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

It’s that season again when all dance photographers go crazy with audition photos. Whether it is for summer intensives, college applications, or company auditions, 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.
Dancer headshots - photographed by Rachel Neville
Dancers (left to right): Kyono Chantal, Shannon Harkins, Isabele Alridge)
Here are some do’s and don’ts to help you this audition season:
  • Clean lighting without a lot of drama
  • Pay careful attention to facial expressions
  • Make sure the eyes are the focus
  • Look to create symmetry in the features
  • Treat a headshot like a studio portrait
  • Overstyle the shot
  • Underestimate body language
  • Shoot on a wide lens (85mm or longer is best)

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 way to go, 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 with the headshot in their hand.

For more information on how to shoot dancer headshots, check out our workshops at


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