How to Prep for a Photoshoot

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How to Prep Your Body for a Photo Shoot

Prepping for a photoshoot is an interesting experience. Once you’ve gone through it a few times, it becomes second nature, but the first round is pretty hellish.

Questions about photo prep are usually either exceptionally broad or highly specific, so I’ve put together an overview that will cover things from both perspectives: you’ll have a general idea of how it’s done, and walk away with some specifics regarding how to do it.

The thing about photo prep is that it’s pretty exacting stuff, and—if you really want amazing photos—it’s not as simple as getting as lean as possible and then standing in front of a camera.

Which is to say, it’s not rocket science, but it is science. 

My goal here is to give you the ins and outs of photo prep by walking you through one of my own prep periods. At best, I hope you’ll be able to recreate a lot of what I’ll share with you for your own pictures; at worst, I think you’ll find it interesting and enlightening.

Having said that, I want to just cover the basics first, in the event you try to recreate these.

Prepping For Your Prep

First, you need to get into photo-ready shape.

To build on what I said before, while it’s not as simple as just getting super lean, you do need to accomplish this before you start thinking about things like peaking. 

There’s really no point in taking pictures if you’re not ready for them. “Photo ready” can mean a lot of different things to different people. For those involved in Transformation Contests, for example, it’s pretty basic: as long as your after pics look a lot better than your before pictures, you’re in “photo ready” condition, right?

I certainly think so; however, one caveat is that unless you’re truly lean, most people’s after pictures will typically be impressive only when they are sitting next to before pictures—it’s the difference between the two that makes them so.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to get into modeling, or want to have pictures that stand out as “impressive” on their own, without the virtue of comparison, you need to achieve a very respectable level of leanness. It doesn’t have to be “contest” shredded, but you should look damn good.

For me, that’s about 4%-6% (as measured by calipers), mainly because that’s where I’ve been for shoots previously and I see no reason to take pictures that look worse than previous ones. For other guys might be 8%-10%, while women can take great pictures at 14%-16%

Basically, if you’re going to book a shoot, make sure you look better than you’ve ever looked. That’s why you’re capturing it on film.

Here are some general recommendations:

  • ABS – for guys, very visible six pack. For ladies, the outline of your abs should be visible.
  • ARMS – for both men and women, there should be a noticeable delineation between your shoulders and your arms.
  • BACK – very well defined. You don’t need to be able to see your infraspinatus, but the separation between superficial muscles like the traps and lats should be obvious.
  • LEGS – They should look at least a bit defined, but don’t need to have clear delineation between each head of the quadriceps.

 How do you get there?

I’ve written more articles about fat loss than just about anything else on this site, so please browse the archives and pick some stuff out. 

More specifically, I find that a combination of intermittent fasting, macronutrient and calorie manipulation, density training, and the strategic application of the occasional cheat day is a good formula for maximum leanness. 

That said, you can also look into a variety of programs. Obviously, this is something I handle for my coaching clients, whose results speak for themselves.

Finally, for something less individualized, I actually wrote an entire program specifically designed to help people lose stubborn and keep it off, it’s called Fat Loss Forever

Anyway, crosslinking and self-promotion aside, you have a lot of options for stuff to help you get lean. So: get lean, dammit. 

Once you’ve hit the requirements above and ready to take some shots, come back and read the rest of the article.

Done? Awesome. Let’s get into peaking. 

Three Days Before the Shoot

On Water Loading and Depletion

One of the ways to look your best and maximize how lean you are is to become as “dry” as possible. This means that you have to lose as much subcutaneous water as you can, so your skin “fits” tighter to your body, allowing your muscle to show through. Holding water can make you look loose.

Now, it’s important to say that you can’t just stop drinking water—at least not at first. You put your body into “flushing” mode by consuming tons of water. Up to 3 gallons per day.

Here’s the way it works: you drink tons of water, which will down-regulate a hormone called aldosterone, a hormone acts to conserve sodium and secrete potassium. This is the purpose of water-loading—you’re essentially training your body to eliminate water frequently, and in large amounts.

Around 18 hours from when you are going to shoot, you CUT water intake. And when I say cut water, I mean that. The day before the shoot, you should be drinking no more than 3 total cups of water. The day of the shoot, no more than half a cup to a cup.

Because of the hormonal environment created by the load, you’ll continue to excrete water, despite the drastically decreased water intake. 

In combination with a mild herbal diuretic (like dandelion root), this process will help you shed most of your subcutaneous water and look as sharp as you can.

Glycogen Depletion Workouts

For the purposes of clarity, let’s just give a broad definition of glycogen itself. More or less, it’s a polysaccharide substance store intramuscularly (and in the liver, but that’s not overly relevant to our conversation), that is replenished by carbohydrates you’ve consumed.

Functionally, glycogen breaks down into glucose as a quick and readily available form of energy. Aesthetically, as we’ve alluded to, it tends to make you look “fuller” and larger. 

The depletion, and subsequent carb-up, which will make you look bigger, fuller, and allow you to pump to the extreme.

This begs the question, “why deplete just to refill?” 

I don’t want to get too heavy on the science, so I’ll keep this simple. The goal is to deplete and then refill in the right way, allowing for something called supercompensation. In essence, the deplete/carb-up process creates an opportunity to temporarily over-fill muscular glycogen for a very limited window. The result, visually, can be astounding.

Getting back to it, let’s talk about the depletion workout. As the name implies, this is a specific workout intended to completely deplete remaining muscular glycogen.

Just about any higher rep protocol will do for a depletion workout, but I have found that lactic acid training works particularly well. Cycle through a 10 exercise circuit, with each exercise done lactic acid style until you’re depleted.

How do you know you’re depleted? You just know. Much like being drunk, you become aware very suddenly. You’ll have some decent physical indicators. For example, rep number 9 on an overhead press goes smoothly, and rep number 10 completely buries you. You’re depleted.

Carbing Up

The purpose of the carb up is two-fold.

Firstly as I mentioned, you’re re-filling glycogen stores and allowing for supercompensation. Secondly, taking in carbs works synergistically with your water depletion to help you look your best.

According to most bodybuilding and contest prep experts, a gram of carbohydrate pulls 2.7g water into your muscle; and since you’re not taking in any water by the time you start carbing up, the remaining subcutaneous water you’re holding will be pulled into the muscle, helping you achieve a higher level of dryness and a more ripped look.

How much of an effect do water depletion, carb depletion, and then carbing up have?

Consider these two photos of my back.

 How to Prep for a Photoshoot 

Here’s where it gets interesting. The photo on top was taken about 72 hours before the picture on the bottom.

Careful observers will notice that in the photo on top, my arms look fuller; in fact, they look considerably larger. Why?

Because in the photo on the bottom, I was what you’d call “flat”, or carb-depleted. That is, whatever muscular glycogen I’d been store had been depleted during prep workouts. The photo on the bottom was taken at about 6AM on the morning of the shoot—so I still had 7 hours to carb up.

However, let’s look a bit more closely. The picture on the bottom, you’ll notice that my upper back looks consider leaner: my lats look more separated from my teres and infraspinatus; the striations of my traps are a lot more visible; and the “Christmas tree” shape the erector group becomes more obvious.

Did I really lose enough fat over 72 hours to account for these changes? Not likely.

The visual difference occurs because I am holding less water.

So, all of that covers the depletion of both glycogen and water—I look leaner but not as big. The goal, of course, is to have the best of both worlds. And THAT is what the carb up does.

These differences might seem small, but I assure you, that’s not the case. I’ve been through the photo process many times, some with a deplete/load and some without. And let me tell you from experience, the camera notices everything, and every little bit helps.

Now that we’ve covered all of the terminology that might trip some people up, let’s move on.

The Day Before the Photo Shoot

Again, I want to walk you through a day in the life here, so let’s talk about the shoot I was prepping for, which was scheduled on a Friday at 1PM. As a result, final preparations begin on Thursday.

Thursday afternoon:

  • 1PM – Bodyweight workout, just high reps to get some blood flowing.
  • 2PM – 20 minutes in the tanning booth.
  • 3PM – Trained a client and stretched.
  • 4PM – Now the fun begins; a triple dose of dandelion root tea to start the dehydration process.
  • 5PM – Cut water completely and took another triple dose of dandelion root.
  • 505PM – 6:30PM – Depletion workout. As mentioned, lactic acid session.
  • 7PM – Layered up with sweats and walked for about 45 min to sweat (This helps push along the dehydration process).
  • 8PM – The carb up begins (just a little). Dry carbs. Just crackers and jam.
  • 9PM – More dandelion root; just a double dose this time.  By now, I’m peeing every 30 minutes. Also, teeth whitening strips.
  • 9:05 – Epsom salt bath, taken in water so hot that it’s uncomfortable, helps to facilitate sweating of subcutaneous water.
  • 10PM – As many push-ups and pull-ups as possible. This is just to test how depleted I am. If I can only do 40 or so push-ups, I know I’m depleted. I was able to get 33 consecutive push-ups and 13 pull-ups.
  • 10:30PM – Bedtime!

Friday, the day of the photo shoot

  • 5AM – Wake up, test push-ups. 29 push-ups, 9 pull-ups.
  • 530AM – Epsom salt bath, along with another triple dose of dandelion root.
  • 6AM – Gym to take pictures (as above).
  • 630AM – Trained a client
  • 715AM – Tanning booth for 20 minutes. Mostly just to sweat.
  • 8AM – The carb up begins in earnest now. I had a Snickers bar, some peanut butter and crackers, and a few handfuls of dry cereal.
  • 805AM – Back in the Epsom salt bath. Final dose of dandelion root.
  • 830AM – Full shower and full body shave.
  • 930AM – Back to the gym for a client.
  • 1030AM – Home to get ready. I looked in the mirror and damn. I was shredded and pretty dry. Was hoping for a little more dehydrating.
  • 10:45AM – The carb up continues: more dry cereal, some toast with peanut butter, and half a protein bar.
  • 11:15AM – Last minute prep, head to the shoot

The key to modeling: evidently, you need to smile just as hard as you flex your abs. Science™.

The Photo Shoot

I arrived at the shoot about 15 minutes early, and the photographer was about 15 minutes late. Obviously, this led to had a mini-freakout and I spent at least 5 minutes internally arguing with myself about whether I’d been stood up.

While he got set up, I pumped by doing fast-paced pull-ups, dips, and light-weight incline benches.

The shoot itself was pretty good. The club we shot at was gorgeous (H-Club in Jersey City) and the staff was great. People didn’t seem too put off by me walking around half naked most of the day.

To be honest, this is not at all surprising: a lot of the higher-end clubs in both NY and NJ actually love it when these magazines come and shoot at their locations, as it gives them some free publicity.

Anyway, we shot from 1PM-4PM. I did two complete exercise routines – one for back and one for calves (obviously). Both of these, by the way, made it into issues of magazines.

We also did a lot of “pick-up” shots.

This is just random stuff you do around the gym that the photographer assumes the magazine will need at some point. It’s nice to have on hand because if they use it, I get paid. Could be next week or next year. But it gets more work into your portfolio while you’re in peak shape and prevents you having to go through it again.

For pickups we did some Swiss ball, some abs, and then some random “shredded guy leaning on equipment” stuff.

Roman Fitness Systems

You know the type.

For an example of a pick-up shot, we can jump over this little snippet from my Instagram account. 


One time, a supplement company used a photo of me without permission. Rather than seek legal recourse, I decided to just giggle about it. Mainly because the picture doesn’t imply “Dark Rage” but rather “General Bewilderment.” I sometimes wonder how it converted for them. One assume very, very badly. #tbt

A photo posted by Roman (@johnromaniello) on

As mentioned in the picture’s caption, this was a pickup shot randomly taken during a shoot, that was later sold to a supplement company and published in a magazine, promoting some supplement I’d never used. Technically, it’s not required that my permission is granted for that (the photographer owns the image), but it’s customary to do so. 

Most interestingly, the ad was published in 2010, and the picture was taken sometime in early 2007. On the plus side, I got paid for work I did three years prior; on the downside, now there’s this picture of me looking all dumb and confused floating around on the internet. So really, everyone wins. 

We also shot a few “Abercrombie” style pictures. 

You know, the ones were I’m just on some stairs in jeans and no shirt for no reason other than this: While conventional wisdom implies that the rule is no shirt, no service, the reality is different. Empirical evidence suggests that once you are 3% bodyfat, shirts are fully optional; and that not only do you get service without one, that service is younger and hotter.

At least, that is the message I think the photographer was asking me to try to get across.

It should be mentioned, of course, that such shots often come out the best. For example this one, which is by far my most well-known capture.


              “Why do I always lose my shirt? I am the worst.”

This picture, taken by Eric Jacobson, was shot in between a number of wardrobe changes.

It wasn’t really meant to be part of a series and wound up happening quite by accident. 

Obviously, there would never be a time where I’d be wearing wrist wraps and ripped jeans. Unless I was a character in Street Fighter 2.

My point is, contrary to “those shots” being kind of stupid when you plan them, they do occasionally produce some great images.

After that, back to the studio.

Studio work is…well, interesting, for lack of a better word.

You wind up taking hundreds of shots knowing most of them won’t come outright.

shirtoff photoshoot prep

What? You don’t flex this hard when you take your shirt off?

I can’t really explain what it is, but there seems to be no real way to tell what is going to be a great fitness capture, and what will come out too beefcake-y until you do it and see.

Some pictures, like the one on the right, wind up walking the line.

As a general rule for studio work, I like to use the rule of 100; that is, usually for every 100 shots you’ll get 1 decent one. At this particular shoot, we did about 300 studio shots, and I got about 3 that I felt are “usable” in some regard.

Along the way, we ran into a big problem: Water retention.

As I mentioned earlier, the benefits of peaking provided a very limited opportunity to look better than your best. That day, I looked awesome at the gym, and for the beginning of the shoot…but by about 5:30 I was just looking flat, and no amount of carbing-up or pumping was helping.

 Alas, the window had closed. Which means 12 weeks of dieting and 3 days of prep for about 5 hours of glory. I’ll take it.

Overall, I’m glad I put as much work in as I did. I looked great and I think I really couldn’t have peaked better, especially for the beginning part of the shoot.

Back to the Future…

So! I’ve done about 20 or so professional shoots, and the above represents a pretty reasonable description of most of the fitness related ones. Shoots for a fitness product or for clothing are typically faster and a bit more direct. 

Now, most important? Did you enjoy this post?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on all this!

About the Author

John Romaniello is a level 70 orc wizard who spends his days lifting heavy shit and his nights fighting crime. When not doing that, he serves as the Chief Bro King of the Roman Empire and Executive Editor here on RFS. You can read his articles here, and rants on Facebook.

Comments for This Entry

  • No Limits Li

    Loved this - extremely helpful! Thank you John!

    February 2, 2017 at 8:33 am

  • Amira Elshandidi

    I love your article, I learned a lot from it. I am a PT and I will be shooting my photos in 10 days for my Facebook page, is it too late or can I start now? and would yo recommend simpler process for me?

    January 26, 2017 at 10:44 am

  • Sonja

    Hey!!! How do you make a triple dose of dandelion root tea if you cut water completely? This is the part I was confused on. Thanks! :) Love the post!!!

    July 1, 2016 at 4:46 am

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  • Bec Smith

    Loved your way of speaking, sounded humble yet so informative.... will sign up for sure xx

    August 4, 2015 at 8:57 am

  • Nick

    please tell us your steroid stack too :)

    July 19, 2015 at 10:58 pm

  • Rachel Krenek

    Thanks for the tips john! I constantly debatr as to which is the best way to prep for a photshoot, and yours is the most concise, reasonable, and rational one that I've found.

    April 9, 2015 at 2:37 am

  • Lee Owen

    Great article first shoot this week will give it a go! Thanks! :)

    November 30, 2014 at 10:50 pm

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    April 17, 2013 at 4:18 pm

  • Michael C Sanchez

    Damn goodinfo I'll really use this for my shoots I'll send pics when all is said and done. Thanks again man for all the things you do for all of us that you help out. Michael c Sanchez

    July 13, 2012 at 3:01 pm

  • John

    Exactly what I was looking for, Im clueless in the arena. Its friday night at 7 and I have a photo shoot at 2pm on Sunday. Im about 180 and 10% bodyfat with visible abs. I really needed someone to break it down for me as this will be for a charity calendar and I want to kill the session. Was there anymore to your diet than you went into? How many calories would you say to consume or is that not important. What is the acid session Arrrg I have so many questions buy really appreciate what you have allready posted. It alone should really help my clueless self.

    July 15, 2011 at 8:49 pm

  • Mike Burk

    This information is HUGE... thanks for sharing it. It's valuable no matter which side of the camera you're on. And the fitness info is very cool too.

    July 1, 2011 at 1:27 am

  • David Pavel

    Hey Roman, So tomorrow I have this casting shot where I need to look pretty ripped(they're asking for a beachbody) I am fairly lean right now but I just want to look more dry. I cut out my water intake and I was wondering about the diet. Do you really only eat those 3 meals you mentioned in like 20hours? Other than that, I'll do high rep bodyweight exercises to deplete

    June 6, 2011 at 6:41 pm

  • Jim

    Hey Roman Loved this, looking forward to trying it out. Listen, what else are you eating during this final 24 hour period? Are you having post workout protein shakes (with/without carbs (like are they mixed with milk/water/almond milk etc) or anything at all apart from the food mentioned? it just says you had the dandelion tea; crackers and jam; the meal of snickers, peanutbutter and crackers, and dry cereal; and the final meal of dry cereal, toast and peanut butter, anda protein bar. Is that all you had for 24 hours? Also all the deyhydration must be horrible! Respect

    April 19, 2011 at 5:15 am

  • Mike

    Hey Roman, Do you do anything differently for carb loading if a shoot is early in the morning? Is fasting all night while sleeping going to undo the carb loading from the day before? Thanks!

    April 10, 2011 at 9:18 pm

  • Julian

    Hi Roman, I great insight into getting camera ready. I found this article absolutlty although I had heard about cutting water never thought about the overload before hand. Great post, and great new site design

    March 14, 2011 at 4:30 am

  • Kellie Davis

    This is exactly what I needed today. I haven't met a camera since November and have a shoot scheduled late April with a photographer traveling from DC. I keep putting off "prep" because I lean out so easily. After shoveling homemade waffles down my gullet, I read this and decided it's time to put the waffles away. Thanks, Roman!

    March 2, 2011 at 12:07 pm

  • John Romaniello

    Well, no matter what BF% you are, losing water will help you look better for pictures. That said, it's really up to you to decide whether the juice is worth the squeeze. If you're 18% body fat, the difference will be there, but it isn't going to take your pictures from "okay" to "amazing." I'd say this really has value for guys with visible abs. Maybe 11% and below

    February 27, 2011 at 11:55 am

  • John Romaniello

    Good question! I prefer to do just about everything by hand. Usually, what I'll do is make up a template for workouts on the computer, then bring it to the gym and fill it in as I go along. Sort of like the training log sheets that I provide with FPFL - everything pre-written, so I know what I need to do and how to do it. All I need to do is record my performance. Much better that way. I make all notes about the workout (how I felt, any thoughts or insights) by hand on the back of the sheet. Same thing for diet. Eventually, I transfer everything onto a spread sheet, that way I have access to share it with you guys.

    February 27, 2011 at 11:34 am

  • Rick

    Roman, Great blog! You mentioned that you journal and keep great records. Do you do that on your computer, the old fashion way in a notebook where you write everything, on your iPhone? Is that also the same format that you use for your workout journal and food journal or do you keep them separate?

    February 25, 2011 at 11:17 am

  • Carlos

    Thanks Roman I am training to do a photo shoot, not for any thing but just for self satisfaction and maybe the pics might make me some money on the side too. All really good stuff as I had no idea where to start when it came to getting ready for the day Thanks again and I'll keep you posted

    February 25, 2011 at 12:09 am

  • Sash

    Hey Roman, I was one of the people that have e-mailed you in the past regarding photoshoots. The blog is pretty damn awesome, are you planning on documenting your preparation? What I mean, I know I would love to see, and im sure a lot of others as well, would like a weekly progress update on how you are looking, just to make people realise the amount of work/dieting that goes into the prep, and the sort of changes you get on a weekly basis. I know you are probably to busy for that, but thought I would just share the idea. Keep up the great blogging, Sash

    February 24, 2011 at 1:44 pm

  • Steven King

    Roman, What happened to the 5-4-3 system that you were supposed to post or email? Haven't received...just curious.

    February 24, 2011 at 8:26 am

  • Jefe

    Thanks John. Great info! I've heard of body builders getting rid of every ounce of water before competitions, but no one really explained how they went about doing it. I'm in the fifth week in the local Gold's Gym 'Know Your Strength' 12-week challenge. I think this posting will give me an edge when it comes time to take the 'after' photo. So, in essence, I too have a photo shoot lined up for March 21. Guess I better be ready! As of right now, my BF% is 18. Is there a minimum percentage that someone would need to be to actually make your shredding program worth while? BTW.. The christmas tree looks awesome! Adios Amigo

    February 23, 2011 at 10:02 pm

  • John Romaniello

    It would be impossible to stay dry the whole time, but to stay lean, just try to train every day, keep your diet moderately sane, and do a 36 hour fast in the middle of the week

    February 23, 2011 at 4:25 pm

  • John Romaniello

    Ha! It's NOT thinking about women I have a problem with. Happy to help, and thanks for the compliment on the blog layout!

    February 23, 2011 at 4:17 pm

  • John Romaniello

    Happy to be of service, Sam. I'm looking forward to seeing the final product and the pics!

    February 23, 2011 at 4:15 pm

  • John Romaniello

    Thanks for the compliment =) As to your question, it's an interesting distinction. Personally, I would say that pictures allow you to be a bit less lean. For competition, you don't have to be the leanest person in the world...the goal should just be to be the leanest person on stage. So what you're striving for should be the range that other people in the contest have historically been in. For BBing, I'd think ideally a natural guy would compete at 5-7% (some guys can get leaner than others) and take pics at 5-10%. Keep in mind, most of the BBing shots that are in magazines are taken in fair proximity to contests. After a guy competes, he'll have photoshoots booked for a few weeks thereafter; that way, it's just a matter of staying lean and try to get "minipeaks." In any event, for competition for fitness/figure, if you're in a drug tested show I think you should shoot for 11/12% For pics, 12-14%

    February 23, 2011 at 4:13 pm

  • John Romaniello

    1) I try to carb load for about 20 hours...I've done more but I tend to get bloated. 2) The first few hours aren't bad. In between is less than comfortable--the final hours are fucking brutal.

    February 23, 2011 at 4:09 pm

  • John Romaniello

    Yeah, modeling is a bit harder than you'd think. I'd love to see the shots you took, man! And next time you book a shoot, give the above a try, I'd be interested in comparing.

    February 23, 2011 at 4:00 pm

  • John Romaniello

    Good question. I haven't played around with it, so I can't speak from experience, but I know the guys who have used it with success say that it seems to be a bit easier on the body. A bit less lethargy, longer energy boost, etc. I'd be willing to give it a go if I could get my hands on a proper blueprint.

    February 23, 2011 at 3:59 pm

  • John Romaniello

    LOL! Yes, I'd definitely want to be a member of Big Brother's Gym so I could be on camera. Haha, that's awesome. And YES, I will be releasing a muscle building program. I'm thinking of calling it "HRT: Hormonal Response Training". Will address all of the same topics as FPFL, but will manipulate hormones in a way to encourage muscle growth while staying lean.

    February 23, 2011 at 3:58 pm

  • John Romaniello

    AWESOME post on your blog, Jamin. For those who don't know, my man Jamin is a working model, great training, and all around awesome fitness pro. Check his blog out!

    February 23, 2011 at 3:55 pm

  • John Romaniello

    Def book the shoot, man! I'd love to see the pics =) And thanks for the kind words about the blog

    February 23, 2011 at 3:55 pm

  • John Romaniello

    Glad you liked it man! Sorry I keep reading your mind. Once I have blogged about all of the ideas I steal from you, I will quietly dispose of your body.

    February 23, 2011 at 3:53 pm

  • Sam

    I've been putting together a battle plan the last few days of my own body recomp that I'm going to start very soon. This is one piece of the puzzle I was worried about. I've got a good idea how I'm going to run my bulk, and a decent idea on how to do the cut (plus I'm one of those naturally skinny guys so I think I can go pretty far with it pretty quick). The only other thing I wanted is to get that nastey-shredded look right after my cut just for the fun of it. Problem is, I don't know anything at all about how to do it. So thanks for this very important (to me) information. It will help a lot for my final reveal :) P.S. New blog looks phenomenal!

    February 23, 2011 at 3:44 pm

  • Reka

    And a special thank you for pointing out the necessary details for women as well. Unfortunately, we are often neglected in this area, and I'm glad to see that you think about us too:)

    February 23, 2011 at 1:24 pm

  • Reka

    You have awesome handwriting, Roman:)

    February 23, 2011 at 12:57 pm

  • Blaine

    Roman As always a fantastic piece. Thank you so very much for the insight into your prep. One question that I have is we have a little contest going on between my workout group for best body transformation (before/after pics). I think I am on track for that date, however, one week later I am headed to Vegas. Although I do not plan on blowing what I have put into the contest in one week I am curious to your thoughts on keeping lean and dry for another week after you have already done the load/deplete. Thank you again.

    February 23, 2011 at 12:41 pm

  • Ylwa

    Love the new layout, especially the striking Clark Kent look-a-like shot tothe right. Very fluffy-friendly. And much more reader-friendly. How far would ou say photo-shoot ready would go competition-wise. Or rather, how much more do you have left til competition shape when you're in photo shape (fitness figure, not body building)?

    February 23, 2011 at 12:30 pm

  • Jack Galloway

    Nice one on writing this blog Roman! Awesome content as usual! :) A couple of questions though. 1. Do you only carb load for a few hours? You mentioned starting it a little the day before and starting it properly only a few hours before. It's just I've read many who recommend carbing up for 2 or 3 days prior. So what do you think the best way is? 2. I've never cut water like that. So for those of us who haven't, in absolute honesty, how uncomfortable is it being dehydrated for that long?! lol

    February 23, 2011 at 11:13 am

  • John Romaniello

    Mainly, because I'm completely incapable of half-assing anything. I really do have an "all-or-nothing" personality, and that was ESPECIALLY true when I was competing. In order to be successful in a competition, I really have to make it the sole focus of my life. Getting ready for a comp, for me, would mean starting about 6-8 months in advance, and then letting that single goal completely dictate my lifestyle. I can certainly see the value of doing it (would be fun, lots of blog material), but at the moment I'm really focused on a few other goals (creating new programs, getting on TV more, getting into writing a print book), that I just don't want to put too much on my plate. Next year, I think I'd have a better shot at doing it without it being an overwhelming inconvenience.

    February 23, 2011 at 9:39 am

  • John Romaniello

    I'm familiar with Zuzanna, and yes, she is in tip-top shape pretty much year round. Now as the the "natural" part... ;) (sorry, couldn't resist a boob joke). Anyway, to get serious, it really is impressive how lean she stays, and no, I don't really know what her diet is really like, or if she takes any supplements to help. I assume she has fairly good genetics for leanness, which helps--which doesn't take anything away from her. She clearly works her ass off and. Some people just have an easier time maintaining that level of leanness. A lot of it has to do with whether you were lean as a child/adolescent. For most folks, it's extremely difficult to stay there. As an example, Jon Benson and I were at a seminar in August of this past year, and he had been maintaining 6-7% body fat for a long while. He was mentioning how difficult it was, and he had to be exceptionally diligent with warm ups to ensure joint safety. Other guys are able to stay shredded fairly easily, but lose muscle easily. Like anything else, it's really individual.

    February 23, 2011 at 9:27 am

  • Caleb

    Roman! Great job on the article (And cool looking new design on the blog). I just had my first photo shoot this past weekend. Now, I recently had my body fat tested and I'm walking around at 4% body fat (this was bod pod testing, as expected the calipers showed lower body fat of 2%) ... and ... you STILL won't look "model ready" unless you follow Roman's advice! I got my still photos done at the end of filming a 9-DVD work-out-alongside-me workout out DVD's -- so I was drinking water, and eating normally for 3-days leading up to the photo shoot -- and working out for like 6 hours a day. I also ate RIGHT BEFORE the shoot (was actually hoping to get in some starchy carbs cause figured I'd be depleted after the days of working out). While they didn't come out bad per se ... it was obvious there are a LOT of tricks of the trade to make them look GREAT (like Roman's pics). And we only did less than 100 total shots, with how hard it was to get 3 good ones, I can definitely see the 100 for 1 rule in action. Oh yeah, we definitely should of just had the guy following me around and photographing while I Was changing, etc -- you definitely don't know when you're going to get something that comes out perfect. You know I used to laugh at all the super-hot VS models when they would be like "modeling is so hard and uncomfortable because you have to do all these weird poses and look natural" ... but ... they're right! It's a lot like contortionism and trying to smile and "love the camera" at the same time :) Later! Caleb

    February 23, 2011 at 7:55 am

  • Scott Tousignant

    Killer post Roman! It's times like these that make you realize how grateful you are for the little time that you took to document your journey. Love the back shots! I wish that we had special mirrors set up in the gym so we could check our own back muscles out. Maybe one day there will be a gym with a video camera behind the pull-up bar and a tv screen in front of us so we can see our back muscles in action. Do you ever plan on putting out a muscle building program?

    February 23, 2011 at 7:16 am

  • Tpaul

    Hey Roman, great post! Awesome info. Just wondering, out of curiosity, why are you not interested in stepping on stage? Any specific reasons?

    February 23, 2011 at 7:00 am

  • Dietrich Marquardt

    Great post. It's always fun to read about this, since most people don't realise it's pretty much impossible to look ripped like that 24/7, and think that they just don't have the right kind of physique, despite having really low body fat, or being quite muscular. What's your view on fat loading as opposed to carb loading, by the way?

    February 23, 2011 at 4:48 am

  • Jamin Thompson

    Great post Roman, I think I may have to try a few of your tricks for my next shoot (specifically the Epsom salt bath, and experimenting with different lactic acid workouts). Do you always do 2 workouts the day before? That's intense...I think I would blackout from the lack of carbs (but of course I'm going to try that next time haha) I blogged about what I did to prep for a big shoot a few months back if you want to check it out. My routine was pretty similar to yours, but with some different tweaks/hacks. By the way your new blog design is SICK. #FistPump

    February 23, 2011 at 4:24 am

  • Fred

    Btw, love what you'be done to the blog design!

    February 23, 2011 at 2:46 am

  • Fred

    This is awesome stuff John. I've done one shoot previously and I can really see how some of this stuff would contribute to some wicked pics. I will be in the shape of my life come beginning of May, so I'll definitely book a second photo session for that. Looking forward to implementing this. I'll keep you posted on the results!

    February 23, 2011 at 2:45 am

  • Matt Kittoe

    How is it that half your blog posts are about the same topic that I'd been thinking about just hours before they're posted? GET OUT OF MY HEAD! Seriously though, thanks for this. I've been considering getting some modeling shots taken for my own vain reasons, and now I know how to prepare for it after I've reached my physique goals. You da man.

    February 23, 2011 at 12:35 am

  • John Romaniello

    Thanks, Jay, glad you enjoyed. It's definitely an interesting topic. I'm sure some other fitness pros will have a slightly different take, so I'm hoping a few chime in and share some knowledge with us. This is just one way to do it--the way that's always worked for me. And thankfully, it's yielded some good success and led to some pretty good pics.

    February 22, 2011 at 11:30 pm

  • John Romaniello

    Some people do--I'm just not one of them. I have a hard time staying below 9%. So I walk around at about 9-10%...which for me is pretty visible abs at any given point. Basically, I like to stay within "striking" distance. If I need to get to 8% I can do it within 2 weeks if I get my diet perfectly right. I can be in photo shape (without a peaking procedure) in about 4 weeks. Which is what I do for vacations and stuff like that. But, yeah, NO one looks like their best pictures all the time!

    February 22, 2011 at 11:28 pm

  • John Romaniello

    Start with the water LOAD about 7 days away from the shoot. So you're drinking 2.5 -- 3.5 gallons per day for about 6 days. 18 hours from when you need to peak, cut water intake completely. Good luck with the upcoming shoot and your contest, Shaun. Let me know how else I can help.

    February 22, 2011 at 11:26 pm

  • Glenn McBeth

    Very interesting. It's good (from a motivational point of view!) to know you guys don't look that good EVERY day.

    February 22, 2011 at 11:25 pm

  • Shaun

    How far in advance of a shoot do you recommend starting the flushing process? As I'm going to win the Nutrition transformation contest, these are the kinds of things I need to know.

    February 22, 2011 at 11:19 pm

  • Jay

    There is so much information about lifting, so much about nutrition and yet so little about peaking, Probably because it's not as relevant for most people but it's extremely interesting to read about it. Well done.

    February 22, 2011 at 10:56 pm

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