L'Amour des Sirènes

Non-Patronizing Reinforcement and Reference for Burleqsuers.

Photographer Etiquette and What Showgirls Should Realize

First off, pretend you’re the average punter with a camera.

You can’t take photos in a strip club, can’t take photos at a play, cinema, or such. You may take them at concerts, but you know you shouldn’t. Why do you feel so damn comfortable taking them at a Burlesque Show?

You shouldn’t.

Every Burlesque Show should have a sign : No photography allowed without permission. Certainly no video of any kind without permission, either. This is very important.

Ladies : if your average unknown-to-you photographer asks, make a deal with them : You get the final social-media publishable veto, and they will be credited. They’re offering, you don’t owe them anything else. That is, of course, if you want to allow them to shoot at all. No pressure.

Photographers : always ask. You’ll most likely get a yes, especially if you’re a regular, and your face is known, or you know a girl in the troupe personally.

Legally, the rule is that it’s the venue’s call if you can or cannot shoot, and is final, despite who else says you may. That falls onto the manager on duty. With Burlesque, this never really happens this way. The venues are usually fine with whatever the troupe endorses. You need to find the Troupe leader. If the Troupe Leader doesn’t know about each and all of the performers’ wishes, they’ll ask them. Very most likely, this is your point of contact, and should be until you get to know the troupe. Pay to get in, no squabbling, THEN find Troupe Leader. Go early. Get a good seat. Do not block any of the audience’s views. Be polite if you accidentally do. Don’t barge into anywhere a common audience member cannot go. If you get a ‘no’ to anything, comply. Seriously, comply.

…and ask to use your flash, for many a reason. Most prominently, it can affect those around you more than you know, antagonistically. It is usually unflattering at the angle you’ll be shooting.  Any kind of juggling act, or act that requires split-second timing? NEVER use your flash, even if allowed. I don’t think I have to tell you why.

When it comes to quality of photographs of burlesque live shows, there’s quite a stereotype that’s largely accurate : Females take better photos than Males do. The reason is Women are more intuitive to what makes a good Burlesque photo : Good face, then body, then overall composition. Most (amateur) Men mix it up a bit. Good body, then face, then composition. Most men want the good body shot, and think they’re done, most women know the girl in question will hate it if everything’s wonderful, except the face. Herein lies a secret. Blurry? Delete on the fly. Bad face? Delete on the fly. The rest, wait until you get home to enlarge and sort them out. Never forget the pecking order of what you think is a good burlesque photo.

Shot the show with success?

When starting off, show the troupe leader BEFORE putting them anywhere. You want to be invited to shoot again, right? Publish them responsibly, and you should never have a problem with being allowed to shoot them again; you may even get paid one day!

Performers : Be picky. They are using your face, your name, your brand to represent you and themselves. Make sure you’re fine with the pic. People who have never seen your show will see it. People who did see your show will see it, and always have that reference photo, more prominent than any memory of your act.

Is your face acceptable in the photo? I don’t care how gorgeous you are, the camera can and will catch you unflatteringly. A good photographer will never have them saved on his card – instantly deleted, so you’ll never know. How is your body? Have a slim waist, and somehow, between twist, light, and shadow you have rolls? Did the light give you faux-cellulite you don’t remember having, and you don’t have now? Does a harsh spotlight make you look mannish or even unrecognizable? Did you have a nipple slip? A ‘side-saddle?’ (fixable with a photoshop labiectomy,) A ‘peek?’ (do I have to go into string backs not covering much during a bend-over facing the crowd?) Does a shadow strategically place itself under your lip where you look like you have a cracked tooth? DO YOU WANT PROSPECTIVE FANS TO THINK THIS IS YOUR PROFESSIONAL PRESENCE? Remember, 99% of them will wind up on Facebook, and you will be tagged.

A good photographer may have the occasional slip-up, but can fix it. A learning amateur needs this to be gently pointed out. An unreasonable one offended by your tactful comments on their shoddy work of YOUR body need not be invited (or even admitted,) ever again.

Also, unless he’s the kind of person you’d invite over for Thanksgiving, and has at least met ALL of the girls in your show with some familiarity, DO NOT let them backstage. That is your area.

Note the tone of mutual respect.

Dancers, be flattered and understanding, but you are under no obligation to say yes to anything you do not want to, and have the right to censor your own image (brand.)

Photographers, despite your level of professionalism, these ladies are swamped with creepers, be Clark fucking Gable, and be reasonable and understanding.

Credit each other plainly (including tagging.) To not do so is very poor form.

But what about cell-phone pics?

In the unlikely event someone takes a recognizable cell-phone pic, and posts it on Facebook, it’s useless to admonish them for taking it, and no-one expects it to be quality; however, if it offends you, ask them to remove it, but do so graciously. If not removed, report it. Pass the word around, because you will now know who this person is. Don’t de-friend them, keep a look-out on their profile for the future.

What about video?

Zero-tolerance should be used unless expressly permitted. If it’s taken with a cell phone, be the judge on a case-to-case basis. It will most likely come out terribly, anyway, and doubtfully clear enough to even be recognized as you.

What about real photo-creepers?

Much like the guy I caught leaning into and in front of the crowd to take ultra-close up shots of the girls’ asses as they bent over for the audience (yet no-one saw him?) and then, during fully-lit intermission, leaning over and taking close-ups of the audience ladies’ feet, stop and confront him. …especially if he has a zoom lens and all in your faces (in this case, asses and feet.) You have the right to eject him. You may not have the right to take his camera/card, but he probably doesn’t know that, get the Burlesque Boyfriend Brigade and Bouncers to corner him, and delete them. Take a cell-phone pic of his face. Take several. Text that pic to everyone in the local community, and your usual door-guy. If you’re gracious enough to ever let him back in (or he slips in past a not-in-the-loop doorman,) and you’re reluctant to kick him out, put a trusted person on him, to see if he has a camera. If so, eject him. If not, give him a short leash.

What if they use the photo in a manner we have not discussed?

Find them, question them. Regardless of the permission of the troupe leader, there is no bail-out “no expectation of privacy” in a club, especially if they pay to get in; therefore, you have the legal right to take that as far as you want to.

Professional photographer wants to formally shoot us, any different rules for them?

While they’re more likely to re-use the image for their own purposes aside from portfolio, they will rarely do so without explicit permission of the subject. They (should) know better. Regardless, ask to have certain information embedded into the metadata in post production, and make sure you tell him what you do and don’t want in there. They most likely will end up on a photography site, and, if all goes well, will be good photos, and (with good metadata,) be searchable outside of the site.

Any questions?


  1. Intelligent College Student

    March 12, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    Actually, there is still no reasonable expectation of privacy, regardless of the fact that they paid to get in. Places like bathrooms, dressing rooms, offices with closed doors, etc., those are places where you would have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Unless the club (not the performer, since the club is the one paying the performer) strictly prohibits photography or video recording during a show, a person could walk in and take as many pictures/videos as they want, and post them where they want. The only thing keeping them from doing so is that if they try to sell the print for profit without the subjects consent & waiver, they could have some serious legal issues. They’re paying money to see a show, they should be allowed to take whatever pictures they want, so long as they’re not being used for profit without consent.

    • admin

      March 13, 2014 at 2:18 am

      I’ve shot (and have heard this defined) in over a dozen states, but, sometimes the law changes, but get this :

      Furman v. Sheppard : “an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy reaches its zenith in the home.”

      “business and commercial enterprises generally are not as private as a residence . . . although a club operated for a select clientele may not be public, ‘the fact that the premises are maintained as a club with a membership policy is not conclusive in favor of the club. Failure to enforce limitations on admittance would warrant the conclusion that the persons operating the club had no reasonable expectations of privacy.

      “appellant’s activities could be observed by passers by. To this extent appellant has exposed [himself] to public observation and therefore is not entitled to the same degree of privacy that [he] would enjoy within the confines of her own home.”

      Keep in mind that a cover charge, a 21-restriction, even a sign that the club reserves the right to not admit anyone falls under as ‘restricting admission’ which works in the favor of the club and its patrons.

      However, I am glad you brought this up, because, despite most states use this exact case as a guideline for ‘Reasonable expectation of privacy,’ they do change the wording, now and then. Check with the venue, to find out for sure, when in doubt, a sign prohibiting photography and videography without express permission may be the legal loophole to keep you private.

  2. Well said, though in certain areas (like NYC) the contact person is more likely to be a producer rather than a troupe.

    Some troupes/producers have developed formal agreements that photographers have to sign in order to document a show. And some major events (e.g., BHoF) post their photo policy on their websites.

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