Court/Ship Photoshoot: Preperations

Court/Ship, my Fate setting about an alien invasion in the court of Louis XV of France, is now in it’s second round of edits, after being reviewed by the Fate Core backers. But it needs art! Since I’m a photographer who has done art for games before, Fred Hicks asked me if I would create the art for Court/Ship.

After setting on a budget, it was decided: The Court/Ship photoshoot was going to happen.

After that, I just need to find Versailles in Philadelphia, recruit models, find costumes, buy prosthetics, recruit makeup artists, make a set list, and, oh, yes, actually shoot the photos.

It took about a month to plan.


First, I needed a space. There actually are parts of Philadelphia that can look like Versailles if you crop correctly (and squint) but most of them are gardens and look most like Versailles in the springtime. Of course, I needed to shoot in March. And, because of my budget, I needed the place to be free or close to free. Finally, I found a beautiful old building that is a theater in an old church. I did a series of favors for the theater and managed to get the space for a couple hours. There is a throne, marble columns and stained glass. It’s going to be lovely.


About half the people I asked to model for me couldn’t make it due to conflicts. I knew I needed at least three ladies and three gentlemen. I needed an alien, Louis XV and people in the court to really make this shoot come to life. Eventually, I managed to line up an even more incredible group of models that I had originally asked.


The brilliant designer Mayfair Moon is providing giant skirts and corsets for the shoot, while the wigs are being provided by the ladies at The Five Wits.

In addition to that, I am renting three costumes for the gentlemen from a local costume house.

All of this means I needed to collect measurements from all my models, some of them quite detailed.


Since part of the shoot is historical makeup, and part of it is an alien invasion, I knew I’d need at least two makeup artists to make this shoot happen. I’ve worked with my friend Bunny often in the past, and she is excellent with special effects makeup, so she is going to be making the alien come to life.

My friend Elizabeth has a keen interest in historical makeup, so she has kindly agreed to do the 17th century court lady makeup.

Since the makeup is so intense, we are starting at 10am for a 6pm photoshoot.


My set list is going to be playing off of poses from 17th and 18th century paintings, but I’m also going to be working to convey the spirit of the Court/Ship setting – the courtly intrigue and the fear of the alien invasion. I want this shoot to be highly interactive between the characters, to show their connections to one another. I have several actors on the shoot, and a real-life couple to help me get some of these more intense moments.

All together, I’m having seven models, four designer outfits, three costume rentals, two makeup artists, a fashion designer, and several assistants coming over this Saturday from 10am to 8pm for the Court/Ship photoshoot.

I’ll be sharing in-progress photos on Saturday, so if you want to follow along, follow me at @jrblackwell on twitter where I’ll be posting excerpts from the shoot.