How to take spectacular and dynamic dance photos

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If I’m not taking pictures for a client, I’m just shooting for fun – I guess that’s not unusual for a lot of photographers! I love making pictures.

I’m lucky to know a lot of creatives, performers and visual artists who are invariably full of ideas – or at least supportive of mine – so I’m not lacking in inspiration and projects that keep me constantly busy. and try to improve my craft. from year to year. Combined with my recent move to InCamera studios in Bristol, England, I have ample space and opportunity to experiment without compromise. I am having a lot of fun and learning new tricks that I can use in my professional work.

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The simplicity of some of my images is mainly due to the fact that I often have a look, feel or lighting technique in mind, but little or no budget. When I start planning a project, I ask the team of collaborators I have chosen to think about it and give their point of view. With little money for materials or wardrobe, I’ll usually find cheap or free options to work with, but those restrictions are often where I’m motivated and most creative. Dance is an incredibly difficult genre, but I love spinning.

Top tips for photographing dance and movement

(Image credit: André Pattenden)

1) Freeze the action with the flash

Your subjects will be on the move most of the time, so you need to concentrate on getting the job done to capture them crisp and clear. For this you need a fast shutter speed – at least 1/1000 second. Typically, your camera will sync with the flash at around 1/250s, so you’ll need to be in high-speed sync mode to freeze the action of these explosive performers.

• These are the best flash guns

(Image credit: André Pattenden)

2) Show their faces

Since your subjects are on the move, it will be difficult to get a photo showing their faces. This is where experience can help: get to know your dancers and their routines. Move around to find flattering angles. Their faces will bring a dynamic to your image and complete your shot. The decisive moment is up to you, but usually the height of a move is a great opportunity to get a few shots in.

(Image credit: André Pattenden)

3) Understand lighting

The power and position of the flash is critical to the style of your image and how the dancers’ bodies look on screen. Ideally, you want to light from the side or at a 45 degree angle: this should bring shadow, shape and depth to your images. You can also provide additional lighting for your background. Avoid full front lighting: save it for corporate portraits instead.

André’s advice for successful shots

(Image credit: André Pattenden)

You want variety in your photos: a very easy way to achieve this is to ask your dancer to bring several outfits (or provide them yourself). You can also introduce accessories: a simple transparent sheet or ribbons will create a nice movement in your shot.

With class! With limbs flying all over the place, you can end up with extremely unflattering angles. They will be unavoidable when shooting in burst mode, but make sure your final selections show your dancers at their best. Review the images with your dancers; chances are they know more about dance, technique and form than you do. If it’s not perfect, you can easily set it up again and nail it down.

Mix up your lighting and use a variety of backgrounds: dark, light, solid, and patterned. You want your images to grab attention and be dynamic, full of power and balance. Finally, move around to find the best plan: don’t let the dancers do all the work.

(Image credit: André Pattenden)

Vary your style

Don’t be afraid to mix things up. Once you work in harmony with your dancers, it’s easy to create a quick variation in your lighting technique. Here I underexposed the side lighting and increased the background lights, resulting in this almost silhouette style image, which really stands out from the rest. A little effort can yield a big reward for you and the dancers.

For more works by André, see his instagram food.

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