Friday, September 11, 2009

Fitness Photos, You Let Me Down (One Woman's Blog Rant)

I've been a fitness pro for 16 years, and I'm done with teaching just regular group exercise classes for just the regular group exercise wage (read: too low).

Personal trainers are out there with group training and boot camps and enjoying a higher profit margin. Now I'm doing the same, but with group exercise.

So as I market two new revenue-generating fitness events this Fall - one's a 6-week circuit interval program for gym members, and the other's a step/strength
workshop for fitness instructors - I'm thinking about that old cliché, "A picture is worth a thousand words."

I'm a writer, so you know I love words, but I also recognize the value of using carefully selected, targeted images in fitness blog posts and fitness marketing material.

To that end, I logged onto to download a couple of fitness shots.

It's at times like these that I'm glad I have a fitness blog so I can rant about this irksome fact: A lot of fitness images of women are so ... hard to love.

I want a photo that pushes emotional buttons but looks cool to fitness folks and doesn't disappoint those of us who are way beyond stereotypical, outdated advertising images.

Dear iStockphoto, here's what I don't want (and what, unfortunately, you've got a lot of):

  • Scrawny women who appear to have never exercised, gazing either seductively or passively at a couple of hand-weights that they clearly have no intention of ever lifting.

  • Modern, fit-looking women waving around pink, Barbie-sized dumbbells.

  • Women exercising with cringe-inducing form (note: lunges don't involve hyperextending the spine so the ribcage juts as far forward as possible).

  • People lifting weights wearing socks, no shoes.

Did I miss anything?

Sure I rant, but I still heartily recommend

One of iStockphoto's newsletters includes free downloads, which is how I get a lot of the images I use on this blog - at no cost. (They're not usually fitness photos, but with creativity, you can still make them work for a fitness blog.)

Other places to get free photos:

Anyone else have tips about where to get budget-friendly images for a fitness blog and fitness marketing?

8 comments: said...

Great post! My club refuses to use most stock photography for the very reasons you mentioned. The muscle-clad bodybuilder and sexy aerobics images are so tacky and intimidating! We like to use REAL people in our publications and advertising materials. We usually end up taking our own pictures using members and team members as subjects. Most members are happy to participate if they have advance notice. (Don't forget the photo waiver!)

For my freelance work, I have had some success with I just make sure that I have keywords like "mature" or "family" included in the search for "fitness" or "exercise". In marketing to fitness pros, some of the more artistic shots, for example tight shots of feet and props, are dynamic and generate interest.

Thanks for the post, Amanda! I can't wait to read everyone else's tips!

Monty Moran said...

Yes I agree, that is why I have my marketing consultant take photos for my blogs, social sites and brochures. I think having pictures of you and your clients in a true workout setting gives much more credibility to your cause. Plus when handing out brochures it offers a great story to expand on your style of training and results clients have achieved. Any trainer using stock photos can be generally regarded as a novice or sub par professional.

Barbara said...

The Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity distributed a DVD at a workshop I attended last spring. The DVD contains 230 images of women age 55-70 participating in a host of different physical activities. These are real women and it is refreshing. I believe the DVD can be ordered from CAAWS for $10.00 plus shipping.

Amanda Vogel said...

Thanks everyone for these tips and thoughts.

A few people emailed me privately about this post. One of them also recommended

I just checked it out and it seems to have some of the same images as, but also some other good ones. During my quick search on, I did spot a woman using a 10-pound dumbbell instead of the normal 2-pounders!


Amanda Vogel said...

I should also mention .. I've set it up so my blog posts feed through my news feed on Facebook. People also commented on this post there. One person recommended

From what I can tell, at you buy a package of photos (it's not budget-friendly unless you need a lot of them). I quickly checked out the health and fitness package and was happy to see a modern-looking woman wearing modern clothes engaged in modern fitness activities (iStockphoto, take note of the recurring word there).

Someone else mentioned Stock.XCHNG for free photos:


Daniel Munday said...

Hi Amanda,
yes I feel the same frustrations when looking for women who can actually lift a real weight.

I use - a buck a shot and similiar shots to other sites but they have some occassional good ones - def better than morguefile

Loewen Behold said...

Great post... but it makes me sad that group fitness classes pay so low. It makes me even sadder to hear that the best instructors are walking away. It makes me sad because of all the work I have ever done teaching group fitness required the most skill development and resulting in the most pure joy, but much like you I don't teach much anymore.... Is there nothing we can do to change this, or is really like a wilting flower?

Amanda Vogel said...

Sarah, I wanted to respond to your question/comment on my blog about group exercise and whether it has a future (or is it a "wilting flower" as you put it).

I think it does have a strong future; however, group exercise instructors must be creative and adapt to its changes.

As I mentioned in my post, I now offer specialty classes that members pay extra for. My feeling, as I wrote on my blog, is that if personal trainers can be highly successful in the realm of group fitness, so can those of us who were trained to lead groups.

I am on the second "round" of offering my specialty classes--both programs have been sold out with a waiting list. I make about three times more per class teaching to half as many people compared to my traditional step classes.

While I don't plan to stop teaching traditional group exercise classes, I DO plan to expand my horizons and adapt my group-teaching skills to meet new and future demands in the industry.

Group X is not going away for those fitness instructors who love what we do; it's just challenging us to find new approaches to teaching group fitness.