How to pull off a swimwear photoshoot

How to pull off a swimwear photoshoot

Brand and Campaigns manager Emily steps through the making of the imagery for this year’s Nisa Swim campaign. 


When we design our collections, we think about an overarching creative concept. Last year, our swimwear featured a gorgeous autumnal colour palette, so this year we wanted to go with something bright and fresh. The styles we designed, as well as our beautiful check fabric, made us think of a Kiwi twist on European summers, picnics, and crystal-clear water.

I wanted to capture the simplicity and playfulness of the swimwear with a relatively minimalistic backdrop. We put together a moodboard of elements we were envisioning: clear blue skies, crisp white buildings and the movement of fabric caught in the summer breeze.



Typically, we shoot our swimwear outside of New Zealand. This is because you have to be a few months ahead of the actual seasons when you’re photographing a new collection; if you shoot in Aotearoa around wintertime, things get pretty chilly. Our last two swimwear shoots were in LA, but this year due to timing and COVID restraints we needed to shoot locally. We waited to shoot the garments a little later to try and get the best weather possible. 

It’s hard to channel sunny Mediterranean vibes in the middle of a Wellington winter. Our beaches can be a bit rocky and gloomy at that time of year, and there’s no way we’d put models in the freezing ocean! It made us recall a shoot that we’d done back in 2019; this was at Athfield House, the iconic sprawling complex on Khandallah’s hillside. 

There were so many angles of the house that we didn’t get to shoot, so we wanted to return and use it as our backdrop again. Our Production Manager Pam knew the architects who worked there and got us permission to use their outdoor spaces. They even had a gorgeous swimming pool, so we booked it in and crossed our fingers for good weather. We felt so honoured to be allowed to shoot in such an iconic piece of New Zealand architecture. The house has grown over decades into a whimsical and interconnected complex. Lots of the house’s features mirrored our own designs, like the circular windows throughout the house drawing similarities with our backless keyholes on the Rebecca and Hannah


Casting is, in my opinion, the hardest thing to organise for a photoshoot. Each time we shoot, we try to cast a variety of models that represent different Nisa customers and body types. The main constraint is timing: you need to get six people (including the behind-the-scenes crew), who usually have completely different work schedules, in the same place for a whole day. We tend to work with fans of Nisa because we love the authenticity they bring to the photos. This year, we went the gorgeous Eleni, Robyn and Celeste, two of whom had never modelled before:

Left to right: Eleni, Robyn and Celeste.


Athfield House is a complete labyrinth of stairways, nooks and crannies. One of the spots we shot in was literally only accessible via gangplank across the pool. It’s easy to get lost or distracted, so we meticulously planned out each of the settings we would shoot at, in what order, and with which swimwear.

Once everything was planned out, the next step was getting the space to look beautiful. This involved me scrubbing the poolside and fishing leaves out of the pool the day before the shoot, bundled up in warm layers, gloves and a beanie - the world of fashion is full of glamour. The shots below show the effect of a little bit of elbow grease before and after the shoot. 

Shoot day

The day started at the studio to take e-commerce photos for our website with Robyn and Eleni. We do these for every main product launch, so we’ve finessed them down to a science - we work in four-minute intervals off of a giant spreadsheet to make sure we get all the colours and angles we need. One model changes while the other takes photos, and then they swap. Rinse and repeat this twenty times and you have photos of both sides of each swimsuit.


Robyn and I during the e-comm shoot (my socks match the togs!)

After this, we met Celeste at Athfield House for the campaign shoot. We set up base camp in one of the house’s many apartments, and shot at four different locations on the property over about three and a half hours. Connie and Aurea were assisting at the shoot, holding the light bouncer and making sure people were wearing the right thing.

For me, photoshoots usually mean a considerable amount of unflattering contortion to get the best shot. It didn’t seem fair to have the models plunge into the chilly pool alone, so I jumped in too holding the camera precariously above the water line. In what might be my favourite behind-the-scenes photo of the day, you can see me performing a photographer/footrest combo move:

The resulting shot was my favourite from the whole shoot, so I think it was worth it!


After the shoot was finished, we had 2000 e-commerce pictures and 1000 campaign pictures to go through. Given that we had a quick turnaround for the launch, I was the lucky victim in charge of loading them onto my computer and picking the ones we’d use. Once I had selected my favourite shots, due to some technology mishaps (and most likely incompetence on my end) it took about two days to actually get them onto the computer and ready for editing. 

We have a policy of not photoshopping people’s bodies in our photography. Our edits involve adjusting the lighting and smoothing annoying folds in fabric on the garments, or editing out the leaf that has blown into the shot and looks out of place. Occasionally we edit things that models have requested to have removed, like a surprise pimple or mystery bruise, so they can feel their best in the finished shots.

After editing, we get things locked, loaded, and ready for launch; we send our press releases to the media and prepare our launch communications. It’s really heartwarming to see people respond positively to the photos as they’re posted - it feels worth all the chaos required to bring them into existence! 

Shop the swimwear range


  • Alana Hawke on

    So fascinating reading about the process involved in your photos hoot. Love that it was done in Aotearoa in such an iconic building. Well done everyone for braving the chilly water and pulling off a fantastic shoot.

  • Jaylsa on

    I was wondering where you shot to get these pics, I thought it looked like Wellington but the architecture threw me! Thank you for sharing, I love getting to look behind the scenes at mahi like this. I appreciate the images even more now!

  • Ellen on

    That was a very interesting read. Thank you. Who needs LA or the Mediterranean when you can get such a beautiful and perfect looking Welly day?

  • Moana Leenders on

    Kia ora, thanks so much for sharing this ‘behind the scenes’ blog. It was lovely to learn a little about what goes into a photoshoot. It might have been chilly, but the clear blue Wellington sky is impressive! Great effort on the footrest/photographer combo – love it! thanks again and best wishes, Moana

  • Helen on
    I really enjoyed seeing behind the scenes and hearing about this process. Beautiful shots and such a cool iconic backdrop :)

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