Photographer Jordan Matter is rather experienced in finding creative ways to photograph dancers. And he wants to convince his viewers that the kinds of dance photos that will go viral are easier to pull off than they look:
The first step is finding a dancer who is willing to take some risks for amazing photos. This is likely the hardest feat to pull off! Dancers are used to performing in front of an audience, so they might be more than willing to be on the other side of your camera if you ask.
Next, decide what you want the dancer to wear. Matter suggests street clothing or a combination of street clothing with a leotard. Bright clothing will create an appealing contrast with a dark background, so be sure to keep this in mind!
Matter suggests using a long lens at a wide aperture to take the photographs. He uses a 70–200mm lens with an f/2.8 or f/4 aperture.
Search for an unpredictable environment, such as a busy urban setting where you would not expect to see a dancer. Look for a shot that incorporates action from other people around the dancer. Most of all, don’t be afraid to take risks! For this demonstration, Matter photographs the dancer in the middle of a busy New York City intersection, because he likes the lines, crowds, and thrill of oncoming traffic in his shots.
Now, it’s time to think about the powerful pose that you want the dancer to execute. Pay close attention to their athleticism and incorporate their flexibility into a stunning image that will make you and others say “wow” when they see it. Thinking about these things in advance will go a long way when it comes time to position the dancer and photograph them.
If you look at traditional dance photos, you’ll likely see little separation between the dancer and the background. To make the dancer stand out in an urban environment, look for a way to separate them from the background. Find an empty or white space in your composition to position the dancer so that they stand out! You likely won’t capture this perfectly on your first go, but reviewing your images will push you in the right direction.
Since you have the big steps covered now, remember the small details that will ensure a great overall experience for this photo shoot. Keep your equipment safe while you turn your back on it to photograph! Also, document the process to show proof of the spontaneity and steps you took to capture this amazing work. The risk is worth the payoff!
“Sometimes, if you want to take a great shot you’ve got to take some risks!”
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