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Leap into the frame

Claire Gillo reveals techniques to help you step up to the challenge of dance photography in a rural location

Although the studio is a safe and comfortable environment to work in when it comes to dance photography, there is something magical about being in the great outdoors and capturing those impressive ballet moves in a wide-open space.

For this photoshoot, we headed up to the wilds of Dartmoor in Devon with talented dancer Lydia Brayshaw. We selected a less well-known tor as our location to avoid the crowds! Despite Dartmoor being a vast open space, it can get rather busy at the popular tors, and you want to avoid people sneaking into the background of your shot. They can also be nosy and slow down your workflow.

Even before you head out the door, though, it’s important to plan, plan, plan! This means you’ll both be getting out what you want of the shoot, and it’s important to understand what each person’s capabilities are. For example, while leaping across the top of Tors looks great, make sure there is plenty of space and that your dancer is in their comfort zone. It’s amazing what the camera can make look dynamic without having to put anyone at risk.

1 Collaboration

This photoshoot truly was an artistic collaboration between dancer and photographer. As a photographer you need to ensure you are directing your dancer to stand in the right spot, count them into jumps and be ready to fire the shutter at the optimum moment. It helps to have a practice in a more comfortable environment, so you know what your dancer is capable of.

2 Camera kit and settings

We used just a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens and a camera body. No lights! Having a simple setup meant we were able to give our full concentration to working on our composition and ensuring that a feeling of movement was captured in the frame. Switch the AF setting to tracking and shoot using the burst mode. Keep showing shots to the dancer to make sure they’re happy with the form of their body.

3 Working with the light

We timed our shoot to coincide with the latter part of the day, going into the evening. The light becomes much easier to work with at this time, as it softens and creates a warm glow

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