Famed yoga photographer Robert Sturman shows YogaCity NYC’s Alystyre Julian how to make holiday yoga photographs, what poses to strike, what apps to use, tips for shooting, plus cool flipagrams.
Alystyre Julian: How do you make a holiday yoga photographs as a gift?
Robert Sturman: A lot of people use my images for their holiday cards. They make fun ones. The most memorable types of photographs are the ones that are arising from the heart.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a challenging pose. It could be something very simple. Like camel pose. Where the hand is reaching towards the sky. If it’s coming from the heart, it’s a win situation.
So, things like this:
(Sturman presses his hands together in Namaste)
(places both hands over his heart, eyes closed)
(namaste over head)
all that kind of stuff, but centered-like in the heart.
Whatever’s around- -think of it like it’s a mandala and you’re at the center of it.
AJ: Iphone versus digital camera?
RS: The camera is…(picks up his iphone)…right here. This is all anyone needs. It’s an amazing tool. I can send you pictures that were done with this phone that will blow your mind. I’ve done some of my best work with the phone. The thing about it is, the light has to be right.
RS: One of the things that I recommend with yoga photography is to be low. Because when you’re low, you have a better chance of really seeing all the limbs - because all you’re really doing is figurative work.
If you’re low and you’re somewhat looking up, underneath the yogi, it’s going to give that person more of a chance to look more statuesque. Like a sculpture. Like a God, or like a Zeus. And that’s the beauty of it. We are that important. By isolating those moments, that’s such a beautiful gift to give to someone, where you’re actually showing them in that light.
So if they’re in an urdhva dhanurasana, and one leg is pointed to the sky, and there’s whatever background they want, if they’re low, and they put themselves in such a way where they can catch the face-and see through the leg and the arm, the more you can see in between every limb, the better of a chance it is to be a very clear readable image.
AJ:After the photo is taken, how would you suggest that someone package it, so that it’s a gift? Would you do a composite of images?
RS: It’s all digital now. People can make mugs, calendars, on sites like Vistaprint, or you can just snap away, and then run it through Applebooks and you have a beautiful book. That’s a really nice gift, with your writings about why you love the person. Or you can just do a good old-fashioned frame.
AJ:Is there a digital flipbook?
RS: That’s an app, flipagram. You take ten pictures and put a song to it, you put ten pictures, I make them all the time.
AJ:Where can I see those?
RS: On my facebook page, the flipagram will show up on the left side in videos.
AJ:When taking a yoga photograph, how can someone train their eyes for that split second where you magically capture the person in the pose?
RS: I think you just have to be enchanted with what’s in front of you. It makes things easy because it’s so beautiful. If you just appreciate that and you love what you’re looking at, and you know a couple things about getting low and separating the body parts and making sure you see the face, then you’re going to have a really beautiful picture. Yoga is cheating.
AJ: What poses suggest the holiday theme to you?
RS: I like this pose called Honey in the Heart. Where, it’s wild thing, but instead of reaching to the sky, you put your hand on your heart to cultivate honey. Yoga is very passionate and touches on biblical themes that you see in history, reaching towards the sky, and being in the heart, and the eyes closed, and just the drama of our existence. Joy and bliss as well. So you’re either reaching, or your hands are on your heart, and they are both so beautiful.
AJ:And what about shooting inversions?
RS: Just be sure to tuck your shirt in, so it doesn’t get sloppy. Wear something fitted and tight. And if you have long hair, maybe tie your hair up, so it doesn’t get in the way of your face.
AJ: Posing with animals and kids?
RS: A dog anywhere while a pose is going on is great, or a cat. They can just do what they do. Kids are fun too. Like if someone is in wheel, and the little kid is in bow, atop of the mom, very pretty.
AJ: What about making holiday group shots, maybe a yoga sleighride?
RS: Group shots are the hardest, for me, because I’m such a stickler about spatial relationships. I don’t want any body parts crossing with the others.
Because if they are making the mudra like this (Sturman demos thumb and index fingers pressed flat together), that’s a fail for me because you’ve got to be able to see the sky through there.
AJ: What’s inspiring you right now?
RS: I’m so happy to be home, and just relaxing and being able to practice with my favorite teacher Micheline Berry, be with my girlfriend and my dog, and watch sports. It balances all the poetry out. Too much poetry! But I’m working on leggings! Believe it or not, I’m designing leggings, I’m having a really good time, putting my art on leggings.
AJ:Leggings are so much fun. My sister Martha Booke designs leggings from Brazil, and I wear them to teach yoga.
RS: Leggings are awesome! Put a pair of high heels on with some, and they’re hot!
AJ:It’s a good idea for a yoga photograph, to wear some nice leggings.
RS: I’m going to do a self-portrait in some leggings.
AJ: Let us know so we can see the picture, and happy holidays!
Top two Photos by Robert Sturman, next two of Alystyre Julian, trying out what she's learned.