Beautiful Day for Dance Photography In Chicago

Katrina, her mom, and I met right across from The Bean, in downtown Chicago, on a sunny Saturday morning. Katrina is in Chicago to attend the Joffrey Academy summer intensive, and what better way to commemorate the experience than a professional dance photoshoot? :)

There wasn't a cloud in the sky, which was drastically different than my shoot just a few days ago, which was overcast, with no direct sunlight. This is one reason I love location shoots; it's never the same twice, never boring! :D

chicago dance photography of a ballerina
chicago dance photographer of ballerinas in angel wings

Mature Beyond Her Age

I explained to both Katrina and her mom, my style and what I expect out of the dancers are a little different than, say, a typical family portrait photographer. While smiling at the camera has its place, it really under utilizes the tools dancers have. I repeat myself all the time in person, and when I wrote my blogs, but, please, dancers, and dance photographers, pay attention to facial expressions. Katrina nailed the calm, yet, confident look. Did I mention she's only 10 years old!!?

chicago dance photographer at the bean ballerina
chicago dance photography of ballerina downtown chicago

I Don't Like Ground Poses, Unless...

Dancers are versatile, so are the poses they are capable of. With that said, just because they can, doesn't mean they should. I prefer to get them off the ground, to make them look lean and tall.

The streets are dirty! I don't understand why some photographers insist on having these elegant dancers roll round on dirty side walks??? Pets, birds, rats...etc, do their business there!

Of course there are exceptions. Having the dancers change levels can bring variety and different feel to the images. Take the two poses above for example. They are either really close to the ground, or she's sitting down...but the difference is, in "the egg" pose, only her pointes are touching the ground, and in the sitting pose, she's literally on a pedestal. One pose shows a slight vulnerability, and one shows off her confidence. The range from this young dancer is truly impressive!

chicago ballet dance photography
chicago ballet dance photographer portrait

A Dancer's Range

These two images perfectly showcase Katrina's range. We have a dynamic shot of Katrina pulling off the hair flip. Then we have her in a subtle and elegant portrait. Each style comes with their own challenges, and their own rewards. I love dynamic movements. The wow factor from a well executed action shot is hard to match. However, with so many different moving parts, it will test the dancers' ability. It's not enough to just jump or kick high. We have to make sure the technique isn't sacrificed.

Dancer portraits on the other hand, while doesn't require precise technique, pushes the dancer to draw from an inner level. Subtle changes in facial expression or angle can make a drastic difference. A well captured portrait tells the subject's story. It invites the viewers into their world, and make deeper, emotional connection. Katrina nailed both!

chicago ballerina dance photography
chicago ballet dance photographer tutu

Urban Oasis vs Concrete Jungle

Chicago is a world class city with world class dance companies and schools. So why not incorporate it into dance photography? It's a delicate balance between the environment enhancing the image and being a distraction. It's important to be intention when it comes to composition.

Photographers, what are your reasons for placing the subject at that particular location? Is it the leading lines or sub framing that focus on the subject? Is it the particular texture or color that makes an interesting or contrasting backdrop? Is the environment adding to the story? Before you click the shutter button, ask yourself these questions. If you can't come up with one, why are you taking the photograph?

The photograph with Katrina in a tutu; the buildings on the sides frame the dancer. The fact that she's high above the street level, and her serene pose, separates her from the hustle and bustle of the chaos in a city of millions. The background in the garden image makes for an interesting background. The plants adds color and texture you typically can't find in a studio. The color helps Katrina's black leotard pop, and the building in behind the greenery adds depth, adds layer creates a juxtaposition between nature and made made.

A Little Inside Joke

If you were wondering why Katrina made that face in her solo picture...that's because I'v been reminding her of her facial expression (ie, no fake smiles), at the end of the shoot, I told her to smile as much as she wanted! She definitely took advantage of that! LOL

Obviously, I had to include a silly pose picture to follow tradition at my photoshoots. Never forget, dancers are strong too!

It takes a village to raise a dancer, and that job usually falls on the moms (and dads too). Let's not forget all that dance parents have done to make their dancer's dream come true. Carla (dance mom) was an integral part of the shoot. She was the stylist, the assistant, and moral support. It was a beautiful sight witnessing a mother and daughter bonding over the same passion for dance. I hope this was a memory she and her daughter can look back on with fondness.

Thank you Katrina and mom, Carla for choosing me as their dance photographer while they visit Chicago. I hope to see you again, and can't wait to witness Katrina's dance journey!