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Your Practice in Pictures

Nicole Rogers, a Pilates instructor in Brooklyn, recently decided to promote her teaching skills online. Below, she shares her tips for reserving your own spot on the web and getting picture-perfect photos for online and print advertising.

In 2006 I quit my job as a television producer to teach Pilates. Post-certification, I was making less than half my previous salary. I was also working two jobs—one started at 6am and the other ended at 9pm. After a year of this, I felt I needed a Brooklyn Pilates instructor Nicole Rogersdifferent strategy. After all, I left my well-paying, high-stress job not just because I love teaching Pilates, but to have a better lifestyle.  

My new strategy started by getting a job at a great studio a few blocks from my apartment in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.  Then a friend of mine got me a job teaching mat classes at her office twice a week. Teaching in offices was lucrative and fun, so I started handing out business cards and getting friends to spread the word at their place of work, but it seemed like no one was taking me seriously. Maybe it seemed like this was a hobby or a phase. I had no desire to open my own studio, but I needed a way to market myself. A website seemed like a good first step. For some reason a website seems to connote that I’ve thought long and hard about this and that I take being a Pilates instructor very seriously. I’d noticed photographer friends hand out cards with their websites and get real feedback.

I had a friend who designs websites get the ball rolling by buying my domain name: www.nicolerogers.com. Then I needed content.  I asked a photographer friend of mine, Mike Vorrasi, to take the pictures, and he even insisted on doing it for free! I thought there was no way my new studio, The Pilates Boutique, would let me shoot in their brand new space.  But I proposed the idea to my bosses anyway. I explained that I was making a website to market myself, and therefore the studio would benefit as well. They agreed, and gave me free-reign to shoot any Sunday evening when no one was there. I enlisted a teacher friend to watch me for form during the shoot and we were ready. 
I wanted to avoid the rather institutional, instructional Pilates photos I’m used to seeing. After all, I used to direct music videos—I wanted something a little more artistic. So on the given Sunday, I assembled my crew and we shot about half of our photos outside and half inside. I realized quickly, that even though I was a production manager, producer and director for eight years, I wasn’t perfectly prepared for the unique challenges a Pilates shoot presents. The following is a list of tips I give you in retrospect. Some of these things I did. Some of them I wish I had done.

Before the shoot:

1) Make sure that the details are clear regarding location and time.  If you are shooting at your studio, make sure everyone knows exactly what is going on and when.  The same is true for your photographer, and whoever else is helping.  Avoiding confusion means avoiding conflict. 

Nicole Rogers instructing client on Pilates pose2) Enlist a friend. You need another instructor looking at each shot for form.  That instructor should also probably be referencing a photo from a book or Pilates training handbook.  If you can’t get anyone to help, bring a full-length mirror so you can do a quick check yourself.  It also just helps to have someone to talk to (“are my hips in line with my shoulders?” “do my abs look like they’re drawn in?”), even if they aren’t a Pilates instructor.

3) Talk to the photographer about what you want.  Mike, my photographer, asked for sample photos that had a color palette and contrast similar to what I wanted.  Be really explicit here.  It’s easier to be clear before you shoot than deal with photos that aren’t quite right after the fact.

4) Come up with a shot list.  You will be running the show the day of the shoot, so it’s helpful to have a list of photos you need, and another list of shots that would be nice to have if you have extra time.  Include times, addresses and phone numbers as a sort of reference sheet for your whole crew.  Your photographer will thank you.

5) Decide what you are wearing ahead of time.  Fitted is better than loose clothing, which can be distracting.  Take Polaroids or digital photos if you need to get a sense of what you’ll look like.  I drove everyone nuts with my constant leotard changing.  Also, keep in mind the color of the machines you will be on.  If the mat part is black, you will blend in too much of you are also wearing black.

Day of:

1) I am not a fan of hairspray, but if there is ever a time to use it, that time is now.  Hair looks best off of the face and neatly pulled back.  It’s just best if you don’t feel like you need to futz with your hair between every shot.

2) Even though you may be an expert at the exercise you are doing, always do a quick check in your head (or have your instructor/friend help you): hands, ribs, shoulders, belly, etc.  You already know your own tendencies.  Do you tend to lift your shoulders?  Pop your ribs out?  You are probably doing it in your pictures too.

3) Be realistic about what you can get done.  As difficult as any Pilates session can be, chances are you’ve never tried holding those poses for long periods while someone photographs you and gives you direction about your facial expression.  You may end up twisting solely in one direction  over and over again.  This is all really taxing.  Give yourself a time you would like to finish and stick to it.  I think we went for 6 hours and I could barely stand the next day.

4) Be generous.  Get bottled water for your crew, and make sure they are having a good time.  This should be fun.


1) Make sure to thank everyone who helped profusely.

2) Look carefully at all of the photos.  Select a few with a lot of promise.  Have your photographer help you look for ways of cropping, color correcting, etc to make them exactly the way you want them. WE shot digital which was cheaper (no film and processing costs) and it made it easy for me—and my friends and advisors—to view the photographs.

3) Use them!  Make a brochure or a website!  Show your friends what it is that you do for a living.  My grandparents are actually more confused now that they have seen the photos.

My good friend Jessica gave me a list of poses that work well for still photography before my shoot and I have added a few that I liked as well.  But if you are really amazing at a particular exercise, try it.  This part is fun – be creative!

Nicole%202.jpgShort Spine
Long Stretch
Chest Expansion
Snake and Twist
Short Box Twist

Open Leg Rocker
Single Leg Stretch
Straight Leg Stretch
Leg Pull Back

Teaser with the bar
Hanging Pull Ups

Make sure your photographer takes plenty of photos that show your entire body.  You can always crop later.  It’s also a good idea to get some artsy shots of feet on the foot bar, hands on the bar, etc., just as a back up in case you don’t love all of your full body shots.

Posted on Wednesday, October 3, 2007 at 12:11PM by Registered CommenterJessica Cassity in , | Comments1 Comment | References3 References

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