34 years old, no hair left, never was a brad pitt lookalike) look better than the millions of kids out there who have the looks that men and women love, a conditioning that’s better than mine, and the appeal to conquer the world.
Photography is your doorway, your calling card, your stepping stone. And don’t be afraid to pay the right person some money to do those first shots. It establishes you, it will get you better offers to do free shoots, and most of all, these guys have experience. In 11 shoots I learned everything a professional model needs to know. With a little practice, I can be a professional model, except that I look uglier :p
But that’s why I invest time in this. I believe this is the future. I want to do it while I can, but having done it I mostly want to show you what talented photographers are out there and what they can do for you. This will be the only instance where having me as a model is going to benefit them. Because a lot of you know me, you know what I look like, and you know how good these guys can make me look. Imagine what they can do for you ? So if you like any of the photography on my page, and think “damn, I’d love to work with that person”, just shoot me a PM and I’ll be happy to answer any questions and refer you to them. Likewise if you are unsure what’s best for your situation, I’m always happy to help young talent out. Whether its with scientific information, of with photography and career advice. Hey, I may not be a model, I’ve done the whole thing and I do work in athlete development. That isn’t just about getting them big and ripped and winning shows, but also managing their public persona, and marketing themselves commercially.
So give it a thought. Are you going to be content boasting your third place finish in a local beginners contest to show your worth ? Pay your dues on the competitive scene ? Or are you ready to show your class now, so you get noticed by people, have a commercial value before you even get a real title, and increase your market worth ? Sometimes a small investment has a huge outcome on your future plans …
I really hope this article gave you all some pause to see how this landscape is evolving. It’s not about being a sponsored athlete. In most cases companies expect you to put in some legwork to promote them, and all you get is a bunch of their shitty supplements. That will never help you, your real expenses are travel, entry fees, photography, accomodation, tanning and you name it. But accepting small sponsorships makes you unattractive to bigger sponsors. So don’t be afraid to keep your independence, and build a following any company is jealous of, and they will approach you with the right deal, don’t worry.
For more on photography, my own views on training and nutrition, a look at my work as an R&D specialist and athlete development specialist in the supplement industry and such, follow my public page, Peter Van Mol – Muscle Model. I’m also on instagram (musclemodelpete), bodyprofile (belgianblue), Bodyspace (Big Cat) and hopefully soon on Twitter (musclemodelpete)
For the more scientific updates, keep checking the facebook page of this site, Muscle and Sports Science