Vancouver-based photographer Albert Law recently worked with personal trainer Carrie Xu, offering a glimpse into her late-night workout regimen through a series of softly-lit black and white images. Albert’s images have a dreamy, hazy effect that adds an aspirational quality to the photographs.
Carrie Xu is an ACE and NASM-certified fitness instructor and serves as a brand ambassador for FirmAbs sports and gym wear. She reached out to Albert to get some images that she could use to promote her services and gain new clients.
This was my first time working with Carrie. We had connected a few months ago, and she mentioned that she was looking for some new photos to promote her business.
The images were shot at RainCity Athletics, a CrossFit gym in Vancouver, and Carrie wore Nike Women. The gym had blinds on the windows that allowed Albert and his assistant Jasper Tam to control the lighting, and the owner of the space was comfortable with them using a fog machine to create the hazy look in the photos.
It took a few weeks of location scouting to find the right location, but we finally settled on this gym that had open spaces that allowed us more flexibility to get various angles.
While the blinds at the gym helped block out external lighting, the lighting within the space itself was harsh, and Albert had to work with his assistant to set up more appropriate lighting across the entire area for the photos.
The main challenge was with lighting inside the gym. Like most, this gym had very bright and even lighting, which works well as a gym but doesn’t look great for setting a mood. So my assistant and I turned off all the lights in the gym and spent about 3 hours relighting the space with our LED fixtures.
After several hours of preparing and lighting the space, Albert began photographing Carrie while Jasper kept an eye on the fog machine and made sure the hazy effect looked right.
Throughout the shoot, Jasper was busy making sure the density of the haze was balanced since we could not turn off the HVAC unit which was sucking out all the fog. In hindsight, a machine with a higher output would have helped.
After the shoot, Albert retouched the final images to get them ready to share with the client, but it was during post-production that he decided to go black and white with the set.
After a bit of color grading, I realized the images had more impact in black and white, so I switched the whole set to that. It gave a better sense of light and shadow, creating a sculptural quality to the talent.
As a black and white set, the images take on a raw quality that’s more typical of documentary-style photography. That, coupled with the hazy effect and careful lighting, makes them interesting vignettes — like you’re getting an exclusive look at how the magic happens.
The skill that clients hire me for is my ability to make shoots look natural. It’s a balance between a photojournalistic look and a refined cinematic look. I want things to look good, but not too good that it feels unrelatable. It has to feel real.