As a dancer, you’re probably used to choreographers, costume designers and directors determining everything from your movements and facial expressions to what you wear for a performance. They set the tone and direction. However, when working independently with a photographer, it’s important to remember that you must step into the shoes of all three before the shoot to develop a baseline framework. Your photographer will, of course, collaborate with you and provide additional direction, but she is primarily there as a visual artist to capture your capabilities. Ultimately, this is your performance from start to finish, and a strong performance will net gorgeous photos.
Decide Your Vision
The most important – and likely the most difficult – part of your shoot is determining the purpose. Think about your goals, your vision, your audience and the final product. Every other decision you make hinges on those goals, including location and attire, so it’s important to have a clear understanding of what you are trying to accomplish. Once you have the end result in mind, you’ll be able to determine the location that sets the perfect stage to showcase your talent. Feel free to discuss location with your photographer in advance, as she may have input or suggestions based on prior experience. Once the vision and location are solidified, you can begin to piece together the remaining components.
Hair, Makeup and Prepping your Wardrobe
Look and attire can be the difference between good photos and great results. It’s important to come looking your best because anything less will show on camera.
· Make sure that hair and makeup are done prior to arrival if you are not getting it done at the shoot. Wear more than you normally would during the day, but less than performance makeup
· Choose clothing that will not restrict your movements and also compliments the setting
· Try on clothing in the weeks before the shoot and practice posing in different attire to be sure that you are free to move while achieving the desired effect
· Be mindful of holes, runs, lint or creases in clothing. Also consider your choice of undergarments. If you think it won’t show, you’re wrong. It’s also incredibly difficult for photographers to retouch clothing issues, so please check your clothing and shoes to ensure that everything is free from wrinkles and defects
· Iron out any wrinkles and if possible hang clothing options on hangers.
· Bring lots of options. It never hurts to have more than needed, so prepare several different looks. Try to put together different full looks that include everything from top to bottom. This will save time on creating looks once you’re on location.
· Don’t be afraid to use props, but keep them simple.
Choose and Practice your Posing
Choosing the right pose can be incredibly difficult, and it will take multiple attempts to get things just right. It’s important that you prepare for a shoot just as you would any other performance – with time, choreography and practice. The day of the shoot is not the time to practice poses; it should be a time where you can move fluidly through what you’ve practiced and improvise along the way. Create a list of poses that highlight your strengths and practice them over and over – and make sure you have a wide variety in your arsenal in order to have a diverse shoot. Try those poses in the mirror in the attire you plan to wear to make sure that everything works together and you have the angles you want.
Your Facial Expressions Mean Everything
Nothing ruins a photo quite like the wrong facial expression. One of the most important things to be aware of is your facial expression; it’s best to practice it in the mirror beforehand. Often, dancers have practiced beautiful poses, but the expressions are an afterthought. Everything must work in tandem to achieve the desired result. Find the balance between a full smile and “performance face” – you don’t want to look too smiley, but too dramatic doesn’t translate well on camera either. A relaxed face with a subtle smile works perfectly in photos and gives off that effortless, flawless vibe that sets dancers apart.
The Day of the Shoot
One of the most important things to remember about the day of the shoot is to come prepared. Warm up the way you would for any performance, and give yourself adequate time to warm up before the shoot begins. Arrive early, and have a large towel and loose fitting clothing handy, as the location may not have a restroom for changing. Come ready with hair and makeup done unless it’s being done by the stylist and consider bringing a jacket to wear between shots if it is cold. Bring water and any snacks that you might need because you will be working hard from start to finish.
Everyone freezes up when they get nervous, so don’t worry if your mind blanks in the midst of a new location with both people and a photographer watching you. If this happens, simply start moving, and your photographer will provide additional direction. If you are dancing, you’re giving the photographer the opportunity to get the shots needed. You will most likely be repeating the same moves over and over, as it often takes time to get the perfect shot. This may feel grueling after a while, but gather your strength and stamina and press on. However, if at any point you need a break or feel that something may be unsafe or promote injury, say something. Dancers are trained to persevere, but it is never worth compromising safety.
Relax and Enjoy
Dancing is a beautiful art form where you can showcase your strength, flexibility and grace. Above all, it’s something to be enjoyed, so remember to relax and have fun with the shoot. You are your own art director, so this is a wonderful chance to mold and create a vision that is a beautiful collaboration with your photographer. If you ever have questions prior to a shoot or simply need to bounce ideas around, never feel shy about reaching out to the photographer, as this is a team effort to achieve amazing results.