Burlesque Photography with the Fujifilm x100

My wife and I are involved in the burlesque community in our city and these events are not only fun to attend, they're a great opportunity for photography. If you've never attended a burlesque event imagine a combination of singing, dance, drama and of course strip-tease.  It's very much old school vaudeville. Small, discreet and silent the Fuji X100 lends itself well to this environment. The technical ins and outs are few and simple but first I'll cover being a photographer in this setting.

Fuji x100 f/2, 1/125 ISO 1600

Venues like these have rules about taking photos and I was denied entry with a camera from one, so always ask the promoter about their policy prior to the show.  It's wise to offer some photos to the promoter as well as to touch base with them at the event to acknowledge you are the person who called/emailed them previously about taking photos.  Being respectful and offering to share the bounty will open doors for you and you'll make a few friends in the process. The next thing is get your seats early and pay for the front row seats if you can.  The 23mm X100 lens is wide and you don't want audience heads in your shots, nor do you want to be standing up and blocking the views of others. I typically don't bring my camera if I don't have front row seats. 

Ideally you don't want to be noticed and the X100 size and ability to shoot silently is in your favor.  My X100 is less conspicuous than most cell phone users because I'm not holding it out in front of me and I have the LED turned off.  So in my case unless you're looking through the EVF someone in the audience wouldn't know it's powered on.

Fujifilm X100 f/2.8 1/60 ISO 800

The technical details are simple: I manually set the shutter from 1/60 to 1/125, the aperture from f/2 to f/2.8 and use auto ISO (up to 3200) and auto white balance.  I shoot RAW so I can fiddle with the WB later (stage lighting can give you grief).  I use the single point auto-focus.  Note that these are dance routines so the action is fluid and sometimes quite fast. You learn to listen to the music to better predict the action. The X100 is known for it's less than speedy auto-focus so learning to predict movement and capturing it quickly is essential. The rest is composition and clarity. 

Fujifilm X100 f/2.5 1/125 ISO 1600

My burlesque shots sometimes reveal a slight motion blur or soft focus.  On one hand this is the result of my unsteady hands, as well as the result of the slower shutter speed. I think motion blur can add to the drama of the image so I don't worry if my shots are not brilliant in their level of sharpness. I have my own standards on the level of sharpness, motion and grain for that matter, that I find acceptable. 

Fujifilm X100 f/2 1/125 ISO 1600

Other items to consider with the X100 are cropping. 12 megapixels is the low end of medium resolution and because burlesque is usually a single performer you can end up with quite a bit of negative space (that lends nothing to the image). I usually crop that space out which reduces the resolution and increases things like grain and soft focus.  It's a consideration for some people but doesn't cause me any grief. 

Fujifilm X100 f/2 1/125 ISO 1600

Some closing thoughts:  If you have a close proximity the X100 is capable of taking compelling burlesque images and it's size and silent operation lend itself well to this environment. Encased in a leather case makes it a handsome choice to bring along as these are usually semi-formal events. And don't let the term "strip-tease" fool you, burlesque events are no more revealing than a Victoria's Secret fashion show and far more entertaining. It's a good excuse to dust off the coat and tie (or little black dress) and enjoy an evening of entertainment and photography. Plan to answer the question "is that a film camera?" often during intermission.  

All photos were taken at The Kessler and the shows were produced by Diamond Burlesque Productions and La Divina Productions

Fujifilm x100 f/2.8 1/160 ISO 3200

Fujifilm X100 f/2 1/125 ISO 1600