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How to Become a Fitness Model

Snagging a magazine cover or inside photo spread as a fitness model is a worthy achievement for many! Not only is it great exposure for your personal fitness brand, but it’s well-earned recognition for all your hard work, time spent in the gym, and clean eating choices.  You probably want to become a fitness model but there are plenty of beautiful girls who have amazing bodies — how do you stand out in order to land that coveted title of a published fitness model? How do you go from being in amazing shape and having a few good photos on your website and Instagram page to being in amazing shape and landing covers and inside spreads for your favorite fitness magazines?


We asked some of the most important names in fitness questions on how you can increase your chances of getting published as a fitness model. Everyone from photographers to published models to a magazine editor-in-chief’s and fitness stylist shared their trusty tips and best kept secrets on how you can get successfully published as a fitness model.



First up is James Patrick. James is an internationally published and award-winning fitness photographer. He is the founder of the annual FITposium conference and is the author of the Fit Model Guide e-book on how to get published. His photography work can be seen at Here’s what James had to say: 


Affitnity: How can fitness models make the most of their photo shoot? What can they do to make sure their photos stand out?

James Patrick: The first step to orchestrating a successful photo shoot is to determine the goals and desired outcome of the project. Deciding what clients you attempting to target with the images will guide you to understand what specific style of images would be most suitable for those target clients.

If, for example, you were targeting a certain fitness publication geared towards women ages 25 to 40 you would not want to be creating over-sexualized or highly revealing images that would be better suited for a men’s interest publication. This requires doing a bit of research beforehand of course.

As a fitness talent, you must look at yourself as a company and no company would create or distribute marketing materials without first understanding who they are targeting and why.

Secondly is selecting the right photographer to work with. The right photographer is not necessarily the most expensive, but the one with the right experience and style that matches the style of images you are attempting to create.

You, as the person hiring the photographer, cannot over communicate your goals and direction for the photo shoot. You can somewhat rely on a professional photographers experience and guidance; but at the end of the day, you are the one who calls the final shots.

Arrive to the photo shoot prepared with your selected outfits as well as backup outfits that you can use if needed. Bring all the props, accessories and miscellaneous attire additions that you can think of. It is better to have it on set and not need it, then to think about using it and realize you left it at home.

Finally, there is no specific formula for making your photos stand out amongst others. What works for you may not work for someone else. It all goes back to understanding what your brand represents and creating images that could be unique to only you in addition to creating images that have a marketability behind them.

Developing the right portfolio images is something you will work on for the duration of your career as you target different clients and as your brand evolves.


Affitnity: How important is it to pay photographers for their services instead of relying on free work when looking to get published?

JP: There is a balance that must be achieved by obtaining the right images versus not annihilating one’s budget.

As a talent, it is important that you never cut corners when developing your marketing materials and that is how clients will judge you – and you will be critiqued on the worst images in your portfolio, not the best.

Once you determine the types of shots you need to make it is about finding the appropriate photographer to work with in the development of those images.

Perhaps it is the photographer already shooting for the magazines and clients you want to work with or it is a photographer who shoots a style consistent with your brand’s message.

As mentioned before, it is not always the most expensive photographer that is the best choice, it is the photographer with the right style that matches your goals without going over the budget you need to stay within.

Also consider the risk you run if you hire a low-priced option to begin with and then have to pay to redo images that didn’t work the first go around.

To parallel this I consider what I look for when hiring a graphic designer. When our team needs materials such as business cards, brochures, mailers or pamphlet designed – I don’t hire the least expensive designer I can find, nor do I immediately hire the most expensive designer I can find. I find the designer who has a style that matches what we are trying to create without going over our budget.

Affitnity: What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to photographing fitness models and competitors?

JP: Every profession has its occasional downsides and photography is no different. Fortunately, however, the upsides vastly trump any negatives in this industry. Perhaps the best way to answer that question is with what I would wish to see in the business moving forward.

First is better education amongst the members of the industry. There are far too many myths that need to be debunked and smoke and mirrors that need to be destroyed.  Talents should understand what their purchasing power entitles them to and, in addition, what it is limited to. For one example, there is far too limited of an understanding when it comes to images rights and usage terms.

Secondly, I would like to see talents not fight against each other desperate to work for pennies (or even for nothing) continuing to drive down the little money there is left for models and instead work smarter to target the best opportunities possible.

Lastly, is to realize that being published is not the end goal. In fact, it should not be a goal at all. Being published should be one step in a structured plan to, not only develop a brand, but to grow a business associated with that brand. If one gets published and there was nothing else after that; was the published feature worth anything at all?

Below are just a few of James Patrick's magazine covers.  Styled by Affitnity Activewear:


 Fitness Magazine Covers



    Next we interviewed LaRue V. Gillespie. She is the editor-in-chief and Creative Director of Max Sports & Fitness Magazines. Here’s what she has to say to fitness models looking to get published in a major magazine.

    Affitnity: What is your advice to aspiring fitness models and competitors wishing to get published? When pitching to a magazine, what should fitness models make sure to do? What works and what doesn’t?

    LaRue Gillespie: Do NOT send me an email or submit one through our magazine site that just says, "Hey, I’m so-and-so, and I’d love to be featured in your magazine. I’m a bikini competitor, blah, blah, and I would love to work with you.” I won’t even acknowledge emails like this. I don’t have time. If you want to be published, tell/show me what you can offer Max Sports & Fitness magazine that makes you stand out above all the other fitness models who would “love” to be published. If you have an article idea, pitch it. If you just did a workout photo shoot that hasn’t been published yet, pitch it. If you’ve written blogs or other articles, send an example along with your email because I’m going to ask for it anyways. I need to know that you can write if that’s what you are pitching. Also, take 30 minutes and get familiar with some of our content. Don’t be lazy and email me without knowing one thing about our magazine. If you see something you like, tell us (at least that way I know you attempted to get to know our magazine!). 

    Affitnity: When it comes to booking talent for a cover or inside spread, what do you look for?

     As far as what do I look for? It’s hard to put into words. Some people just have the right look at the right moment for what we want. I prefer people who are more than just a pretty or handsome face, those who have more to offer such as training expertise, and those who are enthusiastic about helping others. We also love it when our models have a large social media presence because that helps us get our magazine out there to others who might never have seen it. They get a cover or spread and we get more exposure. Win/Win!



    Up next is published model Claudia Virgil. Claudia is a triple threat — she’s a cover model, NPC Figure & Bikini Competitor, and successful personal and online trainer. You can check out her training program and portfolio at Here’s what she has to say about getting published:

    Affitnity: How has landing magazine covers affected your life? What are you current career goals?

    Claudia Virgil: Being a published model is definitely a big accomplishment for me. Experience this has given a greater sense of direction in my career.

    My current goal is to build my online community of women. I work with such a great group of women who are all looking for ways to strengthen themselves mentally and physically. I envision building this up where we can all achieve our goals together, even while being miles apart.

    Affitnity: How have you leveraged print to benefit you and your brand? Do you rely on self-marketing via the internet or do you have an agency?

    CV: I think to an extent being published has helped my business but I have not intentionally used this to gain clients. A pretty face on a cover doesn’t mean everything. Being a trainer, I believe you have to find clients that you feel you could work well with.

    I rely on self-marketing. I think that social media these days is a powerful tool, yet also very competitive. Maybe down the road if I feel I need the support or more opportunities, I will reach out to a professional agency. It definitely can be a benefit, especially for new-comers trying to grow in the fitness industry.

    What is the one piece of advice you would give to aspiring fitness models trying to get published?

    CV: Being on a magazine is not just about your physique but more so what you have to offer. Having a story behind your image is where the impact really happens. This means contributing to the magazine by offering them valuable information for their reader’s by writing articles, but not necessarily counting on getting paid. Just like anything successful in life, nothing comes easy. Being published does not mean you have won it all. It’s just the beginning of a new chapter. 

    Some of Claudia's work:




    Whether it’s your first photoshoot or your tenth, here are a few handy tips on what you can wear to make the most of your photoshoot:

    • Wearing bright, fun colors really pops on camera and will help you stand out. Beware of wearing all black — it risks coming across as boring in photos
    • Highlight your assets. You have worked hard for that body!  This is the time to show off those toned legs.  I will recommend that you stay away from wearing underwear as shorts.  If this is not a lingerie photoshoot, then you should not be wearing underwear or boy shorts.  
    • Invest in some cute shorts - Affitnity mini shorts are always a great choice.  You can go with black shorts just make sure your sports bra is colorful.
    • Whether you are wearing a sports bra or a longer top be sure to pick a cute and unique style. If you want to show off your back and shoulder muscles you should go with a strappy or halter style.
    • Solid colors always work best.  Avoid prints as they can be distracting or look dated. 
    • This is not the time to skimp on hair and makeup. A photoshoot is an investment for you and your brand so you should be sure to look your absolute best. Hiring a makeup artist and getting your hair professionally done is a good way to go.
    • To summarize - make sure to get great activewear! Sports bras, tops, and leggings with unique designs will put your photos above the competition.  


    • Don’t be afraid to contact magazines directly. Do your research and make sure you are a good fit for their publication. Sell yourself.
    • Though it’s not a requirement, competition in fitness competitions is a great opportunity to get noticed by photographers and fitness agencies. There is a difference of being in competition shape and being in marketable shape. 
    • Network at trade shows and competitions. Always be prepared and professional by having business cards with you. 
    • Be proactive, not reactive. Reach out to photographers when you’re going out of town who may be in the area or competing in a different city to try and set up a photoshoot. Always bring bikinis, heels, nice work out clothes. 
    • Always be professional and polite. Having a good reputation with photographers and those in the fitness industry can help you get booked. 
    • If you choose to go to a fitness modeling agency, have a professional media kit with a cover letter, resume, photos from top photographers, and stats.
    • If you are looking for the best option when it comes to fitness fashion Affitnity Activewear is the way to go.  Shop the model collection:


    A huge thanks to all those who participated in helping create this article and for sharing their expertise!

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