Becoming Jessica: A Jessica Rabbit Cosplay Shoot with Terry McNamara

Becoming Jessica

As a lover of vintage-style photography there has always been one vintage style image on my to-do list - Jessica Rabbit!  So, when a model contacted me to tell me she’d just invested in a Jessica Rabbit-style outfit and asked me if I wanted to shoot the look, I jumped at the opportunity.

This shoot took quite a bit of planning. In addition to the outfit we needed to create the right make-up look. Natalie, the model, was prepared to do the make-up herself, but I knew of a specialist make-up artist that I had worked with before and insisted that we bring her in for the job.

Having the outfit and make-up sorted we next had to find a venue. Fortunately, Natalie is also a singer and has performed at a speakeasy type club in Manchester. This sounded like the perfect location so Natalie asked them for permission to shoot there and they agreed to let us use it.

The final thing was getting the lighting right. Having not been in the club before, I didn’t know what the power socket situation was like so I chose to use my battery powered PIKA200 kit. The size and weight of these lights makes them extremely portable and the fact that they are battery powered means that you can use them anywhere without worrying about trailing power cords and power socket locations. Plus they have sufficient light output power to cope with virtually any situation.

The Lighting Set-up

I wanted to achieve a spotlight type look to give the impression that it was shot in a nightclub. So my keylight was a PIKA200 in a 90cm gridded Easy Open Octabox. The grid prevented the light from spilling everywhere and just focussed it on the top half of Natalie’s body.

I wanted a second light to fill in the shadows a little bit and cover the whole of Natalie’s body, so for this I used a second PIKA200 in a 160cm Black and Silver Parabolic Umbrella with Diffusion. I had to turn this down fairly low as it delivered enough light to illuminate the whole scene.

Finally, I used a third PIKA200 in a gridded and gelled reflector to add a soft blue/purple highlight on the left-side of the model to give some separation from the background.

All three lights were attached to light stands using the S-Type Smart Brackets as this allowed me to use Bowens S-Fit light modifiers and umbrellas.

My full lighting set-up was:

  • Keylight - PIKA200 in a 90cm gridded easy open octabox
  • Fill Light - PIKA200 in a 150cm diffused parabolic umbrella
  • Accent Light - PIKA200 in a gridded and gelled reflector

All on 240cm Air Cushioned Light Stands.

Pop-up Backdrop

I wanted to start with some close-up portraits of Natale (now Jessica) and wanted a simple background behind her. I used the 1.5x2.1m Dark Brown/Dark Blue Reversible Collapsible Backdrop to block out anything distracting in the background. Like the PIKA200s these backgrounds are very portable and can be put up and down very easily and quickly. It did the job perfectly and created a soft, non-distracting background which allowed the viewers to focus on the model.

Full Length Performance Shots

For the full length shots we removed the pop-up backdrop and used the bar area in the club as a backdrop. I had measured the ambient light levels before commencing the portrait shots so I knew the same lighting set-up would be perfect. I did have to pull back the keylight to get it out of the frame for the full length shots which resulted in a slight reduction in the amount of light hitting the model. To compensate for this I increased the keylight output power by ⅔ of a stop.  This wasn’t an issue for the PIKA200 as there was still a lot of power to give. These little lights really do pack a punch.

To add the finishing touch, Natalie brought her vintage style microphone that she uses when singing in nightclubs with her. It was the final accessory that for me just made the image.

All-in-all it was a very successful shoot.  If you want to create the best images you need to work with the best people you can find and use the right equipment for the job.  Natalie/Jessica was an absolute star and put everything she had into this shoot. And the PiXAPRO kit was amazing. It did everything we needed it to and performed well.

The best bit, for me, was that at the end of the shoot, Natalie didn’t have time to remove the make-up and had to go home on the train as Jessica Rabbit. She certainly turned a few heads.  But don’t judge her, “she’s not bad, she’s just drawn that way”

Interested in Terry's work? Head over to his website at, or check out his Instagram page for more vintage inspired works.