Behind the Scenes of Coach Nicole's SELF Photo Shoot

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Big news in SparkPeople land! I'm so excited that SparkPeople has partnered with SELF magazine to bring you an amazing workout that I created for their September issue. This workout is part of what they've dubbed the SELF Diet Club, a special (and free) weight-loss program that combines my fat-burning workout plan with a healthy, no-deprivation diet to help participants drop a healthy 2 pounds per week. The September issue is on newsstands now, so grab up a copy before they're all gone. What a way to Spread the Spark, am I right? (WOOHOO!)
While I have done a few photo shoots in the past, this SELF photo shoot was unlike anything I have EVER been a part of—so fun, interesting, and cool. I can almost sum it up in three words: THE. BIG. TIME. Before this experience, I never would have guessed what goes into creating what you see on the magazine pages you flip through, so I thought it would be fun to share some behind-the-scenes details and photos of what it was really like.
Before the real photo shoot happened, I worked with the amazing fitness editors at SELF for a few weeks. We discussed concepts for the workouts and what they were hoping to see, and then I created the exercises. It starts out with me taking frill-less photos at the office (like the one you see to the left, which turned out to be the image you see at the top of this blog) to show the various exercises I was thinking about, and little by little we work together to craft the perfect plan, which is a marriage of their vision and my workout expertise and ideas.

Finally, we have all the exercises selected and it's time for the big shoot! But before we get there, I had to send a photo of myself in a bikini to the photo editors so they can decide what kind of clothes to put me in. that was no small feat for me (I don't even own a bikini!), since many of you are familiar with my body-image struggles over the years and the fact that I didn't even wear a bathing suit for almost a decade. But I sucked it up and sent in my picture and sizes, hoping for the best.
The magazine's stylists and photo/art directors decide what you'll wear for the most part. I wanted to be open to whatever it might be, but inside, I was really nervous. My biggest fear was that I'd have to wear lots of very tight, tiny, body-revealing clothes (think short shorts and sports bras), which isn't really my style. Then of course I was worried that I wouldn’t look good enough or that they'd want to Photoshop my body to look better. So I arrived in New York City for the first day of photos. It was just me on a soundstage for a whole day. The plan was to shoot all 16 exercises for the tear-out cards in the magazine, along with a video demonstrating every move. I've done this kind of work before, so I wasn't too nervous—just about the clothes!
When I arrive, I see this rack of clothing: tiny shorts, tiny sports bras, hardly any shirts. None of them were in my size (all were 1-2 sizes smaller than what I usually wear). GULP.

Luckily, I was put at ease right away. They let me select what I felt most comfortable in (shirt, please!), which relieved a lot of my fears. I didn't expect any of it to fit based on the clothing sizes, but the photo director let me in on a photo shoot secret: They tend to put everyone in smaller, more fitted clothes because it photographs better. When clothes are larger, it adds a lot more fabric, which can add bulk to your frame and make it harder to see your body, which is exactly what people NEED to see in an exercise photo. Overall, I think the images turned out really well and I have to agree…she was right. Remember this tip the next time you take any photos yourself and I think you'll be pleased with the outcome of looking a size smaller!
It was a small team on day one: a hair/makeup stylist, a couple fitness editors from SELF, a wardrobe assistant, the photo director for SELF, and the amazing photographer (and a few photo assistants). I was thrilled to see healthy foods available for breakfast, snacks and lunch throughout the day. (I wouldn't expect anything less from SELF though!) It took about 8 hours on set (that included breaks, hair/make-up and outfit changes) to shoot the 16 cards you see in the magazine and the video, which I've embedded below. Check out these hardcore exercises!

As if things couldn't get any better, there were even more photos to do—this time in The Hamptons (fancy). No, I've never been anywhere even close to the Hamptons or any place resembling it, so I was pretty excited about this! To my surprise, I wasn't alone for these shoots. SELF brought along five models. They're the buddies that you see working out (with me and with each other) and enjoying the delicious SELF Diet Club food on the other pages in the magazine. So I became nervous all over again when I knew I'd be sharing the frame with professionals who do this sort of thing all the time!
But it was the best two days ever. The wardrobe was STOCKED with hundreds of fun tops, bottoms, shoes, accessories and more, and while their stylist dressed us, I did have a say in whether or not I'd wear certain items. I'm happy to stay covered up a bit—it's just more fitting for me. (No, I didn't get to keep any of the clothes—everyone asks! Most are "samples" lent to SELF from various companies that must be returned.) I probably wore 7 or 8 different outfits, all awesome, all 2 sizes too small (but I was getting used to it at that point). We took photos running, walking, stretching, doing a fitness class, biking—and so much more.

The crew was bigger this time—and the make-up artist, Joy, was a SparkPeople member! Healthy eats were provided all day, and we got to take in views like you see to the right in between photos, which took place at various McMansion sized homes that we rented for the day. Whenever I had downtime, I'd wander through the houses snapping pictures of their cool rooms and décor.
All of the models made me feel right at home and offered all sorts of tips that I'll surely use if I find myself in a similar situation in the future. I also learned another industry trick: They often skip the socks! In many of the photos, we don't wear any socks; the purpose is to create the appearance of longer legs. Who knew! One other great thing about these models: They were FUN. We talked and joked and had dinner and drinks together every night. And yes, ALL of them ate…a lot, which I was thrilled to see. Yay for models who aren't starving to stay thin! When we took photos of the exercises together, they all agreed that this workout was tough.
So no, I don't run the streets in full make-up and big hair with my beautiful friends every day, but it sure makes for some fun and inspiring photos that accompany what turned out to be a great, high-energy and motivating spread. I'm happy to be representing trainers and women who have real and attainable bodies! Another thing you might not expect: I didn't diet, detox, "cleanse," cut calories or deprive myself of any foods leading up to this shoot. In fact, I did the opposite. A couple days prior, I ate half a large pizza! (I was CRAVING it!) And I followed my normal diet (healthy, but with occasional desserts) and workout plan each day. I'm really proud to be featured for who I am--a healthy, fit, size 8, 150-pound woman. And SELF really embraced the real me without altering my appearance or expecting me to be different. I love them for that!

I will try my hardest to never forget this experience. And I'm still just tickled to death to have been included in SELF magazine. It's been an amazing experience so far, and I appreciate everyone's support, as well as the hard work of everyone involved in making it happen. I hope you'll join me in the SELF Diet Club these next few weeks and pick up a copy of the magazine on newsstands while it's available. None of this would have been possible without SparkPeople and our amazing members, so thank YOU for helping me make this dream come true!

For more photos that didn't make it into the blog (including the wardrobe and shoe room), check out my Facebook page!
Have you checked out the magazine yet? Are you a fan of SELF?