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5 Tips for Circus Photo Shoot Success

Originally published November 20, 2016

Aerial circus is pretty damn spectacular to begin with, but take proper photos with proper lighting and it’s stunning. Professional studio lighting and a skilled photographer will make you your most beautiful, but make sure that you get the most out of your session by coming prepared.

1. Plan Out Your Moves Come prepared with a list of what you want to get on film, and make sure that you are comfortable holding them for longer than you typically would during a practice or performance. Because you need to hold them for so long – 30 seconds or more – it’s best to pick tricks that you are comfortable with. A good shot of your easiest trick will look infinitely better than a by-the-skin-of-your-teeth shot of your hardest move.

Write down that list, because you WILL have a brain fart and forget what’s on it. Come with more that you can get through and rank them by preference so that you for sure have time for your favourites. Practice all of them the week leading up to the shoot.

Drops and rotations usually can’t be captured in studio due to the lights being too low. Fabric movement however can look fabulous, if your timing’s right. Practice beforehand and be prepared to spend a decent amount of time trying to get the shot.

Our suggestion: sandwich your hardest moves in the middle. That way you have easy poses to warm-up and easy poses near the end when your grip is fatigued. Avoid tricks that you find painful because you’re going to be sitting there for a while.

2. Come Looking Your Best Remember that stage make-up is vastly different than photo make-up. DO NOT WEAR STAGE MAKE-UP! There’s no one in some back row 300 meters away that’s trying to see you. The photographer is up close and personal, so regular day-to-day make-up will look just fine, and the lighting and shadows will add extra drama and definition to your features even if you go without.

Our suggestion: a bit of foundation to cover up any dark circles or even out skin tone, eye shadow and mascara, and subtle lipstick (or match your lipstick to your costume if you’re going themed or dramatic).

Do your hair, but also keep in mind that inverted poses will make most down-do’s look messy. If you have your heart set on showing off your long hair, try to stick to upright poses and save the upside down tricks for last.

Our suggestion: simple up-do with hair out of your face, use some product in your hair (guys too) to prevent frizz. Don’t be afraid to accessorize with feathers, fascinators, etc.

3. Test Out Your Costume

One thing that’s fun about photo shoots is that you don’t have to worry as much about rope burn, since you’re so close to the ground, so it opens up the door to shorts with bare legs or thin, designer tights.

What colour are your silks? Chose a contrasting colour for your costume so that you don’t blend in to the fabric, but make sure they go together. (FYI, we’re using white silks on the 27th, so any colour will look great!)

Also, if you are going for a theme, go all the way! Make sure the whole ensemble works towards your vision.

Our suggestions: patterned lace, stripes, fishnets will bring a fabulous texture to your limbs. If wearing pants or t-shirts, avoid any degree of flared bottom as it will create strange shapes in the photographs. Opt instead for skin-tight clothing OR poofy clothing, such as tutus.

4. Prepare Your Photographer

Before the shoot, make sure your photographer has an idea of what aerial circus is. There are different challenges than with other subject matters such as height of the lights, swivels turning you to face the wrong way, and of course your limited grip endurance and pain tolerance.

During the shoot, try to describe the shape and orientation of each pose before you go up.

5. Get There Early Arrive 45 to 60 minutes early to touch up your hair and make-up, warm-up, and get settled. You want to ready to go the minute it’s your turn, so your splits should be already at their max and your hands should be thoroughly rosined.

Our suggestion: arrive, warm-up and stretch, do a couple climbs, fix your hair and make-up, and all the while watch the photographer and see how they are working with the other models. If you plan to eat between home and the studio, bring along dental floss and a toothbrush.

Want in on the action? The photo sessions with the talented Codie McLachlan Photography - the photographer of all photos in this blog post - are taking place on Oct 10 and 12th, 2017.

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