10 easy steps to great performance photography

September 21, 2012  •  Leave a Comment


Don't get Zaghareet! magazine?  Here's a snippet of what you're missing:)

10 easy steps to great performance photography- for the performer

  1. Show up early and mark the stage
    If you show up before the audience, you have a fantastic opportunity to make prime use of the stage. Standing or sitting in the audience, have a friend walk around on the stage (get permission!) and find the sweet spots where the light is strong, the visibility is good (no poles, monitors, or props blocking the view), and the background is not overly busy. If it's okay with management use some electrical tape or glow tape to make a small “x” on the floor. These tapes tend to be only slightly sticky and are easily removed. If you are in a duet or group, consider where your partner(s) would be. Often when one person is lit, the other falls into deep shadow. If taking a step forward or together would remedy this, this simple step will have you prepared!
  2. Don't be the first in the lineup
    So maybe you didn't show up early or you're on a big stage with a curtain the management didn't want to open, never fear! If you are not the first in the lineup, grab your coverup and find a place to watch the first dancer. Provided they make good use of the stage you will quickly find those sweet spots for lighting. If you've actually planned on having someone shoot you, ask not to be first. Whether they are professionals or your friend with a point and shoot, it may take a few shots to get the camera settings just right if they didn't have a chance to set up earlier.
  3. Repeat your choreography
    There are some dancers who are bogged down with so many ideas for movement that they go from one move to the next to the next and never repeat. If the song has a repeating chorus or line of notes that you've decided needs a wonderfully dramatic hair-flipping spin, do it again! I'm not saying do every move in 4's or 8's to fill a phrase, but if you have something that looks awesome in the mirror, it will look awesome in the camera. It's very likely though that the shooter might miss it the first time or get you just as you've turned around and hair covers your face. Give the good moves another chance!
  4. Never underestimate the dramatic pause
    Some dancers really get this concept and others do not. Not moving can be as dramatic if not more so than the movement itself. When your body is in that state of pause before a big move (be it slow or fast), it is collected, prepared, and vibrating with energy and anticipation. If it's not, try to remember you are on a stage and it should be! In that pause, your photographer and their camera have the time to focus on you and get that tack sharp look that movement can prevent especially in darker venues.
  5. Don't let your hair upstage your face
    Maybe you've been growing your hair out and you just cannot wait to do some hair flipping. That's grand, but on the day you're hoping to get great performance photos, I highly recommend you use a few hairpins. You don't have to put it all up but around the eyes and above the ears a few pins to hold it down can make a world of difference. You're going to want to see your face and eyes in those pictures, and probably not the face you'll make when your hair is stuck on your fake lashes. Unless it's a whole group of you dancing to Willow Smith, keeping the hair-flipping to a minimum would be best. Also, holding your hair back with your hand in “Egyptian Headache” pose means not just your hair, but your elbow, hand, and armpit are upstaging your face in the shot.
  6. Practice
    You've probably heard your teacher say it time and again- “Watch your arms”. Of course you want the whole body creating great lines, but it is usually the arms that make the most visual impact. The arms are framing you throughout the performance, and, just like the hair, they can easily block your face. Practice in front of a mirror or more ideally in front of a video camera and watch when your face disappears. A peek behind a veil or sword is fabulous; having a prop or arm swirling around your face in perpetuity with no pause, not so much. Do your spins and then open up and let the camera see you shining!
  7. Practice
    It may sound cheesy, but practicing your expression is essential. If it is a joyful song, you should be smiling through every practice, not just at the performance! Dramatic pieces should be practiced dramatically. Just working on the moves and not your facial expression pretty much guarantees your face will go either blank during parts of the performance or show an emotion you had not intended. There is nothing wrong with practicing your smile in the mirror! Your photos will show your hard work!
  8. Practice
    Muscle memory is a very real and helpful thing. When preparing for a performance practice every day until it is in your body. Even if it is not choreographed, practice enough so that you don't need to think about what you are doing. This way your face shows your confidence and you can engage your audience. There is nothing sadder to me than a fantastic performance from a static face. I'm not saying you have to flirt with the person in the front row (though it wouldn't hurt) but keep your chin up and slightly forward and show the audience and the camera how dancing makes you feel!
  9. End Pose
    Maybe there was no place for a dramatic pause. You started off stage and shimmied your way through crazy drums all the way to the end. Here's your last chance! You're sweaty, your hair is a mess, and you've given us everything you have. Stop, and let us applaud you (and photograph you). Choose something simple with good lines that shows off your beautiful face. If your arm is up, please point nose away from your armpit. Click! Gorgeous!
  10. Respect your photographer
    Whether you have paid for your pictures from a professional or from a friend or budding artist, please respect their copyright. Yes, you have image rights to any image you are in and you have the right ask any photographer to take any picture of you down and they cannot sell an image of you without permission. They have have rights to the image itself, which means: if there is a watermark on the image you should not crop it out, if you want to use the image for anything you should contact the photographer, and you should not take it upon yourself to edit the photo in any way. If you respect your photographer, they will more likely want to shoot you again!


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