Dance photography — an art form in its own right. Dance photographers have the unique skill in collaborating with their athletic and agile subjects in order to capture a beautifully composed image, as if it were a sculptured moment, frozen in time.
Whilst each photographer has their own style, there is more than meets the eye. An understanding of lighting, composition, colour balance and technical aspects of the dancer is essential to ensure that an image stands out – and in this digital age, your portfolio and audition shots need to do just that!
Here, Dance Informa goes behind the lens with Renate Hechter, Sydney-based dance photographer and owner of PureDynamics Photography.
Renate, what initiated you to become a dance photographer?
“When I started off on my photography journey in 2014, I captured all genres – family, newborns, teens, and toward the end of 2014, a dancer. As a physiotherapist and Pilates instructor, dance photography resonated with me immediately. I have always been fascinated by the human form and the amazing artistry and ability of the dancers I have treated in the past. It was a no-brainer after that epiphany. I have loved photographing dancers since then.”
How has your style and approach evolved over the years?
“My approach has changed from initially just getting dance images, to now being very pedantic about technique and also experimenting with different looks, backdrops and moods.”
What do you perceive to be the most important consideration when shooting dancers and building a portfolio?
“I shoot many dancers who are submitting audition, portfolio and creative images for local and international auditions, so correct technique is everything! The dancers need to show off their best, so we have a complete approach, which includes starting from the supporting leg and building from there, turnout, shoulder blades, head, arms, hands and face. Everyone will tell you I will reshoot until we get correct hands. Most of all, we have fun!”
What is your approach to a studio shoot versus a shoot on location?
“These days, in the studio, I try and set up a variety of backdrops and ask the dancer to bring in a few different outfit changes so we can make the most of a studio session. When shooting on location, it often looks like we are going on a holiday with the amount of outfits dancers bring! I don’t shoot with flash on location, so we are pretty mobile and can often do a walking around shoot.”
How does lighting come into play in both scenarios?
“In the studio, I know where and how I want to place my lights, and after that, the set-up remains pretty constant. On location, we are searching for the light, and it differs at different times of a day, and on different days.”
What do you look for in the dancer when shooting, and how does the collaboration unfold?
“I look at the dancer as a whole – good technique is key and important to work with. I love dancers who are well prepared with their outfits and poses as time is often of the essence as people have busy schedules. Shoots often work best when the dancers are having fun and are relaxed.”
The editing process is often one that requires time, an eye for detail and an understanding of colour balance. Can you tell us more about your method in obtaining the best outcome?
“For me, getting the correct colour balance is key and that probably takes the longest part of my editing process. I am a perfectionist and sometimes spend almost too much time looking at the finer details.”
Tell us about your ambassador program?
“My ambassador program started in 2016, and it has been going strong ever since. I have changed it in 2018, to include ‘dance’ and ‘ballet’ ambassadors, and this year, I have expanded it to a group of amazing male dance and ballet ambassadors. I have met some lovely dance mums and dads since running this program, and every year we all have a lot of fun.”
What do you love most about your art form?
“As I mentioned before, I find the human form fascinating. I love that between the dancer, the lens and I, we can create something that is ethereal and beautiful. This quote from Meshack Otieno sums it up perfectly for me; “Photography is the art of frozen time…the ability to store emotion and feelings within a frame.”
If you are interested in audition and portfolio images, visit www.puredynamics.com.au. Follow Renate Hechter and PureDynamics Photography on Instagram: @puredynamicsphoto. Applications for the 2021 Ambassador program are now open. Apply by visiting Dance Ambassadors Program – PureDynamics Photography.
By Renata Ogayar of Dance Informa.