How I photograph a group of dancers

This is something I would like to do more often but unfortunately, I haven’t had the opportunity to do it much in the past years. It’s always a challenge to work with a group of people. Staging and directing them, and creating something together that everyone involved will enjoy. Here are a couple of words on the few attempts I’ve done so far.

The hardest thing for me is to find a place that could work. It all started 4 years ago, with dancers from the Opera du Rhin. 

A new chapter !

I have to say that I am not a fan of these images after all these years. They are not bad, the dancers did a great job, but there are a lot of things that I would do completely differently today.

CANON 5Dmark III 1 X Broncolor SirosL
EF 24-70mm f2.8 L mark II
1/200sec at f/6.3 ISO1000 – 33mm

 

 

CANON 5Dmark III 1 X Broncolor SirosL
EF 24-70mm f2.8 L mark II
1/60sec at f/8 ISO200 – 32mm

 

 

But we all know we have to start somewhere so at least that day I discovered how hard it was to direct several dancers at once. To make it a success you really have to know what you want to create before you are on location. Think ahead, visit the location beforehand and sketch a few ideas if you can, so that you don’t lose time trying to explain what you want on set.

My 2nd attempt was with dancers from the Nice ballet a year later. It took me a year to go at it again and I was no longer living in the northeast of France but on the French Riviera!

We had this beautiful location called the Eilenroc in Antibes. I had the opportunity to create in this wonderful place twice so I knew that there were a few spaces big enough to take group pictures.

A Rhythmic Gymnastics photoshoot inside EilenRoc

Once I had my framing and composition, I gave the dancers the general feel, form, and shape of what I wanted to create. They proposed a few poses, we tried different things and experimented a bit. I never had them looking at the camera (a personal choice) and wanted to have every dancer on different levels. 

CANON 5Dmark III 2 X Broncolor SirosL
EF 24-70mm f2.8 L mark II
1/160sec at f/9 ISO200 – 35mm

 

I need to have the dancers interact with each other and create a coherent form. I still rely on the dancer’s suggestions, and because I am not a dancer I still listen to them when we have to correct things dance-related. Once we found something that works we fine-tune the details. We check head position, feet, gaps between dancers, something I didn’t do during my first attempt a year back. Look closely at the shadows and how the light behaves on everybody.

The 24-70mm lens, 5 reasons why you should own one!

The same year I was hired to make images for the Geneva Ballet. The approach was completely different. I didn’t have much freedom on this shoot, I basically had to follow the director’s and choreographer’s vision. A lot of the shots made are captures of the dancers performing a part of a choreography.

CANON 5Dmark III 1 X Broncolor SirosL
EF 24-70mm f2.8 L mark II
1/200sec at f/8 ISO1250 – 24mm

 

 

CANON 5Dmark III 1 X Broncolor SirosL
EF 24-70mm f2.8 L mark II
1/200sec at f/7.1 ISO1250 – 24mm

 


A different type of experience for sure, not something I love to do but like anybody, I have to pay rent

Meeting the Geneva Ballet

The year after I arrived in Toulouse I decided to give it another try with 5 dancers from the Ballet du Capitole. On the day of the shoot, my 2nd flash died…

We couldn’t cancel, so I had to work with only one light! The same approach, different heights, trying our best to have something homogeneous, that nobody hides anyone that shadows don’t fall in weird places and so on. With the use of only one light, I believe we did a good job.

 

CANON 5Dmark III 1 X Broncolor SirosL
EF 16-35mm f2.8 L mark II
1/160sec at f/6.3 ISO250 – 16mm

 

 

CANON 5Dmark III 1 X Broncolor SirosL
EF 16-35mm f2.8 L mark II
1/160sec at f/6.3 ISO250 – 24mm

 

 

Last year was my most recent attempt to date. This happened in Bordeaux, in a location that wasn’t the best for this. It’s a place that is usually used for exhibitions, so we had huge white walls everywhere.

The weather was awful that day so we didn’t have much light coming in. The idea was to have a really dark background with only lights coming from the stained glass and windows and a unique source of light on the dancers. To expose everybody correctly I placed my two lights in the same directions aiming at 2 different parts of the group.

For the first one, I wanted that motion going from the bottom left of the frame to top right. The dancers suggested different things and this is what we ended up keeping.

Fujifilm GFX50s + 2X Broncolor SirosL
GF 32-64mm f4 R LM WR
1/60sec at f/8 ISO200 – 32mm

 


For the 2nd one, I kept 3 different takes. I wanted something really compact and messy. For the first time, I let the group improvise the pose and I tried to capture moments While they were moving.
These are the 3 shots I kept, which one is your favourite?

 

Fujifilm GFX50s + 2X Broncolor SirosL
GF 32-64mm f4 R LM WR
1/60sec at f/8 ISO200 – 32mm

 


I have to say, I never had the best conditions to make these, so I am a bit frustrated. Don’t get me wrong, I like these images but they are all missing something, or something went wrong or the location wasn’t right.

But what’s great is all the lessons I’ve learned each and every time, and I know that the next one will be better and the one after will be epic. There will be I hope, not in a year but very soon another opportunity for me to photograph multiple dancers at once with the right tools, and an adapted location. I cannot wait!

How I photograph a group of dancershazekware
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2 comments on "How I photograph a group of dancers"

  1. Hi
    I look forward to your videos
    It is inspiring to watch you work, thank you for sharing.

    I hope this current situation will not impact your business too heavily

    I wish you well

    • Thanks a lot for your message… I don’t want to think about it too much, because the situation is hard to anticipate. I still do not know when I will be able to work again. Almost all my projects in Europe are canceled or on hold for now for the next 3 months.

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