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Photographing Dancers

Every subject a photographer chooses to photograph allows them to widen their portfolio and capture new things.  One particular type subject I enjoy using in my photographs are dancers.  When photographing dancers it’s important to adjust your camera settings for the type of motion that will be occurring, and to work with your subject to ensure that the image is satisfying to how they wanted to perform it.

There are two options when photographing a dancer; one is to have the dancer hold their pose while the other is to ensure you can capture the fast paced motion of the scene.  If you wish for your subject to hold their pose then it’s best to sit down with them before hand and discuss which poses are easy to keep for a long amount of time.  If you’ve ever shot a long exposure photo of yourself you may have noticed how easy it is to move slightly and throw off your entire image.  Our bodies naturally want to move, whether it’s breathing, blinking, or even posture changes it is not easy to be a statue.  For dancers it is no different, so taking a moment to talk about what positions are comfortable to hold for a long amount of time, and practicing those positions, will ensure your subject can maintain their form for the image.  Using a tripod during the shot also ensures your own movements don’t mess up the image at all.

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Photographing Dancers

Poses that are easy to hold for a long amount of time work well for low light conditions.

Although shooting still subjects can create beautiful images you will want to explore the movement of your dancer.  This is when things like a fast shutter speed and a tripod come in very handy. If a dancer is soaring through the air then having a higher shutter speed will ensure they are captured in that moment.  If you are holding the camera with your hand and move it slightly in the opposite direction the dancer is moving then you are just adding more movement to your subject, so using a tripod ensures that the only movement you have to worry about is in the dancer.

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Photographing Dancers

Using a fast shutter speed ensures you can freeze moments in time.

Sometimes I wish to have a shorter depth of field when I’m photographing.  If I want to use an open aperture when photographing a moving dancer I will often have them do the movement a few times so I can set my focal point.  Once I’m sure I’m focusing on the position I want them to be in I’ll ensure my auto focus is turned off and snap the image.  This way I can make sure that the parts I want in focus will be, while the dancer’s surrounding have that narrow depth of field.

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Photographing Dancers

I was able to focus on my dancer and then have her repeat the same movements with manual focus turned off.  By opening my shutter up more I was able to create a background that was out of focus while keeping my dancer in focus for this shot.  Using a tripod in these types of conditions will ensure that your focal point doesn’t change, you’ll just have to make sure your dancer lands in the right spot before you take your picture.

Whether you are shooting professional models, martial artist, or family portraits posture and positioning of the subject is very important.  Sometimes photographing dancers can be even more important.  Dancers spend their lives perfecting their art, and ensuring that every pose they make is positioned correctly.  If a dancer’s arm forms too wide of an angle then they are not posing the way they have studied and practiced.  Because if this it is extremely important that the dancer you are working with has a chance to review the photos you are taking.  The way I do this is by photographing the same movement several times then reviewing the images with the dancer to see which one she likes the best.  This can be done by looking at the back of your camera, however it’s easier to do if you are using a tethered setup.  By connecting your camera to a computer the performer can see real time examples of what their poses look like.  Sometimes this will lead to a reshoot of the same movement, because the dancer now knows what corrections that need to be made.  Despite the amount of times you may have to reshoot the same thing it will ensure that you get the best photograph for your model and yourself.

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Photographing Dancers

Work with your dancer to ensure that her form and your vision come together.

Capturing movement while maintaining accuracy can be time consuming, but the resulting image is what makes it worth it.  Ensuring you have the best settings for capturing your subject become even more important when photographing dancers, as every movement creates a new image.  Reviewing your images with your performer will ensure you get the best image possible when photographing dancers.