How to Photograph Yourself Doing Aerial.

Updated: Nov 30, 2019

When I started doing aerial six years ago I knew I wanted to document every workout. Mainly, I wanted to track my progress, but I also wanted to review footage between sessions to cement choreography and movement phrases into my mind. Sometimes I filmed my workouts from my canon DSLR. But often, it was just from my iPhone 6.

Being a filmmaker, I thought a lot about where I would prop my phone when recording. The angles, the lighting, etc... I've come up with a set of guidelines that I've used to capture my own workouts. These so-called-rules have also informed a lot of our versatile assassins videos.

So... I'm going to break down some helpful tips here:

First tip...

Capture video, then take a screenshot.

Even if you have someone taking photos for you, it's better if you ask them to take a video. You can always pull a still or a screenshot from it. AND... (as I said before) I love reviewing old videos to remind me of choreography and help me track my growth.


When you're first starting out in aerial (or learning a new movement sequence) it's best to avoid spinning. However, once you are comfortable, spinning makes aerial look more dynamic in video, and it will also help you pull a better screenshot, because you can pick the angle that looks best for your lines. One thing that has helped me is to SLOW DOWN my movements so that each one naturally takes a full spinning rotation. This way I don't have to hold a "pose" while waiting for the silk to turn all the way around. Also... I think aerial looks more graceful and effortless when it's done at an intentionally relaxed pace.

Don't shoot from below

There are exceptions to every rule, and I will admit that there are a few "moves" or "tricks" that can look quite compelling from right underneath. But for the most part, I'm of the opinion that aerial looks best when you are viewing it from the side.

You can avoid a lot of crotch shots, and capture more interesting shapes when your camera is perpendicular to the plane of space your body is creating. Imagine how different this shot would look if I had the camera angled low from right beneath me.

Clean background

You want your body to be the focus of your photograph, not the stuff hanging on the wall.

So, if you practice in a studio with a busy wall, avoid using that wall as a backdrop. Here's a photo Christa took of me training at Aerial Warehouse when Mark and Selkie were out of town a few years back. Christa angled her camera so that the empty part of the wall was behind me. Compare that to another photo taken in the exact same space by another (less experienced) aerial photographer. I'm doing a doubles act with Kassandra Kernes, and we are both getting lost in the background.

If you can't get a super simple background, I recommend shooting with a greater depth of field if possible. Longer lenses (if you are shooting in a big space) and/or a more open iris can help you achieve that.

Pro tip... a simple, brighter background can be really compelling and allow you to create a silhouette...

Silhouettes are your friend

My favorite images of myself are always ones where you can't really tell it's me. It's not that I don't like the way I look, it's simply that I find the picture to be more powerful in silhouette form - where I could be anyone or represent anything.

Silhouettes are powerful communicators -- compelling and memorable, they burn shapes into your mind very effectively. One simple way to create silhouettes in your videos-- shoot with a large window behind you. Not everyone has access to a space like Mark's (where Selkie and I often train), so another great way to create a silhouette is by shooting outside with the sun behind you.

It's all about backlight.

If you can't do aerial in front of a window or outside with the sun as backlight, throw some indoor lights on behind you. The effect works extra well if you add smoke like we did for Eye of the Needle and Once Upon A Dream.

Here's a shot of me doing a light test on our Eye of the Needle set, while Selkie was still getting ready.

Film yourself from far away

I love seeing how high I am in relation to the ground!

It's hard to communicate how high up we are in a picture unless you either shoot from right beneath you on a wide lens or shoot from far away. As I stated above, aerial doesn't often look as good from right below, so I recommend putting your camera as far away as you can.

Train in a small studio that makes this hard? Install a mirror on the wall and film yourself in the reflection! This