I have been involved with dance, mostly ballet, for most of my life. When it came time to hang up my pointe shoes to focus on my family, there was a void. While I love spending time with my kids more than anything, I missed the movement and creating something. I picked up a camera to document my children as they grew, and the opportunity presented itself to me to photograph a ballet. What a great way to combine my new passion with my old passion! Photographing dancers does have some unique challenges. Here are my top five tips for nailing your dance photography sessions!
What Settings To Use
Dancers move quickly, so you need to increase your shutter speed. While that may be obvious, another setting to consider is the aperture. Even if the dancer is moving parallel to the plane of the camera lens, they often move slightly closer or farther from the lens, and aperture needs to be adjusted accordingly. I usually photograph dancers at a minimum of f/5.6 on a long lens to give them a bit of room to move and still nail focus.
Focus on Their Individual Strengths
Every dancer is different and has different strengths. Ask the dancer to show you their favorite poses; usually their favorite will be their strongest. Younger dancers will not be able to pull off some of the more difficult poses or jumps. It is always better to photograph them in an easy pose they can do well over a difficult pose that is technically inferior.
If you’re not familiar with dance technique, see if you can have a teacher or another skilled dancer assist you to ensure the proper technique is captured in the photograph. Dance is a moving art, and freezing it at 1/500th of a second shows flaws that may not be seen when in motion. Dancers are very critical of themselves and will want their very best captured. If you can’t have a professional tag along with you, allow the dancer to review the images on your LCD so they can find their own flaws and correct them.
Keep it Simple
Flashy jumps are fun, but don’t underestimate the power of a simple pose.
Focus on the Feet
Dancers are obsessed with their feet. If you can make their feet look beautiful, they will love the image. As you’re shooting and reviewing images with a dancer, make sure to review the feet, and don’t be afraid to give their feet a little photoshop love.
Kate Luber is a Clickin Moms Mentor and has been a member of Clickin Moms since 2012. A central Oklahoma portrait, wedding, and dance photographer, Kate draws her inspiration from the drama and elegance of the ballet, classic Hollywood, and the pages of Vogue magazine. Kate’s other passion is dance, and she has found an outlet for both in dance photography; you can see her work featured with Oklahoma City Ballet & Tulsa Ballet. You can follow Kate’s work on Instagram.