Pole photoshoots are a sort of right of passage for us all. Theres nothing better than some high quality, clean background, fully looking your very best images of all the cool things you can do. And its becoming increasingly clear to all, much like performing, you do not need to be at an advanced level to get some fantastic looking photos. Sometimes, the simple ones are the best. So what do you need to know, and how do you get the best out of the shoot?
So where do I even start?
Start nice and simple....
Check out this photo of Caitlin. Doesn't it look great? (So great its on the wall at the studio!) She's just having a casual lean against the pole, hair down, wearing a checked t-shirt, and that BEAUTIFUL pointed toe on the pole.
- What are your favourite moves, that you can nail every time?
This is one of the most important questions. Cast your mind back to your latest classes (or just take a look at your insta feed) and have a looksee. Can you do them cleanly, every time, with good lines (arms, hands, legs, feet). If you're really struggling to just hold your Jade, its not likely its going to look good! Its ALWAYS better to have a fantastic, simple shot, than to get that shot, but it just looks dreadful, or even worse, you can't even hold it long enough for the photographer to get a good shot.
- Do you want a theme/costume/certain vibe to the shoot?
This can be as simple as a good outfit (and as always, simple works!) You dont need the fanciest new pole set, i would suggest as a minimum, plain top and bottoms that match, and dont get in the way of any grip points you might need. The good thing about not having a theme is that the photos will work for every occasion,. and don't need an explanation! If this isn't your first shoot, or if you're getting into a seasonal vibe, maybe you'll want to expand and do something a little extra.
Is there anybody about to help me?
I can't speak for all shoots, but at OtG I always try to have somebody to hand. Be that an instructor, or just someone with some shoot experience, we'll be there to help with ideas, and all the niggly things, like that pesky label that keeps sticking out or if your hair is over your face after that particularly tricky transition to the elusive superman. I'm in the background of too many shots to count!
How do I plan my time?
Things to do before the day
Scour instagram for ideas, search hashtags like 'polephotoshoot' or 'polephotography', find accounts or website for well know photographers like Late Night Tales, Denyer Pro, Katherine Elizabeth, the Image Cella etc. Scour the insta of all your fave pole dancers, they will have posted shoot photos for sure! When you like something, save it, screenshot it, write it down, draw little stick men....just make yourself a list.
Then, PRACTICE THEM. The one thing I struggle with, and see others struggling with, is ANGLES. Make sure you can work out how to get into a move, if you land at the right angle. Its so frustrating, and so tiring, to get into things again and again for it to face the wrong angle. More on this later.
Think about the order you're going to shoot in. Do you want to put the trickiest moves first, before you get tired? Put the more flexy moves at the end when you're nice and warm and maybe can get those splits an inch flatter? Do the close up shots first, before you sweat the make up off? If you have more than one outfit, or are using more than one background, think about how each of those fit in with your different moves, and when you can use your costume change to grab a breather!
So lets talk angles.
Its easy to take every photo from the sideways on angle, that makes sense right? If that makes you feel good, then great! But I'm always one for a unique angle, and sometimes its just about owning it when you end up facing the wrong way! Especially if you have some very 'basic' moves that you want to jazz up a bit. It also mean you can get multiple shots out of one move, win win.
Take a chance in classes to practice angling your moves so you know where you need to start, to end up in the right place! This photo of me below in the grey outfit, while okay, would have been much better had I been facing to the side rather than slightly backwards, thats that pesky superman swivel for you! Other moves where this is a regular problem are layback, ayeshas and side squidgy moves (hip hold, jade, dragon tail etc.)
Don't forget some non-tricky shots.
Personally, I find these work best either in the middle or at the end of your shoot, when you're more comfortable in front of the camera, or when you need a breather! Not all shots have to be tricksy, take a couple of nice close ups, These may be a portrait, or perhaps a close up of your outfit, or a prop. If the idea of having to think about what your face looks like terrifies you (me very much included), ask the photographer if he can take some candid shots throughout the shoot, or take a few minutes to just chat to someone else in the room so you're not necessarily looking at the camera.
What about props?
Props, or a particularly fancy costume can be a great way of jazzing up simple shots. Again, have a play beforehand, maybe do a little test shoot by having a look with some poses in the studio or your bedroom with your phones front camera, make sure it behaves the way you want it to if its costume, or something big, and doesn't end up covering up, or being covered up, making a messy shot. If you're wanting to do something super fancy, for example this smoke shoot below that we did a few years back, that is absolutely something you need to talk to the photographer about first! We got some smashing shots, but there was also a lot of trial and error involved, as you can see. Not really suitable for shorter shoots, when you have someone else following you and the clean up may take a while. If its something that can be swept up, like confetti, great! Best to ask if its something small like glitter that might hang around and end up in the next persons shoot.
What about dynamic stuff?
Things where you are moving can produce great shots. However, they're not the easiest shots for you or the photographer, and may take a few (or a lot of) attempts to get right. Make sure whatever you are doing, that you can do it slowly and controlled, and that its consistent so if you have to do it again, it will look exactly the same. I got super lucky and got this shot of my full moon within the first three goes! It wasn't the angle I was picturing, but its one of my favourite shots. I would strongly suggest just trying a super simple one to begin with, and then if you want to do more in future shoots, maybe chat to the photographer before the shoot and they can tell you if it will be something they think they can capture.
What happens on the day?
In this photo you can see some of the lighting set up, and sort of work out the size of the backdrop. Theres not usually this many people! This was a huge group shoot we did with everybody at once. Whatever time your shoot starts, you want to be warm and ready to go straight away! Make sure you arrive in plenty of time to sort out any clothes, hair and make up. When we do shoots at OtG theres always space for you to get ready, and its not difficult to find a mirror! The person before you may be in the middle of their shoot, so just stay out of the way of the photographer and all the sets and sort yourself out. There is usually a spare pole for you to use to warm yourself up and check your grip etc. Make sure you've cut out any labels if possible, that you dont have hairbands around your wrists, and that you have clean feet! Dirty feet are a photographers nightmare, see below!
When its your turn, bring any extra outfits and props to keep close to hand so you don't waste time rummaging through your bags. Your photographer might want to move lighting, do some test shots etc, so take a minute or two to put any extra grip on your or the pole, and just do a couple moves to warm it up.
Another thing to do is take note on how far away the backdrop is, the last thing you want to do is put a foot through the backdrop! Its been done, and will happen again. The photographer may just start snapping, to test the lighting etc. and then you're away! Just keep moving along, feel free to ask any questions (is that the right angle, was my leg straight in that?), just sort working through your list, The photographer may or may not offer some direction, some ideas, or maybe you'll have had such good ideas you will fly through!
The most important thing....
..is to just enjoy the experience. Its not just about the photos that come out of it, its about the experience of the shoot itself too. The best shots come from the shoots where you have fun, laugh and enjoy yourself. Let the smiles happen, don't take it too seriously and I promise you, those photos will be the best ones. If a certain shot isn't working, just move on and do another. Theres no tick list of which shots you need to have a successful photoshoot, and ten good shots of different moves is always better than that one shot that you feel is most important!
This January I left my full time, degree level, not-far-off minimal wage office job in a small high end design company to run my own pole dance studio. Now it appears dance isn’t worth it, what would you suggest?
Should I be a doctor? I spend my spare time reading, researching and learning about the human body and it’s workings, in an effort to be a better teacher, dancer and athlete.
Or how about a teacher? Teaching dance has given me the skills to communicate knowledge with anybody and everybody.
An accountant? I’ve been doing my own tax returns and I do all the books for the studio.
How about a job in Communications, or PR? I do all the advertising for the studio (and none of my posts have made the news for being called crass by my own culture secretary)
A project manager? Handling my timetable between my own teaching, across multiple sites, along with the studio timetable with four instructors, takes a fair bit of organisation!
Or a data manager? Before I could afford a booking system, I handled up to a hundred bookings a week, including payment, by myself, sometimes on paper, sometimes by computer.
A customer services manager? As well as the instructor, I handle all the enquiries and questions any customer have. I don’t have many complaints.
A team leader? I have three other instructors who i delegate classes and jobs too when they’re not best suited to me, or if I don’t have time.
A skills trainer? As well as teaching my students, all my instructors have started to teach and grown with me, and I would consider myself a good mentor to them.
A lecturer? I’ve got pretty comfortable speaking to people, being microphoned up in front of a room full of nervous people who have their full attention on me for an hour.
A builder? I couldn’t find a builder so I refurbished the studio myself as much as possible. I replaced the floor, installed the under floor heating, and I’ve built that studio from an empty shell to a good looking room if I do say so myself. There’s constant DIY to do, keeping on top of that studio.
A councillor? I’ve formed a close bond with my instructors and students alike, and my studio provides a safe space they often feel comfortable and free to talk about issues they may be struggling with.
Or even a psychologist? Seeing the positive effect dance and movement can have on people’s mental health, I’ve recently been spending my spare time reading books and doing research into psychology.
An auditor? There’s lots of procedures and steps to be taking in owning your own business, from registering with the council, doing the change of use , handling GDPR regulations, financial records, all up to date training records etc.
A politician, or campaign manager? My studio had some strong opinions on certain matters and it’s important for me to communicate that with my students, so we’ve ran many ‘campaigns’ which involve coming up with ideas, planning them out, and seeing them through.
An events organiser? Maybe I could plan business conferences. I have planned, ran and hosted showcases, events, photoshoots, courses, including choosing the right people to be involved, deciding who is in charge of what and when, getting people to be in the right place at the right time, selling tickets to audience members, finding venues, and making sure we have photographers and videographers so we can promote the event afterwards.
Or something in advertising? All that choreography has given me lots of experience in knowing what looks good, how to go through a design process. I’ve done lots of photoshoots, for myself and my students, so I know how to create a visually pleasing image.
Honestly, I could go on forever. I have GCSE’s, A levels, A BA Hons degree, and I’ve worked in two different jobs related to my degree. One was minimum wage, the other I was essentially a receptionist and I was treated with no respect. I have learned more about myself and gained more transferable skills building and running my creative business than my office jobs ever did. I should have known when I wore sequin shorts under my graduation gown.
More importantly, my job in the creative industry brings people joy every day. I have full confidence that my job teaching pole dance has saved somebodies life, in one way or another. A doctor somewhere (that you stood outside and clapped for) has worked on a Covid ward for two weeks straight, 12, 14, 16 hour shifts, dealing with unimaginable stress and unthinkable memories they will live with for the rest of their life. When they finally get a chance to rest, they do so with the arts. Some may read a book, watch some TV. Watch a theatre show (not right now obviously), or dance their troubles away in my dance studio. I know because they have told me.
I do my work, I pay my taxes. I do so fairly, or at least I did. I need you to tell me why I should keep supporting you if you’re not going to support me.
With all the hatred in the world from every creative in the UK right now