10 tips for your first photoshoot with a dancer Beginner's hints and help for a first dance photoshoot


Dance photography

Dance photography is incredibly exciting and dynamic, not only for the performer but for the photographer too. They say that dance is the language of the soul, and shooting such an artistic and dynamic medium can be very fulfilling for the photographer. However, it comes with its challenges. Whether you’re struggling with dance photoshoot ideas for outside or inside, we have come up with our best dance photography tips to help you capture the beauty of dance.

1. Prepare for the shoot

Our first tip is to become familiar with the style of dance you are photographing. When you know what the dance genre is like, you will be able to predict how your subject is going to dance. When you know what to expect, you will have a good sense of what kind of lens to use, good angles to shoot your subject from, and your approach to shutter speed. For instance, photoshoot poses for a classical dance would be very different from hip-hop dancing. 

It’s also important to know your venue. If your session is in a performance venue, the house lights might not be sufficient, and you may have to bring a flash. If the dance photoshoot is at home, will there be enough space and natural light to photograph your subject? 

If you don’t have any dance background, researching some simple dance photography poses will give you a starting point, but your dancer will be able to give some suggestions too.

Photoshoot with a dancer


2. Shoot from different angles

When you’re working with one dancer for your session, ask them to prepare some easy dance poses for the photoshoot. Shooting from one angle can make your work seem static and boring, so varying your angles is a good way to shake things up.

3. Create a shallow depth of field

When practising dance photography, it’s a good idea to use a wider aperture. This is beneficial for a couple of reasons. When you’re using a wider aperture, you’re allowing more light to reach the sensor, giving you a clearer shot of your subject in action. Having a wider aperture also creates a shallower depth of field. 

Having the shallow DOF is good for dance photography, as it isolates the subject from the background. This is dynamic and allows the viewer to connect more with the subject. It also allows you to shoot with exciting backgrounds, but to prevent them from becoming a distraction. In sports and action photography, f/2.8 is the standard aperture to use.

4. Lighting

When shooting dance photography, depending on the lighting conditions at your location, you may require the use of artificial lighting such as an external flash. This is a good idea if you’re shooting a session with a single dancer, for example. 

However, if you’ve been commissioned to photograph a dance event this may not be possible, as shooting with a flash would be disruptive to the other guests and even the dancers on stage. To get around the lack of flash, bump up your ISO to around 800-1600, according to the level of light at the venue. The high ISO with your wide aperture should be able to help enough light to reach your camera’s sensors.

5. Freeze the action

Sometimes when shooting dance photography, you may prefer to create a crisp shot with no perceivable motion blur, for example, a sharp shot of your dancer jumping into the air. If you’re going to freeze the action of your subject, you should try shooting with a shutter speed of 1/500s. However, if there is lots of natural light available, you can even try shooting with a 1/2000s shutter speed. If you’re shooting in dimmer lighting conditions, shoot with 1/500s, and increase your ISO accordingly.

6. Motion blur

Some photographers prefer to create the impression of movement in dance photography, by using motion blur. To introduce a creative motion blur, you use the opposite principle of shutter speed for freezing the action. You will want to use a shutter speed of around 1/100s. If you want an even longer trail of movements, you can use an even slower shutter speed for a long exposure.

If you’re shooting long exposures, you should always use a tripod to stabilise your camera for a cleaner shot. Using a remote shutter release is also great, as it eliminates the risk of camera shake further. It’s also a good idea to have a clear background when shooting longer exposures, to keep the emphasis on your subject.

7. Panning

Another way to create a sense of motion in your images is panning, but this requires a bit of practice to master. To add some energy to your images, you can move along with your dancer by panning your camera in the direction of movement. This has the effect of keeping your dancer in focus, but blurring the background. For the viewer of the image, they feel the sense of moving along with the dancer, making your image more dynamic. 

8. Autofocus

Unless you’re a master of manual focus, we would suggest using autofocus when photographing subjects in motion. Especially if the style of dance is fast-paced, it can be very difficult to quickly focus on your subject. Trying to manually focus on your dancer can lead you to miss out on some great shots.

Photographing dancers


9. Use Continuous Shooting Mode or Burst Mode

If your dancer is performing continuously, it can be difficult to capture a good series of shots, or at least you might miss out on some good ones. A way to give your more photo options is to shoot in Continuous Shooting Mode or Burst Mode to capture a burst of images. Make sure to hold your shutter down halfway when shooting in these modes.

10. Use a wide-angle lens for multiple dancers

If you’re photographing a group of dancers, it is a good idea to use a wide-angle lens to create a flattering shot of the group. This will help to create a larger sense of space. You may also want to use a deeper DOF to keep all of the subjects in focus.


We hope you found our dance photography tips useful.

If you require a dance photographer, book with Splento. At Splento, we provide you with expert, professional photographers, who can help you capture the beauty of dance, at your convenience. If you’re interested in a dance photography shoot at an affordable rate, contact us today to have a chat with a team member about your shoot. 


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