BEHIND THE PHOTO - MARISSA RODRIGUEZ

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BEHIND THE PHOTO - MARISSA RODRIGUEZ

The Fitness industry is growing at a rapid rate yet we seemingly see diminishing rewards. What does it take to separate yourself from the hundreds of others competing for the same opportunities, often times in the same events? There are ways to stand out from the crowd. Three quick points that come to mind are:

  1. Step on stage looking your best. That includes hiring professionals to take care of every detail from hair, to make-up, to spray tan. This is what you worked hard for and you have one chance to make a big impression. Too often I see girls step on stage with flat hair - no hair extensions, no hair pieces. You want to look as glamorous as possible, even if it doesn't feel like you.
  2. Hire a coach with a proven track record and follow their training and diet plan to the detail.  You want to be in the best condition possible and have the best stage presence and confidence possible. Nothing beats practice. If you are not practicing your walk every day, you are not serious enough about being your best on stage. For stage posing, be sure to find the best pose coach around.
  3. Plan ahead and connect with media weeks, or even months, before your event. Many competitors and models will contact me a year ahead letting me know their show and travel schedule. Being proactive will get you noticed. The Status Fitness team often attends physique shows across the country. Editor-in-Chief Rodney Jang himself is often front row scouting for new faces. Additionally, Editor Asha Belisle and Athlete & Talent Manager Angela Anoliefoh are at shows conducting interviews and meeting prospective models for publication. These are the people you want to meet when the chances present themselves.
MEDIA TIP

There are multiple ways to find out what media outlets will be represented at an event. The best way is to contact the magazine directly through their website (Status Fitness contact list here) or email found inside the print copy. Most magazines do not read or respond to social media messages so never count on that as a forms of communication. In BC and Alberta specifically, Status Fitness is always represented. At times Editor-in-Chief Rodney Jang himself will be in attendance. Cover photographer David Ford is often at the big shows as is Senior Editor Asha Belisle, Athlete & Talent Manager Angela Anoliefoh and Photographer Ali Sohrab. Plan ahead. It is easy to focus on the competition itself and forget that the biggest and best opportunities are not on the stage. Meeting key people is much more important than a win, so come to a show with a winning attitude and set out to meet people that can raise your relevancy in the fitness industry. Learn what you can do to stand out and take action to do so.

 

At the 2014 ABBA Provincial Championships I offered a special prize package to the Overall Bikini Champion. As each competitor took to the stage I kept notes of who had a marketable look and also had a strong physique. My selections for the David Ford Choice Award for Most Marketable don’t always coincide with the judge’s choices; however as the show progressed I quickly began to sense this show would be different. I selected my choice for the award and waited to see who won the overall. Sure enough, at this show the overall bikini champion was also my choice for marketable – Marissa Rodriguez.

Winning... gave me a boost in motivation and proved to me that hard work, dedication, and continued passion for something does pay off and anything is possible when you don’t give up!

Marissa and I recently had the opportunity to work together on the prize package she received for winning the Alberta title and the David Ford Choice Award. There was no better opportunity to sit down after the shoot and learn more about this beautiful lady so I could share her with the Status Fitness readers from around the world.

BEHIND THE PHOTO

I like to shoot what I call the Purpose Driven Photo. At times I will shoot at a confortable pace as a prerequisite to capture the ultimate shot. Stopping to give precise guidance every pose can be an energy killer so I follow a flow that feels natural to me. I will let my model hit sometimes awkward poses temporarily in order to capitalize on the confidence that is building. The more confident the model, the better the rewards. Often times, a shoot produces the best shots after the first couple hours. The connection between model and camera builds and the money shots begin to show themselves. Marissa was a smooth poser so we started to hit great shots straight away.

 

Congratulations Marissa on your big win at the Alberta Championships. What was the feeling like to win this title?

Winning the Alberta Bikini Overall Title in 2014 was such an incredible feeling!  It was a complete shock as I went into the provincial show with no expectations; however, I knew I was bringing my best physique to date.  Winning was such a huge honor and meant that my journey was far from over.  It gave me a boost in motivation and proved to me that hard work, dedication, and continued passion for something does pay off and anything is possible when you don’t give up!

Well-said. There are a lot of people reading this that are at the point of making an important decision to continue down the competition path or move on to something different. You are proof that hard work does pay off. I think everyone needs to be realistic with his or her goals and do what feels best in their heart. With your win, you received quite the prize. What did this opportunity mean to you?

Well, if winning the Overall title, a lifetime bye to Nationals, AND a "my-size" trophy weren’t enough, the opportunity for a photo-shoot with you David was definitely the cherry on top!  I had always wanted to shoot with you as your talents are some of the best in the industry.  I had actually done one of your Shut-up and Shoot sessions in 2013 which I knew was just a snippet of what it would be like working with you on an actual photo shoot, so this left me with that goal in mind to one day book a full shoot.  You can imagine the excitement I had as with my win I was also awarded a full photo-shoot!  It was a chance to document my success in my fitness journey through the eyes of a professional fitness photographer – WOW!

MEDIA TIP

When contacting a media source through their emails, be sure to attach a short bio and one or two low resolution images. Lengthy bios take time to read and are often overlooked. Keep writing to 100 words or so maximum. Magazines are interested in your fitness resume, where you are from and what you enjoy doing for work. They need to see a recent unedited photo if possible to see the potential you have. An unedited photo is just that, nothing has been done to it or added to it. If it has a logo on it, it's been edited. I have seen many photos misrepresent a model because of editing to the point that the photo looks nothing like the acual model. It doesn't do anyone any favors to submit photos that won't look like you on shoot day.

 

When you have a professional capturing some amazing images of your physique, where your strengths are highlighted, it definitely adds an element of self-confidence

Thank you. That is quite the compliment. As a photographer, it is always a great experience to work with a photogenic model that takes direction well and can convey the feeling wanted in a photo. The mini shoot we did the year previous (2013) gave me a good indication that we could capture some great fitness style photos when we had the chance to shoot and now that we have, I’m happy to share some of the results with the Status Fitness readers. How did the photo shoot fit into your prep for Nationals this year?

The photo-shoot couldn’t have been placed more perfectly.  At less than 3 weeks out from Nationals my physique was at a point where we were almost ready with - just some fine-tuning left to do.  It was also great for a boost in confidence!  When you have a professional capturing some amazing images of your physique, where your strengths are highlighted, it definitely adds an element of self-confidence and a re-assurance that things are exactly where we want them and this is what you want to bring to the stage!  Ask any fitness competitor and they will tell you that there will always be moments of self-doubt and insecurity throughout this journey, so anything to quiet those voices will just make for a better presentation on show day!

BEHIND THE PHOTO

An experienced eye is crucial for a time efficient shoot for the express purpose of magazine submission. You have to know exactly what the editors are looking for - from the pose, to the expression, outfits and lighting.

 

That is great to hear Marissa. When I have shoots with UFC fighters, they prefer to photograph a minimum of three to four weeks out from their fights. Fitness models and competitors often times have set dates they like to shoot as well. I’m happy to hear that our shoot fit in perfectly and was the confidence booster it was. Thank you for sharing that. Taking it a step further, what were your thoughts on the shoot and the process itself?

David, you were exceptional to work with during our photo-shoot.  I cannot say enough great things about you and how the morning turned out.  I have to confess, although I had worked with you briefly before, I was still a bit nervous thinking about the photo-shoot and how it would go.  You are very easy to talk to and you made me feel comfortable in front of the camera and behind the scenes as well.  You are extremely professional and your direction is unbelievable!  You have a great vision and have so many ideas that popped up as we worked together.  With your experience I looked to you for help in deciding on outfits and I think together we made some brilliant decisions.  Your direction is also the best.  You made posing recommendations based on the lighting we had and the angles you were shooting from and explained things as we worked.  I even got some lighting tips and tricks and what you were looking for when you were capturing the images that helped me be more confident in front of the camera and with my posing.  I absolutely would recommend you David for other fitness competitors at any stage in their journey as athletes or fitness models.  You definitely know how to bring out the best in your models regardless of the level of experience.

BEHIND THE PHOTO

A model's eyes always have to have purpose. A common quality of many photo shoots today is a lack of connection between a model and the viewer. A strong pose doesn't always engage a viewer. There needs to be something more. I like to have one of two things in my shots to increase the "feeling" in my photos - a strong connected look straight through my lens or a distinct look away. If you watch some of the videos from shoots I have done you will hear me giving precise instruction to the model regarding her eyes. Marissa and I were on the same page from the start. She gave me strong eyes throughout the shoot which my camera quickly connected with. 

 

Ask any fitness competitor and they will tell you that there will always be moments of self-doubt and insecurity throughout this journey, so anything to quiet those voices will just make for a better presentation on show day!

Thank you. I appreciate your insights. It makes me happy to hear that the experience was helpful in so many ways beyond just simple picture taking. I try to give special attention to expressions and body posing and posture dependent on my lighting and the fact you remember those details means I was doing something right. Let’s switch it up and let me ask what are you looking to accomplish at your upcoming shows?

Competing is exciting. Going into any show my goal is to always be better than before, bring my absolute best, and show it off proudly!  At Nationals, my ultimate goal of course is to bring home that IFBB pro card!  If I can pull that off that would be one hell of an accomplishment!

Never in my wildest dreams would I imagine so much to come from such a short interaction - in the grand scheme of things.

It is always nice to have a goal to motivate us isn’t it? Now that you are a serious National level competitor, how does that influence your training and show prep?

It definitely is. As a National level competitor, there is no messing around with training and show prep.  The athletes at this level are top notch and if you want to keep up you need to give 150% to your preparation.  I always train at an intense level regardless if I am preparing for a show or not, but when there is that set goal for a competition then the vision is more streamlined and detailed into what we want to present. 

Vision is so important. Simply having a goal is nice but a “vision” screen captures the entire strategy if you will. It definitely allows you to see where you are and what exactly is forth coming in each area of your preparation. Who is your coach for shows? Do you use the same person for training and for diet?

My coach throughout this entire journey has been Nadine Dumas.  She is a training and diet plan goddess for me!  She has been in the competitor’s shoes so she knew from the very beginning how to prepare me not just physically but mentally for this type of journey.  She knows my physique better than I do!

New to the team this year we have added coach Chris Spigner.  He has been doing my lower body training plans, in particular glutes and hamstrings. 

Both of these individuals together have brought my physique this year to a whole new level, which is what you would expect at a National level competition. They can both be reached online at www.nadinedumas.com and Spigner Training Company at www.crossfit7mile.com/about-us/chris-spigner/ or directly at clspig25@gmail.com.

It’s nice to have a team of professionals helping you. I can see first hand the results of their input and your hard work. In most cases of success, there is a larger team of supporters behind the scenes so to speak. Is there anyone else you would like to thank?

Oh man! Careful what you ask for with this one!  The list can be never ending with the amount of support that I have received and continue to receive from all over – family, friends, fellow athletes, sponsors, fitness organizations, promoters, and fitness companies, even social media these days. 

I definitely need to thank my husband for his never-ending support in this crazy journey.  This lifestyle is not for everyone and can definitely add a strain to family life, so although there have been some bumps in the road from this we continue to learn and grow from the experience of being there for each other.

I definitely need to thank my husband for his never-ending support in this crazy journey.

My coaches (Nadine Dumas and Chris Spigner) will always also be at the top of the list of Thank You’s as they are always there supporting me, pushing me, motivating me, but most importantly keeping me healthy physically and mentally.

My sponsors have also made a huge impact in my journey and I am so lucky and thankful to have their support.  DYNAMIS Sports Nutrition keeps me stocked with the best supplements to help with my fitness goals.  In addition, I am given the opportunity to take part in several large fitness expos all over Canada, which is huge for networking with like-minded people as well as attaining more exposure in the industry. 

With competing, costs add up very quickly so I am quite lucky to have Buttercream Bikinis as my official bikini sponsor.  Michelle O’Reilly makes sure that my suit fits perfectly and is exactly what I envisioned for that particular day so the lists of Thank You’s continues!

The Alberta Bodybuilding Association is also a huge support system in this journey!  I am so thankful for each and every opportunity they give not just me but every athlete in Alberta to take part in this ever-growing industry.  The amount of support and exposure they provide for their athletes is next to none, as seen with this opportunity to shoot with the best!  Along with this comes the support from other athletes as well.  We keep each other going and motivated.  We are protective of each other and most of all we believe in each other!

BEHIND THE PHOTO

Communication is key between the model and the photographer. The photographer should have a game plan ready to go the moment the model steps on set. An experienced photographer will immediately pick up on poses and styles of photos that will best suit the model and keep them comfortable. I posed Marissa with precision and didn’t waste any time setting up shots that I wouldn’t be proud to give her. As in all my shoots, I give all the photos to the model, so there is no room for error. Every shot needs to capture exactly what I intended to.

 

The Alberta Bodybuilding Association is also a huge support system in this journey!  I am so thankful for each and every opportunity they give not just me but every athlete in Alberta...

Thank you for an amazing day working together and visiting Marissa. It was great to learn more about you and take advantage of the opportunity to sit down and have you share so much of your experience. I’m certain many of the readers will benefit from your knowledge and insights. Thank you for sharing.

Thank you. I would also like to give a special Thank You to you David!  Never in my wildest dreams would I imagine so much to come from such a short interaction - in the grand scheme of things.  You are all about teamwork, sharing recognition, and empowering others through your work.  During our shoot there were several times in conversation where these topics came up and it was quite inspirational and insightful to get a view through your lens.  It was definitely a learning experience on so many different levels but also a super energizing and fun day! Thank you for this opportunity to share. Thank you to Status Fitness also for supporting the competitors in Alberta. Rodney, You, Asha and the rest of the Status team have done so much for us and it is appreciated. Thank you.

About David Ford

UFC and fitness celebrity cover photographer David Ford is a world renowned, multi-accredited professional photographer by the Professional Photographers of Canada and the Professional Photographers of America, an international author and public speaker. The foundations of David's business include his professionalism, knowledge and skill set.