Finally Photographing Dancers In Chicago Again!

It's been so long. Felt like an eternity the last time I had a dance photo shoot in Chicago, and I couldn't have asked for a better family to work with since the lockdown. This will be the third time Payton have shot with me. We pulled no punches and managed to capture this gorgeous ballerina at 4 different locations around Chicago, and a surprising location no dancer had access to at the time.

ballerina photography chicago pointe shoes
chicago dancer photographed performing firebird
chicago ballerina photography

Chicago's B-line Murals

This first location was suggested by the Conrad family. It is called the B Line Murals. With its many colorful wall arts and gritty setting, it makes for a nice contrast with an elegant dancer. It's a little bit of a departure from my usual aesthetics, where there are plenty of wide open spaces, so I went ahead and rented a 55mm lens to accommodate the smaller space I have to work with. I love how Payton stands out against the vibrant walls, in her solid color leotard and shorts.

chicago ballerina ballet angel wings photography
chicago angel wing dancer photography
ballerina with angel wings chicago photograhy

Angel Wings Surprise

I decided to surprise Payton with the angel wings you might have seen in my other images. The reason I bought the wings in the first place, is because I want my dancers to stand out. If they are going to invest their time and money on a photoshoot, I want it to be special.

Back to the images, I love the juxtaposition between the angelic dancer and a rundown underpass. And with the wings, dancers are a little restricted when it comes to poses, and it forces you to be creative within the circumstances. I've always been drawn towards more athletic shots. Big firebird, or a grand jete...etc. However, as I venture more and more into the world of dance photography, I have come to embrace the dancers for more than their athletic abilities. They are actors! It's important for dance photographers to be aware of that.

chicago dancer ballerina photography
chicago dance photographer
chicago ballet dancer photography

Light and Magic

Something about this series of images that I can't look away. The aesthetics of the location and Payton's expression give off a bit of hopeful, yet melancholy, feel to the images. That's what happens when you take advantage of dramatic natural lighting with the right dancer. Although Payton looks calm and collected, we only had a couple of seconds to run out in the middle of the bridge, compost, shoot, and run back.

chicago professional ballerina photographer
chicago professional dance photographer
chicago professional ballet photography

Surprise of a Lifetime

Luck is preparation meets opportunity. Things that happen behind the scenes that makes a huge difference, but rarely seem by anyone else, is scouting for locations. The Civic Opera Building is one such placed I have scouted multiple times and suggested as one of the location for Payton's shoot. During our shoot in front of the entrance of the building, someone who works there saw us, and offered us a couple of minutes inside, on the stage! We obviously jumped on the chance! Most people would never have the chance to be on the stage and see the venue from the performers viewpoint. And let me tell you, it was breathtaking! We took a couple of photographs, and had just enough time to film a quick improv.

ballet photography at chicago civic opera house
dance photography at chicago civic opera house
chicago dance photography on the street black and white
chicago dancing photography on the street

Middle of the Street

Photographing dancers in the middle of the bustling Chicago streets is one of my signature aesthetics. This location in particular is one of my favorites. There are leading lines everywhere. From the yellow dividers on the ground to the street lights to the skyscrapers. It creates a sense of scale while putting the focus on the dancer.

I also adore the lines Payton created with her attitude. It's both elegant and strong at the same time. What's more impressive is how little time we have to set up and capture this image. Once the lights turn red, and no cars in sight, we ran out, set up, and took the photograph...all within the span of a few seconds...and the result speaks for itself.

Behind the Scenes of Payton's Ballet Photoshoot in Chicago

Silly Selfies

As always, we ended our shoot with some silly group selfies! I'd like to thank the Conrad family for driving hours to Chicago to shoot with me. Mom, Lisa did a fantastic job as the hair and make up artist, and dad, Trevor, killed it as the driver and look out, and the dancer, Payton, who's dedication and passion for dance really shined through...however, she was foolish to think she had any chance in beating me in a muscle contest. Will she ever learn? ;P