I’m not going to walk you through how to use Photoshop to composite images, because there are many many tutorials for that (Lynda.com is a good one), but what I’d like to discuss here is what backgrounds to use for what subjects. Above is an example. I had taken the New York cityscape which I then used to composite my jumping dancer shot. Flying hair is almost impossible to composite so it’s best not to. Here in this image, I attempted to clean up each curl and it just happened to work, but I don’t recommend it. Best to make sure your model is wearing her hair in a bun or like a ballet dancer, with no hairs sticking out. That’s really the best. But a very important point is where you position your model onto the background. Does the background really enhance the image? Will the lines of the model get lost in the background? Dark backgrounds vs light backgrounds: what is best? For a dark model, a light background will work well. For a model wearing light colors, a dark background will work well. It’s an aesthetic thing. Every photographer sees things differently, so it’s not a slam-dunk. Have fun experimenting!
Here is another important photo tip: this image is an exagerated example of a shot of a dancer taken from a low angle. If you look at dance shots done by professional dance photographers, they are always taken from a low angle in order to ensure that their legs appear as they are. If you take an image from a higher angle, the legs will appear short. You don’t want that. I even bend down, in spite of the fact that I’m short. My dancers look like their legs fit them. Some photographers don’t know this, and that’s where you will be able to spot the shooters who don’t have experience photographing dancers.
Check out more of my Dance Photography to see what I mean.
This is a very important tip for doing beautiful dance photos. It’s the focus issue, when doing movement. It’s a big challenge to keep the focus when you’re doing movement. The way I deal with it is that I take the focus ahead of time (where the dancer is going to end up) and hold it until the instant I click the shutter, when the dancer is at their ultimate extension of the movement. And I keep the focus in the center of the body. I don’t follow the dancer. I keep the camera still.
Another very important thing is to position one self on the same level as the dancer, otherwise their legs will appear short. I sometimes even sit on a chair for that to happen, depending on the size of the model.
And then of course the most important part of this process is to be willing to do the movement over and over again until all the elements are in place. The photo I’m posting was the fourth jump. Have fun!
Photographing dancers is a timing thing. I was a ballet dancer in my youth, so I have an understanding of how movement works, and when to click to catch the best image possible. The trickiest thing is to click at the right time, which is at the end of the extension of the movement. So if it’s a step into an arabesque, you want to catch the shot right at the end of the step, when the arms are totally extended and the leg is as high as it goes. It may take a few times before you time it correctly, but it works marvels. If you have a model who is performing for the photos, you can use counting to sync your shot. So 1, 2, 3 go! And you click on go! You got to be fast. It takes practice. You won’t get it immediately, but keep trying. And don’t get impatient. Keep shooting! And if you want a pro to do your dance photos, call me at 877-263-4488 to schedule a photo shoot.