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Dance Photography: How to Take Amazing Pictures of Dancers

Dance photography is at the intersection of the genres of sports and theater photography. Depending on your creative intent, photography in this genre can convey the beauty and grace of the human body, become a dramatic metaphor, or tell a fascinating story. Dancers’ photos are usually taken in dark halls and studios with a lot of visual noise. Also, you are not allowed to disturb the dancers and audience with your flash or your presence on stage while shooting. And since dynamic photography of dancers is a sought-after content in the Depositphotos libraries, we invite you to master a new genre and enhance your portfolio with our tips.

Why photography of dancers is so difficult

Dance photography requires deep knowledge of your photography equipment, as well as flexibility and creativity. Unlike sports photography, where photographers simply need to be able to react quickly, good dance pictures mean that a photographer can not only capture the moment but adapt to unstable and often tough stage lighting. Of course, you can take pictures of people dancing outside of the theater or dancing studio. For example, you can visit street dance events during daylight hours and use flash and a reflector. Studio photography of dancers is also possible. In this case, you can choose poses for a dance photoshoot, as well as use studio backgrounds, lightboxes, reflectors, and take as many shots as you want. In brief, dance photography is tricky due to the following factors:
  • Poor, dynamic, or “color” light;
  • Inability to predict actions on the stage;
  • Inability to approach the dancers or get a certain angle of shooting;
  • High speed of dancers’ movements
But don’t get upset! You can use the factors listed above to your advantage. First, constant shooting in such conditions is good training for any photographer. Second, you can turn the difficulties of a dance shooting and ‘defects’ of pictures into your artistic method. To get your dose of inspiration, we advise you to check out the work of dance photographers such as Barbara Morgan, Gordon Anthony, Luis Pons, Lois Greenfield, and Charlotte Rudolph. dance photography in ballet

What equipment to use for taking dancers’ photos

Even if you have an amateur digital camera at hand, you have the chance to create incredible images of dancing people. Why? Photography is, first of all, the creative vision of a photographer, their ability to notice details, and tell stories through images. If you are unable to acquire the equipment that we list below, use an existing camera that you know well. In this case, choose the locations for taking dancing images that your camera and lens are best suitable for. And for taking professional pictures of dancers, you will need the following photography gear:
  • Light-sensitive camera (ISO 6400) operating well in the AF-C (Auto Focus Continuous) mode;
  • Lenses with a focal length range of 70-200 mm, 24-70 mm, and 17-35 mm;
  • Tripod
If you plan on shooting dancing models in the photo studio, reflectors, studio backgrounds, a portable flash, and several types of lightboxes will come in handy. For outdoor dancing, it is better to get a lens with a long focal length. Such photography optics will help create a blurred background effect and highlight the beauty of dancers’ movements. Best poses for dance photoshoot and tips for photographers

Best poses for dance photoshoot and tips for photographers

Shooting dances in an urban space is not much different from traditional sports photography, and shooting models in a studio is like shooting a portrait, except that the poses of the dancers could be more varied and expressive. In this paragraph, we will focus on the most popular type of dance photography: shooting people dancing on a dimly lit stage (ballet theaters and dance competitions). To capture a dynamic dance on a dim stage, we need to activate the AF-C mode, select a low ISO (not more than 3200), set a short shutter, and open the aperture as much as possible. You can experiment with Shutter Priority AE (Av) and Aperture Priority AE (Tv) modes and manually adjust the shutter speed and aperture. For example, high-aperture lenses set to a minimum ISO (400 to 1200) will help get rid of ‘visual noise’. Here are some tips for taking brilliant photos of dancers:

#1 Explore the potential of stage lighting

If you do not have a chance to use flash or other professional lighting equipment, you must adapt to what you have to work with. Top and bottom stage spotlights and sidelight passing through the smoke on stage can make the shot more dramatic. Experiment with exposure as much as possible avoiding your flash.

#2 Explore the potential of your camera

We recommend you shoot in Av and Tv modes, as they allow you to compensate for poor exposure. In Av mode, set the maximum aperture value possible to avoid underexposure. Such shorts may be blurry but bright. In Tv mode, you can adjust the shutter speed. In this case, the objects will be clear but dark. Here’s a short summary of the shutter speed adjustment results when shooting a theatrical scene: 1/50 — all dancers’ gestures are blurry 1/600 — only fast movements are blurred 1/2000 — clear shot, dancers ‘freeze’ Practice working in both modes to perfect your manual photography skills.

#3 Explore the details of the upcoming show

Find out in advance the specifics of the lighting and the dance you are going to shoot. If possible, visit the concert hall before the shooting day and decide where you should be in order to get a winning angle. Also, learn the style of the dance before the event so that you can hold the camera in your hands during the most spectacular moments.

#4 Take pictures with the rhythm of the dance

Each dance has its own rhythm. This rhythm determines the movement of the dancers. Follow the rhythm of a piece of music and try to press the photo button counting. In this case, you can clearly capture the dance moves and get beautiful dancers’ photos.

#5 Pay attention to faces, costume details, hands, and feet

Curious details will help you tell a story through photography, giving your audience the opportunity to see the dancers at a much closer distance than they are used to in the theater. Details can also symbolize the dancers’ emotions and convey the atmosphere of the event.

#6 The best dance positions are natural positions

There is a difference between a reportage dance shot and a staged photo of a model dancing in a photography studio. When shooting non-professional dancers dancing, ask them to dance as if they are at home and no one sees them dancing. Another secret of brilliant staged photography of dancers is to keep the model’s gestures as ‘wide’ as possible: wide stride, raised arms, free jumping. If the model is not graceful, try focusing on their face and emotions, not moves.

Conclusion

What is the perfect photo of a dancer? It conveys the beauty of the dancer’s moves, has a balanced composition, interesting details that can be enjoyed endlessly, and is also a dynamic shot. To achieve this effect, the photographer must learn a few secrets: first, they should know the concert hall and the dance well, second, they should have a manual camera, and third, they should be attentive viewers. Studio photography of dancers is close to portrait photography, and street dance photography can remind you of sports photo reporting. When it comes to theater (eg ballet) photos, you need light-sensitive equipment and several lenses with different focal lengths. If you want to add photographs of dancing people to your Depositphotos portfolio, start photographing them in the style (artistic or reportage) in which you already have experience. An easy start is an important condition for future success!