Ballet photography can be beautiful, thought provoking and moving. The right shot offers an opportunity to capture a dancer’s strengths, passions and abilities in a single frame forever.
As a ballet dancer, it’s vital to make sure you can build a portfolio that reflects your talent, starting with finding the right photographer for you. As a student or professional dancer, it’s important that you have a portfolio of ballet photography that effectively reflects your talent and facility. Before embarking on that all important photo shoot for your portfolio, ensure that you look at photographers who specialise in ballet photography, as planning and preparation is key in ensuring your photos will be both memorable and eye-catching. I’ve been very fortunate to work with Darian Volkova, Jordan Matter and Rachel Neville – see my Instagram for insights into our amazing shoots.
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Using the best ballet photos for your portfolio
Classical dance is a highly competitive industry, so the photographs in your portfolio have to reflect you at your very best. Having a portfolio of excellent ballet photography will set you apart and help you to stand out either as a student auditioning for a contract with a company, or to build your profile and brand as a professional.
The type of ballet photography you choose to include in your portfolio depends on your objective. If you are putting together a portfolio for auditions, then you will need to show mastery of the basics (first arabesque), facility and strength. During my training, I learnt what my strengths were and always focused the shoot on positions that I knew played to these. I also tried to use photos that I felt captured some of my personality and were not necessarily positions that other dancers would use.
A company will want to see technique shots and headshot. Sometimes they will specify which positions and how many photos; sometimes they will leave it up to you. They will generally ask for leotard, ballet tights and pointe shoes so that they can clearly see your form.
If you are putting together your portfolio as a professional, then you can afford to be more creative. This is especially significant if you wish to generate income outside of dancing. Ballet photography is a great way to create a signature look, try out different styles of photography and find the style that works best for you. This type of ballet photography will help to build and maintain you profile as you are establishing yourself as a professional dancer.
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The importance of ballet photography for dancers
Getting the right portfolio is the first step to getting your first job. If your photos demonstrate an artistic potential, then this can open the door to an audition. They are looking for lines, technique, flexibility and beautifully arched feet. Make sure you show this and you will be propelled into auditions and hopefully work.
Whilst photos are an opportunity to showcase your technique and convey your strengths, range of movement and abilities as a performer to others; you’re also going to get to see yourself through the eyes of how other people see you when you dance! I find this one of the greatest benefits of ballet photography. It helps to give you perspective on how you look and quite often it can throw up some interesting surprises. What you think looks good, may not actually be as effective as you think, which helps you to hone your technique and enhance your ability as a dancer.
Ballet photography – things to consider
When thinking about ballet photography, particularly for auditions, it’s essential that you choose a photographer who has a background in classical dance training. Ballet photographers who are equipped with this knowledge are more likely to be able to make suggestions on how they can capture you at your best. A photographer with the right training will know when you hit your line in a way that photographers with no experience in this area simply cannot.
In order to select a photographer, have a good look at their portfolios. Most photographers have websites and social media accounts which show their work. Look at their attention to detail on the dancer (not the setting) and make sure they are showing off facility and technique with their photography.
Before any of my ballet photography sessions, I make time to meet the photographer so that we can discuss our objectives and desired outcomes beforehand. I find this is really useful for discussing ideas for positions, costumes and angles. This means that on the day of the shoot you know exactly what to expect, which can help ensure you’re prepared and organised.
Also consider your costumes. Remember that they need to be able to accommodate your movements and convey different meanings, so it’s important to have a range of options, again, depending on your purpose; training kit for auditions, classical or a more contemporary look for promotional photos.
I find it always helps to approach your ballet photography much like you would your ballet training – by warming up properly. When preparing for your ballet photography session, make sure that you allow time for both your warm up and your make up (minimal if for auditions). I always find that it helps to update the photographer with your itinerary to ensure that the session runs smoothly and within the allotted time.
Finally, always keep the outcomes of the ballet photography session at the forefront of your mind. Some photographers can be extremely busy during different periods of the year, so ensure that you have a set date well in advance. Remember that you’ll also need enough time to review the proofs and give your input on the final edits, including what format you need them in, and how many low and high definition images you’re going to need.
Ballet photography can be hugely beneficial to your dancing career particularly when you get it right. It can create a strong portfolio to enhance your audition prospects or build your profile, while giving you a unique perspective into how your technique looks through the eyes of others.