Circus Photography

Posted by Rachael Towne on

For every child who is tugging their parents hand to go see the circus, this may be very well be your dream career when you are older. Perhaps not to be in the circus but to take incredible, moving, action photographs of the circus acts.

Circus photography

If you have a love of photography and want to try something unique and different to really push your skills, shooting for a circus is high up there. 

Personally, I love the circus, from the ever technical talented acrobatics right down to the jovial clowns. So how hard is circus photography? Let me introduce you to the work of Scott M Salt Photography, a photographer who captures the true art of one of the most extraordinary world-wide Circus sensations, Circus de Soleil. 

About Scott M Salt Photography

Trapeze artist in the circus photo.

(c) Scott M Salt Photography

Image via: Facebook 

Scott M Salt Photography is a freelance photographic & moving image business. 

His portfolio includes:

  • Events & festival photography
  • Theater, Circus & Performance Photography
  • Editorial Photography

I pride myself on producing images of exceptional quality and approach every job with professionalism and a clear understanding of the clients brief. I take on a wide variety of clients producing work for press and various forms of print media. 

Some of his clients and publications include:

Britvic, Capital FM, Boomtown Fair, Horizon Festival Bulgaria and Monster Bash Berlin to name a few.

With publications including National Geographic, The Guardian Travel and The Sunday Times Culture. 

How do you take photos for a moving and revolving live circus act? 

Clown at the circus photography.

(c) Scott M Salt Photography

Image via: Just Another Magazine 


Obviously, using photography during a very intense circus act could be very dangerous for the performers. So it is important that you prearrange permission to take photographs during the show.

Be sure to contact the show as early as possible, not the day of the performance. Tell them where the photos will be featured. For example, will you be selling them to a magazine? Photographs simply to be used on your Facebook fan page may not get you through the door.

Thirdly, arrive early and take pre-performance shots. Photographs of getting ready and behind the scenes can be just as exciting as the shooting of the show. Then find your position to take the best photographs, without blocking any of the audience’s view or shoot the dress-rehearsal so you can move around the space without fear of blocking a paying member of the audience. 

If you are not hired and there is a professional photographer there, stay out of their way.


You wouldn’t think lighting would be your first concern, however circus tents are incredibly dark. So how do you get past the lighting without using the flash button? Many photographers find that using a camera that has high ISO capabilities and fast glass easier. In addition to, full frame cameras can work better. Use shutter priority or full manual. Don’t be afraid to use the zoom button but ensure your shot is wide enough to capture the whole performer movement. 

Also, using flash is incredibly distracting and potentially dangerous for circus performers so please don’t use the flash setting. 


Music for a circus act is similar to a movie, listen to the music. The beats and the soft moments. Sometimes you can anticipate when the scenes are building to something greater.

Take two camera's

Although not a necessity, having two cameras ready for shooting, set in the modes you want will give you more time. Therefore you won't have to quickly change the settings during the show and then trying to remember to change them back. Simply hang them both around your neck. If you are nervous you won’t remember which setting is which, put a small fluro colored sticker on each to differentiate the two.

Watch the show first

Grab yourself a ticket and watch the circus show first and be a part of the audience. This way, you will have an idea of when the awesome shots are to be had. This is great to get your creative juices going as well.

When shooting a live performance, getting the shot at the best moment requires skill and experience. To start your training, go to a circus school and ask if you can practice your photography there. You will learn the different heights, the speed, the momentum and when the awe-inspiring moment is within the act. 

Don’t take a hundred photos of the same act

When taking photos of the circus, you want to wow people. It is important than to keep only the best shot of the acts. Be ruthless with your elimination and be confident you chose the best image. 

If you want to take photos of a live circus, follow the tips above and just go for it. Don’t be nervous, simply be in the moment and let the circus artists take you on a magical journey. 

If you enjoyed reading this post, please like and share, thank you.


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