Congratulations: You just booked your very first photo shoot! Whether it’s a promo for your studio, a fashion spread for your favorite dance magazine, or it’s for the official production shots of your very first Broadway show (big time!), photo shoots are an inevitable part of every dancer’s going-pro career. But there’s more to a photo shoot than just showing up and looking nice. You’re going to be working, moving, and definitely sweating. Here’s what you need to know before stepping into the [very bright] lights.
Make sure you know where you’re going and triple check your call time. “Call time” is set-speak for the time you should show up. As with any professional gig, it’s crucial not to arrive late. If the shoot is taking place in an unfamiliar-to-you location, make sure you familiarize yourself with how to get there and how to enter the building (buzzers and doormen and freight entrances, oh my!). If you’ll be driving, check the traffic that morning. If you’re taking public transportation, allow ample time for potential delays.
In most cases, you’ll need to arrive with clean, dry hair and a clean face. That means no makeup! We know, you never leave the house without a bit of mascara. But the glam team needs you to be a clean slate. So unless otherwise stated (i.e. unless you’re told to arrive “stage ready”), you’ll want your hair to be clean and dry without any product in it, and you should have a clean face, sans makeup.
You probably won’t have a say in your look. At most shoots, there’s already a plan in place. And while the team may ask what you’re most comfortable in, or you may get to try on a few different outfits, it’s likely they’ve pre-selected the wardrobe for you. Unless you’re really, truly uncomfortable, your job is to roll with it. The hair might be crazy (Miley top-knots, perhaps) and your makeup may be more Ursula than Aurora, but you’re the canvas, and you’re there to play a particular role. Remember, even if you’re a bit uncomfortable, everyone wants you to look good and everyone is working with you, not against you! Use a new look as an opportunity to grow and try something fresh and exciting.
Make sure you’re warm. Stretch or do a light barre before stepping on set. You’ll probably do quite a bit of dancing, and you don’t want to risk injury because you threw your leg into a giant battement before properly warming up.
Know your angles. Body awareness is so important when you’re working with still photos. Even if there’s a dance consultant on set, you’ll be expected to know which shapes are flattering and cool, and what looks best on you. Do your research: Look at your favorite dance photos online or in magazines, and really study them. Take note of the dancer’s entire body. Is her chin lifted or down? Where’s her focus? Is it on the camera or looking elsewhere? Are her toes pointed or intentionally flexed? In a live performance, you can keep moving and going with the flow. But when you’re trying to capture a precise, specific image, every body part has to be on point[e]. (We had to.) And never forget your technique. Use it for every movement, every shot.
Have some choreography prepared. The shoot may start with the photographer telling you to “just start moving.” Don’t let that scare you. She wants to see how you move and what your style looks like. This doesn’t necessarily mean just busting out all your best tricks, but don’t be shy. Show her all the ways you know how to move, and really go for it. And remember to move slowly and with control. The faster you move, the harder it is for the photographer to catch you in action. If you’re going to jump, give the photog a heads up so she can catch you at peak flight time!
Be polite and professional to every single person on set. In this tiny dance industry, it’s likely you’ll cross paths again! Chat up the makeup artist, the hair stylist, the photographer, the photographer’s assistant, the creative team, the fellow “talent,” and everyone in between. Whether you’re getting paid for the shoot or not, it’s likely to be a wonderful professional experience, and it’s important to make as many connections as possible. (You never know when the photographer may be working on a cool project down the line and needs to call in some great dancers. Make sure you’re top of mind!)
And of course, most importantly: Have fun! Photo shoots are super exciting (and make for great Instagram content, of course), so show your best side and have a blast!