How to Photograph Dance: Posing Dancers
Today I want to share with you my knowledge which took me months to learn… Posing dancers for a photoshoot.
This is a second post of How to Photograph Dance series. You can learn about the technical side of dance photography here.
Did you know that the ability to work with a model/dancer is the most important thing during a dance photoshoot? It’s always about teamwork.
Don’t rely on a dancer to come up with their poses. You, the photographer, also need to turn up to the shoot prepared for directing and posing dancers.
How to prepare?
- Do your research and educate yourself on the particular dance style you’re about to photograph.
- Put together a mood board (posing, locations, etc).
Believe me, more often than not dancers get shy in front of the camera. An awkward smile or a frozen facial expression throughout the shoot won’t take you far. “What shall I do?” they’ll ask, as you shrug your shoulders. It’s a common problem when a photographer relies on a model to come up with poses, and at the same time a model relies on a photographer to direct them.
The reason for dancers’ shyness can be as simple as meeting a photographer for the very first time, camera pressure, or even a setting in which you are shooting (for example – a busy street).
To break the ice and get to know a dancer/model, I start every photoshoot (yes, even a dance photoshoot) with 5-10 min headshot/portrait session. It helps to get the dancer more relaxed in front of the camera and build rapport. Give them a couple of compliments, direct them to more flattering postures and most importantly show them how great they look in the images.
This extra mile will go a long way, it will boost their confidence and build up trust that you can capture them looking at their best.
Now let’s get to the fun part, DANCE!
Here are my 3 go-to ways for posing dancers:
- Still dance poses
- Posed action
STILL DANCE POSES
If you’re wondering, yes, posing is still technically dance. There’s a dance style called voguing which originally was based on striking poses to a beat. The pioneers of voguing mimicked edgy fashion poses they saw in Vogue magazines and combined it with a typical runway walk.
Depending on a dancer’s skill and technique, it can be street or contemporary still dance poses. You can ask them to do a recent choreography and break it down into separate moves/steps. This way you will have a variety of dance poses to capture.
Starting a dance photoshoot with still poses is a great way for dancers to begin to warm up and slowly build towards bigger and more dramatic poses.
Dance is all about the movement. So let’s capture some moves!
The best way to photograph dance is to plan every pose. It works perfectly well for capturing jumps, spins and other big, dramatic moves.
You can give a countdown so you and the dancer are on the same page for timing. Press the shutter halfway, make sure the focus is correct, count and SNAP as the countdown ends.
NOTE: Before you ask dancers to do any explosive moves make sure they’re properly warmed up. We don’t want any injuries.
This technique for is my favourite! Now you can capture the real stuff: authentic movement and the raw emotion behind it.
The reason I left freestyle for the very end is because it’s the simplest way to photograph dance. It requires nothing from you as a photographer but to observe and capture.
However, there’s a catch. No dancer likes to dance on request, especially a request from a stranger. Hearing “Oh, you’re a dancer?, show me some moves then!” would make any dancer cringe. The same applies to a comedian being asked to tell a joke on the spot.
That’s why it’s a good idea to have a freestyle blast at the very end of a dance photoshoot.
Play their favourite music and get ready to capture the magic.
PRO tip: Have your composition ready, lighting, and other setting all set and only then ask your dancer to freestyle. Dance is a very demanding craft. Don’t tire a dancer out before you are even ready to take the shot.
This is all for today. If you have any other tips on posing dancers that I haven’t mention, leave them in the comments below, so we all can help each other grow. Also, if you have any questions, leave them there too. Enjoy your weekend!