Photographing Dance: Capturing Movement in Still-Frames

Capturing dance in a camera can be easy when what is asked for is a video of the performance. The video can capture the movement that creates dance, and yet much of the time we find it much more useful to have photographs of performances. Images that can show others the dance based talent that we have. However, capturing these images are not as easy it is may seem.

Sydney Gardens Attitude Devant

It can be easy to capture positions that are still by nature, the start or end position of a dance on stage is often held for a little longer making it easy to capture the image that puts it in it’s best light. However, these positions often do not show of the creativity and hard work that has gone into the creation of the piece. So while the image will be great quality, it will not show off a dancer to their full potential.

Dancers need movement, stillness is often a thing dancers avoid as our passion is to move and to create. Talents are build for the movement, how to perfect the jumps or the turns, both images hard to capture from a single click. They simple create a blur for the camera to try and pick up.

Blurry Straddle Jump

The best dancer and photographer relationship will be one where the timing between the two is flawless. The photographer only has to take one picture and can capture the dancer’s jump right at it’s peak. This will create the best image possible as the quality hasn’t had to be reduced for the image to be captured.

Others ways include the use of burst mode. These modes take several pictures of the chosen scene for the set amount of time or the time the button is held down for. Often, the quicker the photos are taken the more the quality is reduced in order to process all of these images at the rapid pace. However, even still it is likely that the peak shot with be missed, or that when it is achieved, the quality is too reduced to really feel proud of the picture and feel like you want to show it off.

There are ways to capture dancers in stills though. The training dancers go through makes them more flexible and strong, making them more likely to be able to hold certain positions for longer. They also have an artistry that may not be found in other photographic subjects and often the best photos are those that are simply more creative. That use the body in a way that works with the scenery around. Ballet poses are most often those that can be captured with ease, as during training imagery is used to reinforce that they are poses and positions meant for someone to take a photo of.


Top tips for photographing dancers:

  1. Know how to use your chosen camera
  2. Be confident when capturing movement
  3. Try a mix of both movement shots and still shots
  4. Cater to the dancer’s strengths, show them off
  5. Let them create


I would love to see some great dance based photo ideas from you guys, either your own or ones you’ve found. Don’t forget you can leave a comment, like my facebook page or tweet me, all links are at the bottom of the page.

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