One of my first ever full day shoots was with a group of burlesque performers who were all part of a project to create a charity calendar. The idea was that each of the 12 performers would feature for a month of their choice, with the freedom to wear as much, or as little, as they wanted, with all of the proceeds going to a local charity.
If you’re ever in need of a body positive day, work with burlesque performers. If you need to practice being around people in various states of undress, work with burlesque performers. Actually, just want to be part of a fun shoot? Definitely work with burlesque performers!
As I’ll be doing my second one at some point this year, I thought it’d be best if I made a note of all of the things the first one taught me (I was thrown in a little at the deep end), and share it with you too! There are a lot of things to consider before you get anywhere near the studio, and planning everything in advance makes the final day run as smoothly as possible.
Have the organiser create a Facebook or WhatsApp group of all of the models and join it. I found that writing a little introductory post about myself, along with some examples of work, really helped make the models feel comfortable and gave them an idea of what to expect from me in terms of style. It also allowed them to ask questions about what they’d like to do, which made the overall collaboration much easier.
When you’re planning your timings, it’s worth thinking about whether you’re going to change your studio background or not. My preferred background is black muslin and I rarely use other colours. Not only does it give me an easier time of it when I’m editing, but not having to swap backgrounds often eliminates the need for an assistant or needing to allow for extra setup time. If you’re not going to swap it out, make sure those with super glittery or feathery costumes have their shoots towards the end of the day. I found trying to clear up feathers a pain so fell back on editing rogue feathers out in post.
Ask the models to tell you what their costumes are going to include before they get to the studio. That includes any props too! It’s difficult to plan for a lot of individual shoots, as well as change the set for each one, so knowing what you’re going to fit in to each time slot is essential. This also helps you with planning the sorts of poses you’d like to have for each image.
My studio has an indoor and outdoor area that I use frequently; if possible, don’t restrict yourself to the studio and risk each month looking too ‘same-y’. You’d be surprised at how moving around your shooting space can change the feel of an image set. I tried to get those with dramatic costumes outside, but asked the models with more detailed makeup/costumes to stay in the studio.
Start off with a basic lighting set up. If you’re going to need to get through multiple models, who most likely will have different costumes, skin tones, heights, and poses, you’ll need to be able to customise your set quickly. I usually use a simple 5 soft box set up; 2 on either side of my model, and a catchlight above my model. It’s really easy for me to then be able to adjust the light positions, heights, and switch some of them off for more dramatic set lighting.
Don’t worry if your shoot schedule doesn’t go to plan; I had a pair of models running late for my day shoot, which sometimes happens and can’t be helped. It wasn’t too much of a problem as I was able to find someone ready in makeup to take their spot. If you do have any hiccups don’t let this throw you off. Can you swap your sessions around? Great! Are you stuck? Don’t worry, take the time to get some behind the scenes images instead. It’ll still be useful work!
Oh, and as you’re working all day please make sure you have enough food and water to last you. It sounds really silly, but if you don’t eat or drink you will feel absolutely awful at around 4 hours in. Remember, you’re not just standing there; you’ll be there early to set up, moving around, and reorganising equipment, as well as packing up once everyone is done. Take the snacks and thank me later.
I could, probably, write an endless list of things I learnt and have added to my list for my next day shoot, but those are the main things that’ll hopefully make your day a little easier. Above all this though? Enjoy it!