How do you consistently, over time, always get the shots you need? This is a question I’m asked all the time.
I love shooting. I love teaching. I love helping and being of service to others. So when I kept getting asked about my methods and approach to my work, I knew I had to dig deeper than “here’s how I light things” or “here’s how I work with my dancers.”
Of course those topics are important when it comes to really great dance photography. But what is it that makes a photographer be able to consistently get the shots they need for the jobs? How can a photographer confidently getting the shots and not rely on lucky happenstances? How do you get out of the mindset that you can only produce good work when shooting with seasoned professional principal dancers?
Of course we are always working on our skills. I am no exception. But let’s take a moment to think through the method that I call “Build the shot.” Yes, those of you who watched my Facebook live event last week will know what I’m referring to.
When I have a shot in mind, whether it’s a regular audition photo, a headshot or something creative I’m working up for a commercial client or dance company, I don’t leave anything to chance. Nothing. I take full responsibility for the entirety of the work.
So let me outline how I go about planning and building the shot, so hopefully, you’ll gain some insight that you can then apply to your own work!
1) Start backwards. Visualize, draw, write a detailed description of what you want the shot to look like. Whatever helps you map the way. What is the setting? What/who is in the shot? What are they doing? What are they wearing? Hair? Makeup? What lighting is needed? What will post production look like? How does it need to be delivered? I have all these down to even the smallest detail. This allows me to communicate fully with my team of assistants, stylists, and subjects. It helps my studio manager know if we need to book a location or rent extra equipment.
2) Don’t work on the shot from the end. When we get to the shooting stage, we never start working on the shot from the end result. We instead go through the following:
- Rough out the lighting to where we think it might need to be
- Get our talent into hair and makeup and get them warmed up
- Start roughing out their movements/poses
- Fine tune styling (sometimes wardrobe has to be adjusted if it doesn’t work with the movement)
- Fine tune the movement, getting the dancer’s angles and physical details correct
- Fine tune the lighting
Now you can go for the real shot. Talk about energy and expression. Get the dancer to use 600 % of their energy; to really perform for you! At this point in the process, the mechanics are in place. Shoot different versions of the shot, experiment beyond your initial concept and have fun!
3) Post Production. Go through proofing, selecting, basic, and then complicated, re-touching all based on what your original idea was.
I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any questions. Shoot us an email or consider catching up on our photography video series, where I go into even more detail and actually show examples of what I discuss here on the blog and social media.