Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Pro-Tips on How to Photograph a Dancer Part 2

Pro-Tips on How to Photograph a Dancer
This is the second article on how to photograph a ballerina in motion. You can find part 1 of the article on how to photograph a ballerina here.

3. Placement of the Legs
You always want to pick the shots that present the dancer at the apex of whatever pose, turn or jump he/she is completing. This moment is usually only a quarter of a second in duration, and probably less depending on the movement. For jump shots, such as "leaps," the hamstrings and behind the knees need to be at their fullest extension. You do not want images of a dancer taking off (the moment before reaching the full apex of the jump) or on the descent down where the legs begin to bend as they prepare to touch the ground again. Below is an example of what a good "leap" shot of a dancer should look like with the legs and feet at their fullest extended position: the apex of the jump. Please note there are jump positions where the legs are purposely bent. I have further included an example of this below: a "double stag jump" or "double attitude jump".

A Ballerina and Dance Model in a Graceful Leap
A Ballerina and Dance Model in a Double Stag or Double Attitude Jump
Photos by: David Black and Scott Detweiler 

4. The Upper Body
The upper body for Ballet photography, in particular, should be soft and elegant. The elbows should not be locked, the shoulders should not be up, and the fingers should be delicate with space in between each finger, almost like the petals of a flower. At times, a particular shot is supposed to be angular and edgy, so there will be exceptions. I have included a couple of shots below of each as an example.

A Beautiful Ballerina in Motion Wearing a Flowing Red DressA Beautiful Ballet Dancer in Motion Wearing a Red Dress and Holding Flowing Red Silk Fabric Through the Air

The first image shows the space between each finger: delicate like a flower pedal. The second image shows the elbows which are still engaged but are not stiff, rigid or locked into place.  
Photos by: Christine Wehbe

A Golden Ballerina Posed

In the above photo, the arms are clearly angular and locked into place for a specific stylistic choice. 
Photo by: Jerry Alt

As a quick endnote: I know this is a lot of information to absorb at once. If you have questions, comments, or concerns, please do not hesitate to comment below and I can help.

No one likes terrible dance/ballet photography. If you do not know ballet or dance- send the dancer or ballerina a gallery of culled down images so they can help you select final edits that will highlight the best of both worlds: The Dance and The Photography World. In the end, this process benefits both parties, and we all end up happy with beautiful imagery. As a photographer, this will potentially help you to get more paid jobs in the future shooting professional dancers and companies or student performances or recitals. Studios are always in need of promotional images. I also teach a lot of high school juniors and seniors that need beautiful dance photos for company and college auditions! 

I hope you enjoyed this blog- Jennifer.


  1. Very insightful post with excellent photographic examples! I'll be keeping this in mind on my next shoot with a dancer. -REW

  2. Great information I will keep in mind! Thank you!

  3. Really informative, and clearly explained well to the level that someone like me with absolutely no knowledge of ballet can understand and appreciate. Thanks :-)

    1. Thank you so much! I will be posting more blogs like this down the line and am always here to help in any way I can or answer questions:)

  4. Thank you so much for this information, its so helpful to know the technical details of what is a correct capture that stays true to the art form of ballet. I really appreciate this info. I’m based in Chicago and absolutely love photographing dance. Lets sync up!

    1. I would love that! You can find me on instagram @jennifer.raelynn and my website is
      I am glad you enjoyed it :) My goal is to always help photographers capture the best possible images. Beautiful dance photography makes my heart sing!

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