This weekend I had the pleasure to be one of the invited sponsored Olympia hosts for Labrada Nutrition. The experience was electric! I especially enjoyed having the privilege to interact with hundreds of like-minded physique competitors and raving Labrada fans. And to top it all off I also had the opportunity to work next to one of my favorite fitness models Jamie Eason. 🙂

You know when I first started this journey as a physique competitor one of my major goals was to sign on as sponsored athlete with an established fitness company. I remember having so many questions about the industry and how to market myself in a positive manner.

And this weekend while speaking with so many up and coming physique competitors who are holding on to the same dreams I had it made me realize how important it is to align yourself with the right people. People who care about you and will rightly guide you toward achieving your goals.

So What Does my Olympia Experience Have to Do with Being a Fitness Model?

Shawn Hektor Lewis and Jamie Eason

Shawn and Jamie @ The Olympia

Well, everything and then some.

While I was working the Labrada booth, I had several athletes approach me and ask me the same fitness modeling questions I had over seven years ago.

What Should I Do if I Want to Be a Fitness Model?

Who do you recommend as a photographer? How do you break through and get a large fitness brand to notice you? Who? What? Where? When? You get the idea….

In fact, I have been asked these same questions on many occasions by so many of my clients and have always tried to give my best advice.

But my advice although from the heart can only come from my perspective and that at the end of the day is a tiny sample size made up of my reality.

So  I thought who better to enlist to address the questions I received than a professional fitness photographer who works directly with hundreds of aspiring models from virtually every walk of life.

I reached out to Brian Landis one of my all time favorite photographers and asked him to provide fitness modeling advice to the Cutie Community.

I have shot with Brian several times and have never doubted that it was among the best decisions I’ve ever made. 

Brian has impeccable professionalism, creative vision, and a way with people that engages and disarms them, and more importantly he has an uncompromising standard.

Brian has been published in Muscle and Fitness, Planet Muscle,, Muscle and Fitness Her, American Curves among many others.I cannot recommend Brian highly enough.

Below are a few questions I asked Brian that have come directly from my clients, the Cutie Community and, of course, the Olympia weekend. He provides great advice and a blueprint for success if you’re an aspiring fitness model looking for sound honest advice.

1. Do you believe modeling qualities is something you are born with or can it be learned?

I think a little bit of both. Some people have a natural ability to turn on and off their modeling persona at will. They can pose well, take direction well, and sell facial expressions well. Most of this can be taught and many times the more a model does this, the better they get at doing it.  The hardest thing to teach is the ability to make expressions and really sell it. It is one thing to be able to make different expressions, but the ability to do it so well that whatever emotion you are trying to convey is totally believable is what separates good models from exceptional ones.

2. How does a fitness model develop the ability to work the camera? ( how to pose, stand, move or look? Do they have to practice? Should they hire an established fitness model to help them?

Again, practice makes perfect. Do more shoots with really good photographers. A good photographer will give direction and guidance. Do NOT shoot with every guy that claims to be a photographer. Shooting with photographers that are not experienced and marginally skilled will produce a poor portfolio and give a sense that you are desperate enough to shoot with just about anybody even for free. Not a good idea. You sell yourself short, and those photographers will not help you improve your modeling skills or your portfolio. Watching other experienced models work might help. Working with photographers that will give direction will help for sure.

3. What are the TOP 10 professional qualities an aspiring fitness model should look for when hiring a photographer?

1. Portfolio – Is their portfolio what you want for yourself? If their portfolio is not exactly what you want, then look elsewhere.

2. Are other top models in the area/nationally using them to shoot their images? If others that you respect in the industry shoot with    a photographer that is a good sign.

3. Can they help you build your portfolio? Look around and see what is expected of a model doing what you want to do for their portfolio.  A wrinkled bed sheet backdrop probably isn’t going to cut it. A real studio, access to real locations, professional level equipment, are required. A consumer grade camera and one lens do not cut it. Lights, etc make a huge difference. Make sure they are used by the photographer.

4. Do they get published? A photographer that real magazines will hire or buy images from is someone who is probably a good connection.

5. Do companies and organizations pay this photographer? Commercial clients are harder to get so if the photographer has a book of commercial clients they are probably legit and professional in their work habits.

5. Chemistry – When you talk to the photographer do they give you a feeling that you will like to work with them? If you are comfortable and like the photographer as a person it will show in the images. You do not want to tense and stressed out. That will also show up in the images.

6. Cost – Cost should not be the biggest factor in the decision on who to work with but if you want a great portfolio, then you will need to spend some money. The best photographers rarely do trade shoots, and usually you will have to be a big name to get that. You should be able to find a good photographer without spending a fortune but expect it to cost some money. Your trainers, coaches, nutritionists, etc all cost money. So does a good photographer.

7. Deliverables – How many retouched images will you get from the shoot? What are you allowed to use them for? You NEED to discuss this ahead of time.The price of the photo session is meaningless unless you know what you will get. Get details!

8. Connections – Do they have any connections to help you send images out to get you the work/publicity you want? This is not a requirement, but it never hurts. 

9. Location – Are they geographically located so that you can get to them to shoot without it being a huge hassle? You might be willing to travel to shoot with a great photographer but if it costs you a lot of time and money to get there it may or may not be worth it.

4.What is your biggest pet peeve as a professional photographer?

Working with unprofessional people.It is extremely frustrating to work with people that are not on time or do not show up at all. It is equally frustrating to work with people that do not communicate. I personally like to discuss shoot details before the shoot. What are you looking for? What kind of location do you want? etc. If I have to send you five messages to get one response, I will NEVER book you if a client comes calling and asks for model recommendations.

5] What’s the #1 mistake you see new fitness models make?

Shooting with every photographer they can find for free. I talked about this before. You do yourself no favor working with bad photographers or photographers that have so little experience that you do not know what you will get from them. Bad images of you floating around are not a good way to get started. You will notice that a lot of the big name fitness people/models will not work with mediocre/bad photographers even for money. You are only as good as your worst photo so don’t have a bunch of bad photos of yourself floating around out there.

ashley pic


6.What’s the best advice you can give an aspiring fitness model?

Do research and find people to surround yourself with that know what they are doing and that are producing the type of work you want to make. Don’t associate professionally with shady characters or people with crazy and unprofessional social media lives. If they are that unprofessional online, then they are probably that unprofessional all the time.

7.What type of outfits work best for a photo shoot? Any style of clothing to avoid?

Research what the best things to wear are for each particular image you are trying to do and use that as a guide. Some magazines want sexier looks; others want more conservative looks.  Know your audience. Agencies will not want over the top sexy. Commercial clients will not book that for the most part. For fitness, clothes try to avoid clothes with crazy patterns on them. It is too distracting. You want to be the focus, not what you are wearing.

8.When is the best time to schedule a photo shoot during a competition prep?

I like to shoot the week before the competition if at all possible. You will be fit, and starting to dry out so you will be looking good but not too hard. You want to be cut and fit looking but not with a crazy spray tan starting to come off like you will have in the days following the competition. You will also want to eat after the competition, so shoot before if you can so you can enjoy your post stage meals!



Brian Landis Logo

So there you have it some great insight about fitness modeling from Brian Landis, an amazing professional at the top of his game.

You can connect with Brian on Instagram or his Website

AND if you want to take your fitness portfolio to the next level you can book a photo shoot with Brian @ [email protected]

Questions? Comments? Did you find this post helpful? Let me know in the comments section.Thanks!

        Don’t Miss Out-Join The Cutie Community Today!

Subscribe today to receive weekly stage presence updates on new competition suit designs, posing tips and technique, inspirational athlete case studies, hair and makeup tutorials and so much more!

Click Here to Subscribe