Dance Portfolio Photography FAQ
Your portfolio images are an essential part of your self-presentation as an artist, and as such, you should give a lot of thought to how you want to be photographed and what you want those images to communicate about you. Learning how to make the most of a portfolio photography session is a key skill that all professional dancers need to learn, so you should consider your session with me as part of your development as a professional. In this FAQ, I will provide some useful guidance for you as you prepare for our session – and it is really important that you do prepare for our session, since once we begin shooting, it’s too late to start thinking about these issues.
Some General Considerations
Portfolio sessions are an opportunity for us to work together to achieve compelling images of you in your very best poses, which means that I will expect for you to arrive with some clear ideas of which poses work the best for you. We’ll start by having you show me what you have prepared, and then we may modify your poses in order to come up with something that better captures your talent and training. I strongly advise you to practice your poses with another dancer and/or your teacher to determine which poses you want to bring to the session; additionally, I suggest that you have someone with you during our session to help you make tweaks to your poses and to make sure that your technique is as close to perfect as you can make it. While it’s possible that your very first attempt leads to a great image, it is much more likely that we will take many, many shots to get the best possible image. This is why it is important that you work on your poses before your session: you don’t want become over-tired before we get the image that we want.
Clothing, Hair, and Make-up
Since these images are going to be the first things that a company selection committee will see, it is imperative that you look your best. I encourage you to take some time to think about which clothing will be most flattering to your particular shape and proportions, which colors work best with your skin tones and hair coloring, and what makes you feel most comfortable and confident. Your hair should be looking its best, too, and, while you are free to wear it up or down, you should make your best effort to style it as well as you can, even if that means getting some help from a friend. You might also consider having your hair up for some poses and down for others (especially the creative pose image). As for make-up, the goal is to apply just enough to look your best: too much make-up can be worse than no make-up at all.
The Three Most Common Poses
1. A classical ballet pose: every dancer needs to have a strong classic ballet image, whether it be an arabesque or an attitude or even a jump shot. Give some thought to what poses show off your lines and highlight your personality as a dancer. You should practice some poses in the mirror and consult with other dancers and/or your teacher.
2. A modern dance pose: a modern dance pose that shows your versatility is a must for most dancers seeking a place in a dance company, even for those of you who really prefer classical ballet. You can adapt a movement from a piece that you’ve performed, or you can find something using one of the links to resources that I provide below, but whatever you select for this shot should capture your dynamism and passion for dance. Once again, I encourage you to take advantage of your colleagues and some time in front of a mirror to refine your pose.
3. A creative dance pose: the goal of this image is to create a piece of photographic art. This image will probably not be a classical ballet pose, although it may be, since the goal is to allow us to collaborate and create something unique for both of us. Think about your lines and your strengths as an artist, and be ready to be playful and imaginative, since this image should be something special that breaks free from technical considerations in order to produce a one-off image. There are copious examples to be found on the websites in my resource list, but you should feel free to come to our session with your own ideas, and we’ll work to find something that satisfies both of us.
Rebecca Neville is probably the best resource for dancers who are getting ready for a portfolio session. On her website, her Facebook page, and her blog, she offers tips for selecting clothing, deciding which poses work best, and other considerations dancers should keep in mind as they prepare for a session, as well as plenty of examples of compelling images. You should check out her series of articles on how to prepare for your shoot here.
The NYC Dance Project has some great studio images from which you can draw some ideas and inspiration. Their website can be found here.
Ronnie Boehm is a ballet photographer who specializes in studio work, and his website also includes some high-quality portfolio images that you might consider taking a look at.
The Ballerina Project focuses on location work, but there are plenty of examples of both classical ballet poses and other less formal poses that might well for a session. You can access their Tumblr page or their Facebook page for free, but their website has a pay wall.
Haze Kaware is a French photographer who also specializes in location work, and he photographs all sorts of dancers, ranging from ballerinas to street dancers. You might find some ideas from looking at his website and his blog.
Oliver Endahl, a former dancer, has a project called Ballet Zaida. While not all of his dance photography contains actual dance poses, he a former dancer who creates some compelling images. You can see his work on his Facebook page or on his website.