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Use a sexy, single light source

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Group photograph of the Trifecta Collective including burlesque performers from left, Evangeline Cain, Penelope Mais Oui Burlesque and Chairmyn Meow. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Group photograph of the Trifecta Collective including burlesque performers from left, Evangeline Cain, Penelope Mais Oui Burlesque and Chairmyn Meow.
I was recently assigned to photograph the burlesque trio called Trifecta The Collective.

The editor who created the assignment scheduled it at the MAT, Millibo Art Theater. The theater is unassuming, but offers a great picture opportunity.

Portrait of burlesque performer Penelope Mais Oui Burlesque using a single light source. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Portrait of burlesque performer Penelope Mais Oui Burlesque using a single light source.

When you photograph with a black or dark background, you have the opportunity to make dramatic and sexy pictures. Theaters are perfect for this. A theater is designed to isolate the subject using light.

So, I decided to take advantage of this in the shoot. I brought with me one flash and one shoot-through umbrella. Using a remote trigger, I created the appropriate drama by isolating each performer and the entire group using my single light.

I love the results.

Portrait of burlesque performer Chairmyn Meow using a single light source. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Portrait of burlesque performer Chairmyn Meow using a single light source.

Good burlesque is known for using the audience's imagination. I wanted the pictures to fill in the blanks, so-to-speak, and I used my light source to create shadow. By using a single light, I could eliminate props and other distractions that would take away from the impact of the photographs.

Finally, it was important to me to pose them in a flattering way. To do this took some time. After all, they're in the flesh and just a little bit self-conscious. Penelope said it best when she said the shots she likes are the ones where she's performing and not self-conscious.

Portrait of burlesque performer Evangeline Cain using a single light source. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Portrait of burlesque performer Evangeline Cain using a single light source.

I wanted to create a space where everyone felt comfortable. By spending some time to create that environment, everyone could relax a little and those images are ones I like the best. Sharing a laugh is often a great way to get everyone to relax.

Group photograph of the Trifecta Collective including burlesque performers from left, Evangeline Cain, Penelope Mais Oui Burlesque and Chairmyn Meow. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Group photograph of the Trifecta Collective including burlesque performers from left, Evangeline Cain, Penelope Mais Oui Burlesque and Chairmyn Meow.

If you ever find yourself in this situation, make sure to keep it simple. Use a single light source, make everyone comfortable and eliminate any distractions in the composition.

Here I am using my single light source to isolate burlesque performer Evangeline Cain. Compare this photograph to her portrait. Notice the theater seats are barely seen in the background of her portrait. - IMAGE COURTESY OF TRIFECTA COLLECTINVE
  • Image Courtesy of Trifecta Collectinve
  • Here I am using my single light source to isolate burlesque performer Evangeline Cain. Compare this photograph to her portrait. Notice the theater seats are barely seen in the background of her portrait.

Happy Shooting!
Sean Cayton is a wedding photojournalist of 19 years and operates a successful, award-winning wedding photography studio in Colorado Springs. He's also an award-winning photojournalist. Sean is happily married to the love of his life (also his business partner) and is father to three beautiful children. When he’s not working, Sean can be found outside flying kites with his kids, hitting golf balls or casting a fly rod to hungry trout.

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