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Do you love to travel but struggle to get the pictures you want? These seven tips from professional yoga photographer Robert Sturman will help you shoot better quality yoga photos anywhere. Want more? Explore Robert Sturman’s full, in-depth online version of Mastering the Art of Yoga Photography.
1. Switch up your perspective—and get low.
Try shooting asana from a low perspective. Why? This makes your subject just as important as the environment around him or her, offering a statuesque feel to your images. Note any structures in the background, and carefully choose the angles behind the figure. This image, a Maasai warrior in Side Plank Pose at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, illustrates where I was when I shot the piece. In the final photograph, you can see the landscape well underneath the figure, making the man hold a powerful space in the composition. Shooting from low perspective will open up your eyes to a whole new world of clear, poetic possibility. You’ll see.
Hint: This perspective works well for expressive poses. But beware of shooting standing portraits, as low perspective can create the illusion that your subject’s head is too small for the body.
Pictured: Jacob Parit Noomek — Maasai Warrior at Mount Kilimanjaro, Kenya
2. Don’t underestimate your smartphone.
Enjoy what you are doing. Let your pictures become a natural expression of the life you live. If you are enjoying your day, enchanted by your surroundings and the people you are with, then your art will show it. Before I took this image, I had just gotten off the train at Grand Central Station in New York. My good friend met me there, and as we were walking to dinner, I saw this sidewalk scene. I took out my phone and the moment just happened. Yep, my phone. Never underestimate that incredible camera you always carry with you. If I wasn’t a professional photographer and needed my equipment, I would never buy anything else. We are experiencing a wonderful shift in the convenience of picture-making and your phone has some gravitas!
Pictured: Richard Pietromonaco — New York City
3. Practice the “Yoga of Seeing” and shoot with intention.
Give yourself permission to be present in your surroundings. Take a breath and be there. Then, when it’s time to pull out the camera, you might be surprised it comes naturally. I am more interested in what I call “the yoga of seeing.” What this means is having the clarity and confidence to mindfully note what I’m seeing and doing, and then look through the camera. When you get the composition right, push the shutter, smile, and walk away, knowing that you nailed it. A little mindfulness goes a long way. It never felt right to me to push the shutter at rapid fire and hope I’d get a decent shot. If you love what you are seeing and shoot with intention, you’ll never have to wade through hundreds of vacation photos again.
Pictured: Dice Iida-Klein — Sukhothai, Thailand
4. Add asana to ordinary things.
The world is beautiful. Of course. But in my opinion, when we place a yogi in the composition, the beauty multiplies 1,000 times. It adds dynamic structure, warmth, personality and a story to the photo. For example, obviously the New York City skyline makes iconic images, but integrate an asana, and it is as if we are seeing the Big Apple for the first time. Try doing this somewhere that has been photographed millions of times. If you need help framing your landmark to the yoga pose, look at some images that pro-photographers have created for research ideas.
Pictured: Jen Warakomski — Brooklyn Bridge, New York City
5. Make the most of the sunset—a masterpiece awaits.
The purest, most gorgeous sun-drenched, honey light available to us occurs a few minutes before the sun sets. Some call it the magic hour, or the golden hour. There is something divine about it, and you might get addicted to waiting for it to happen. It has a way of bringing out the beauty in everything. Nothing compares to it. I rarely do headshots, but occasionally, when I see this light and I am with a model, I take the shot because I know it is going to be spectacular. Since the sun will be behind you, make sure to angle yourself so that your shadow does not get in the way of what you are shooting.
Pictured: Ashika Gogna — Sedona, Arizona
6. Explore different photo-editing apps.
Having access to a world of post-production apps can bring your images to a state you love even more. I have used many apps over the years but I think some of the better ones are Camera+, Darkroom and Snapseed. They have a variety of filters and masterful adjustment options. Most phones also have built-in editing programs that you don’t even have to download. Caution: (and this is something I was taught as a painter) know when to stop! For example, I am right on the edge, and may have even gone too far with editing this image created in the Indian Ocean. But I loved it and it felt good to me. The good news is that you will be working digitally, and you can always go backward.
Pictured: Billy Sadia — Lamu Island, Kenya
7. Give yourself permission to LOVE your work
Don’t be afraid to be impressed with your own work! When you get a good shot, take time to look at it, and look at it a lot. There is something so satisfying and enjoyable about appreciating what we have created. And the more we love what we are doing, the more of it we will make. When I first started out, I shot a lot of very ugly images. And then once in a while, I would get a gem. I would look at it for hours deciphering what I liked until it became part of me. It is your composition, so it’s up to you — when you note something in a shot, or edit that you love, own it, and do it again. With our cameras always on hand, why not create our own masterpieces, and have fun with it.
Pictured: Rina Jakubowicz — Havana, Cuba
About Our Expert
About the author
A dedicated yoga practitioner, photographer Robert Sturman has increasingly focused on capturing the timeless grace and embodied mindfulness of asana in his work.