What I learnt Shooting These Photos At The Moulin Rouge

Carla Coulson moulin Rouge

Looking back through my archives of photos is like time travelling and these shots taking at the Moulin Rouge take me back to the beginning of my arrival in Paris. How very lucky I was to work with the fabulous dancers the Moulin Rouge and Le Lido de Paris, they taught me so much.

I remember when I finally had the go-ahead to shoot the girls on stage and it was up to me to decide what to shoot, how to shoot them and what mood to create I had to think about it a lot long before starting.

Moulin Rouge Paris Carla Coulson

One of the greatest difficulties for us photographers is where to start especially when we have a smorgasboard of options, incredible costumes, beautiful girls and locations.

Carla Coulson Moulin Rouge Paris

Here’s What I learnt shooting these pics:

1. Research some ideas and choose a theme that you would like to start with.

2. I wanted to create a portrait series of the dancers. I had seen lots of pics live on stage image so I wanted to take them out of that environment and create a timeless feeling.

Moulin Rouge Carla Coulson paris

3. I wanted something moody so the light selection was really important. I chose to use just one main light on the girls and surround them in darkness.

4. My pictures previously had been full of energy, movement and life and I decided to challenge myself and photograph ‘silence’! I asked the girls to always have their eyes down and not to look at me as though they were in a dream.

Carla Coulson moulin Rouge Paris

5. I wanted the slightest blur to give the feeling of a dream. Working on a shutter speed of 1/60th second I asked the girls to take the smallest steps forward and backward and this is how we created the blur.

6. Dancers are brilliant to photograph as they are aware of every movement their body makes and they are always striving for elegance and poise. But I didn’t want photos that were stiff so we worked together to use their form to create interesting portrait shapes and then relaxed the poses so they looked natural.

Carla Coulson moulin rouge paris

7. Having wonderful costumes is a dream, the same as adding fashion to a portrait shoot. The shoot takes on an entirely different feel and this is something I always incorporate into my portraits.

8. I gave the girls roles to play, asked them to think of a certain situation or moments to transport them and their mood and voila I took the pic.

You too can apply some of the above examples next time you shoot. Ask yourself what you want to achieve, what mood, feel and research before you start taking pics.

I will be teaching the way I work and how to create emotion in your photos and incorporate fashion into your portraits this summer in Paris at the Picture This Workshop !! I’d love you to join me.. For the full story check here.

I would love to hear if you thought this helpful..

 “I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.??? Steve jobs




PS: If you know a photographer who might like to learn more about combining fashion and portraiture please feel free to share..x

Check out my Portrait Lightroom Presets here.

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9 years ago

I loved this post Carla. The images beautifully represent the emotion and atmosphere you set out to create. And your insights into how you went about the image-makingprocess are valuable reminders of the importance of good planning and creative thinking about the shoot well in advance.
Thank you, Sue (one of your Sydney course alumni) xox

9 years ago

What fun photos, Carla, and how lucky you were to work with the Moulin Rouge girls!!!

Claire Lloyd
9 years ago

Great post and beautiful images. I have always loved them. Very generous of you to share your personal experience.. thank you

Violetta Cordes
9 years ago

That’s really true,Carla!

I am always SO inspired when I read your posts….
Because you can immensly great to describe all deatils and all littlest important things for the peoples,who want to learn!!!

I am a very big fan of photography and try also to make my own pics….
But I know,
real professional photographer should be much more than just the owner of a very good camera!:-)*

Thank you so much for share your experience here!!!
I greatly appriciate all your work!

Wish to you wonderful Easter day,full of pure love and a sunshine:-)))*


Peggy Braswell
9 years ago

Stunning photos + they were blessed to have you photograph them as were you blessed to have them. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

9 years ago

Brilliant yet subtle work! You know my secret dream was always to be a Moulin Rouge dancer.. Perhaps in my next life! Xcat

Carla Coulson
9 years ago
Reply to  Catherine

So many things to do in our next life Catherine! x

9 years ago

Wonderful portraits! So beautiful! Thanks for all the great tips as well!!
Kristina x

La Contessa
9 years ago

Perhaps, I need a costume like that for MY SHOOT!Looking for that dress and finding zero!Buona Pasqua a tutti!

9 years ago

I have always loved your Moulin Rouge photos, Carla – it’s really refreshing to see the dancers offstage and there is such a beautiful quietness (if that is even a word!) to these images, kind of like the calm before (or after) the storm of performing. The B&W and lighting is just perfect too.

Jilly Bennett
9 years ago

I so love your Moulin Rouge photos. You are so generous, dear Carla, in sharing your expertise with us. I learn more and more every time I look at your website. Lucky participants in your Paris workshop. What a treat they have in store. Big hugs xxx

9 years ago

God to be one of those girls dressed so exquisitely…. and for you to capture it all as exquisitely…. just beautiful. I am in awe them and you. Such art.

Maria Rossetti
8 years ago

Hi Carla! A friend of mine is travelling to Paris and would LOVE to take photos “as a dancer”. I can´t find infos about it online. I´ll be creating a fascinator for her.

Hope you can give me some infos to continue my research … and your pics are simply STUNNING!

Tks a lot!!!