Exciting Moment in a Dancer's Journey
It was quite a whirlwind few weeks for Aviva. She got her first pair of pointe shoes fitted, she's going to attend YAPG, and she turned 9 years old...what better way to celebrate and remember her many milestones than a professional dance photoshoot in Chicago.
We went through a few different looks, and even decided to put my famous angel wings on her...we will talk more about that later. :)
Child Dance Photography Doesn't Have to Look Cheesy
One of the mistakes I see quite a few dance photographers make when photographing child dancers, is they see them and children first. You see crazy colors, that resembles 80s glamour portraits, make up that's way too heavy, big fake smiles, or put them unnecessary contorted poses (they are dancers, not contortionists). My philosophy when it come to dance photography, regardless of the dancer's age, is to make incredibly difficult and technical poses look effortless and graceful. There is no audience to impress. During our shoots, we are in a bubble, where we create for ourselves.
Dancers are a different breed. Their ability to convey emotions through their movement and facial expression is steps above kids the same age. They just need the proper instruction. Take Aviva here for example. There is nothing childish about her in this image. The amalgamation of the gentle curved line in her upper body, the soft, elegant arms and hands, and the subtle, but self assured, confident expression, created something special.
Oh, and kudos to mom for nailing her make up. Also, who says kudos anymore? I'm really dating myself here...let's move on.
Motion in a Still Image?
One of my favorite ways to convey motion is the use of fabric. The inspiration actually didn't come from the ballet world...it came from the Mexican Folk Dancing photoshoot I did with a Chicago area non-profit dance school in Little Village. The texture, shape and color of the skirt in the image where she's on pointe, reminds me of flower petals, gently swaying in the breeze. The skirt really makes the image of her in the window frame. It's a back lit shot, so that means the front of her body is in the shadow...and the skirt really adds a nice pop in the image with a splash of color.
One thing I'd like to point out, which most people might miss, is how soft her arms and fingers are. In ballet, arms and fingers are extremely important, because dancers use them to direct the audience's attention. I was really impressed with how easily Aviva's able to pull it off!
By the way, dad is off to left of the window to catch Aviva in case she loses her footing! Team work for the win!
Stunning Ballerina in a Gorgeous Custom Tutu
My jaw literally dropped when I saw Aviva's tutu. The gradient from dark to light adds so much visual interest, I was obsessed! When Jen (Aviva's mom) told me how the seamstress hand made the tutu, it was even more impressive! I love dancers in leotards because I'm able to show off the lines they work so hard for. With that said, there is something special about when they wear a tutu. It's unmistakably ballet. It adds a certain amount of elegance to the images.
The movements selected for this series is very understated. We are not begging for your attention as if we are the circus in town. As the kids say nowadays...we are unbothered.
Aviva's lines are longer than her height would suggest. The key is the pose and the angle. Having soft arms extends her line. On the other hand, if we had stiff and jagged angles, it would disrupt your eyes when they scan the image. The angle also makes a huge difference. If you ever seen me in action, you'd find me literally laying flat on the ground. It gets a little complicated, but depending on the focal length of the lenses, and the chosen poses, the degree of the angle changes. Artistic choses aside, just remember, dancers ALL want to look long and lean.
Ballerina in Angel Wings
Remember earlier I said I'll talk about the wings? Well, the concern I had before the shoot was if the wings would fit her. Might not look at, but they are 5 feet tall! They are almost the same height...if not a bit taller than Aviva. 1.) I wasn't sure if they were going to fit, and 2.) I wasn't sure about the proportions.
My worries were put to rest when we put the wings on her. Now, if I'm being honest, if we did the shoot outdoors with a breeze, there is a possibility the wings could catch sail and pull her around. But in a studio setting, it's perfect.
There is a popular quote in the dance community that goes "Dancers are athletes of God". It's quite befitting then, to incorporate angel wings in dance shoots.
Aviva looks nothing short of stunning in these images!
Ballerina in Black & White
Coming from film photography background, black and white has a special place in my heart. There is something timeless yet nostalgic about b&w photographs. My long time followers would know I love crazy wild hair in my images...and Aviva has the perfect hair for just that. We were going to capture her in a bun later in the shoot, so we took some shots of her wit her hair down first. I'm obsessed how the image turned out. It's the perfect combination of dynamic, motion and elegance. Later in the shoot, we had her hair up in a bun for a more classic ballet look. Looking at the photographs, nobody is going to believe it's Aviva's first professional shoot.
The exciting thing about taking dancer portraits, is they are capable of incredible versatility. You want emotional, and thoughtful? Look at how Aviva closes her eyes, with her head slightly lowered. You want something more creative and make people go: WOW! She's balancing on her tippy toes while squatting down! You want something playful? Add a victorian inspired, floral patterned chair and viola!
Their skills and range is what makes me so passionate about photographing dancers. Dancers test your skills as a photographer. You have to be technical, creative and somewhat knowledgeable in dance at the same time. It's always challenging but also incredibly rewarding.
It's a tradition at my shoots to take some fun and silly pics after the shoot. I think it's important to document the experience and to highlight the importance of family in a dancer's journey.
Between going to daily classes and driving hours, sometimes, flying across the country to attend competitions...and everything else in between, there is a lot of sacrifices behind the scenes made by both the dancers and their families. Which is why I like to involve the parents when we shoot. Mom was the stylist, make up artist, and hair stylist! Dad was the pose consultant/stunt safety coordinator. Team work makes the dream work!
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