I got into dance photography about three years ago. Looking back on that first photo shoot with dancer Lizzie Garraway, 13, who is featured as the solo dancer in all of these photographs, we both cringe. We have both improved so much that all we can see in those early photographs are our errors. We’re still improving—as somebody once said (I forget who), “Dancers strive for perfection. Once you’re perfect, why bother dancing?” The same goes for photography. I submitted this portfolio only a month or two ago, and I can already see areas for improvement—Lizzie didn’t wing her foot, or the photo isn’t quite straight, among other things. That said, I’m excited to share these images with you, and I hope you enjoy them.
The hardest photo to take was “Heart but Apart,” because of two elements: first, there are two dancers, and second, they are both jumping. It’s difficult for two dancers to be perfectly coordinated. On the rare occasion that it did happen, usually at least one of them wasn’t satisfied with their jump. This photo must have taken at least twenty jumps! Also, I post-edited it a bit—it was taken in low light and my camera isn’t amazing, so I just brightened the colors a little and added some vignette.
The easiest photo to take was probably “Love.” I saw this mural and thought it would be a great location for dance photography. The more I take photos, the more I notice locations and think, “Hey, this would be a great background!” Even if you think there are no good locations for photography near you, trust me, there are. Anyway, it took us a few tries to get the pose right but once we had that down, it took only seconds to get a shot we both liked.
Things you want to keep in mind for dance photography include: location, model, pose, wardrobe, lighting, and angles. Usually, the dancer should be wearing bright, colorful and tight-fitting clothes, unless you’re going for a specific theme. A flowy dress could work as long as you consider how that will affect the dancer’s lines and mobility.
If you’ve never tried dance photography—give it a chance! You might enjoy it. Also, most people are flattered if you want to take photos of them—I was nervous asking Lizzie and her sister Ana, 15, (who is featured in “Heart but Apart”) for the first time even though we’re good friends. Luckily, they agreed, and we’ve had so much fun ever since—even when the photos didn’t turn out!