For Photographers: Dancer Headshot Do’s and Don’ts

Headshots Updated 2018.

Audition photos can put us all in a frenzy no matter if you are the subject of the photograph or the one taking the shot. Whether it is for summer intensives or college applications, headshots, arabesques and body shots could be required.  Submission deadlines are approaching soon, so here we go!

I have photographers asking me about headshots all the time. Most commonly, they want to know how dancer headshots differ from portraits, an important distinction! They also ask for tips on how to light, pose and style a headshot.

Dancers (left to right): Kyono Chantal, Shannon Harkins, Isabele Alridge)

Here are some do’s and don’ts to help you:

Do…

  • Clean lighting without a lot of drama
    • It’s important that directors can see the face clearly and have a good understanding of what the dancer’s features really look like.
    • Dramatic lighting, while fun and effective, is not the best way to go for a dancer early in their career.

  • Make sure the eyes are the focus
    • Cluttering up the image with colorful styling, too much makeup, dramatic lighting etc. can sometimes take over the dancer’s eyes.
    • We want the director to have an immediate connection with the artist. So, keeping things simple is best.

Dancer: Olivia Fohsz

 

  • Pay careful attention to facial expressions
    • Not everyone likes their face shape in a full-on broad smile. However, it’s important that directors have a sense of the dancer’s personality.
    • For a dancer just starting out, we want to make sure that they appear warm and ready to work, drama-free and professional.
    • If you aren’t sure where best to have the smile land, test it out!

 

  • Look to create symmetry in the features
    • No face is perfectly symmetrical, so we are looking to adjust the head positioning to get as close to symmetry as possible. Take some time to look at tilts, small rotations of the face, and positioning of the chin up or down to create the most pleasing line on him or her.

Don’t…

  • Shoot on a wide lens
      • Lenses in the longer range, 60/85mm or more are best for headshots. I tend to shoot in the range of 135mm – 200mm.  The compression you get from these lenses flatters most subjects.

  • Treat a headshot like a studio portrait
      • We are looking for an excellent rendition of the artist, usually a very tight head and shoulders shot. Classic studio portraiture or beauty shots can detract from the purpose of the image.

  • Overstyle the shot
      • Again, the dancer’s eyes, personality, and energy are the important things here, not the earrings or lipstick.
      • Colorful backgrounds can be fun but should never be the primary shot.
      • Location headshots are fine if the background is thrown way out of focus and doesn’t distract.

  • Underestimate body language
    • We all know a smile and firm hand shake go a long way, and we need to be mindful of trying to create the same impression in a dancer’s headshot.

    • For example, body language that leans toward the camera is superior to leaning away.
    • Creating a barrier between the dancer and the viewer by way of a shoulder (turning your subject to look over their shoulder) or hands close to a face are things I feel best left to a mature artist who is not trying to get their foot in the door for the first time.

The question of hair up or hair down is a common one here in our studio. I think you have to consider the dancer and their target audience. For younger dancers and for those going after summer intensives, hair up is usually the best option. For dancers who have been in the professional world, hair down is almost always the choice, but certainly giving the dancers a few options is the best way to go.

The important thing to remember here is the dancer’s headshot must look like them. The directors need to be able to connect the dancer in the room to the headshot in their hand.

For more information on how to shoot dancer headshots, check out our workshops at http://promo.rachelneville.com/workshops

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