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Portraits of Ballerinas

Being married to a classical ballet teacher, I am fortunate enough to often photograph dance shows and portraits of ballerinas. It's a subject that is as fantastic as difficult. Dance is movement, Photography is static. Capturing movement in a photo is relatively easy. The difficult thing is to be able to get the exact moment, that split second in which body, expression, pose are conjugated in a moment in which everything is perfect. Fortunately, these young ballerinas have an amazing professionalism and dedication, which means that almost everything goes well at first. Thanks to years of almost daily training, effort, sacrifice and the will to be better.

 Sony A77 mkII | 16-50mm f2.8

Sony A77 mkII | 16-50mm f2.8

After drowning one of my speedlite flashes on a lake a couple of years ago, my studio kit is rather simple: just one Godox TT560 flash, triggered off camera and a 80cm octobox. Of course a two lights setup would have been better, but 99% of the time I shoot with natural light, so my very basic studio kit is doing fine for now.

 Sony A7 mkII | Zeiss 55mm f1.8

Sony A7 mkII | Zeiss 55mm f1.8

In this photo shoot I used 2 cameras, for different purposes.

  • Sony A7 mkII with Sony Zeiss Sonnar T * FE 55mm f1.8 ZA lens for static portraits
  • Sony A77 mkII with Sony Lens DT 16-50mm f / 2.8 SSM for the pictures with movement

The A7II with the Zeiss 55mm forms a beautiful set, which I use for both photography and video. For portraits, landscape or street photography, it is quite versatile and the image quality impressive. However, whenever I wanted to capture a ballerina making a fast movement, achieving focus was an almost impossible task. The studio lights was very weak, and although the flash is powerful enough for taking the photo, focusing had to be done with the available light. And here is where the A77 II shines, with the most advanced focusing system I've worked with, focusing on any lighting condition is simple and fast. This camera keeps surprising me. 1, 2, 3 jump and... with a light touch in the shutter button it focuses and shoots. Being an SLT, the viewfinder is electronic, which means that, just after the capture and without putting the camera down, it's possible to immediately realize if I was able to take picture at the exact moment or if it's necessary to repeat. I usually get it at the first attempt, because everything happens very fast: focusing and shooting are almost instantaneous, without any noticeable lag. Of course we usually do 3 or 4 photos of the same pose, only to have options to choose when processing the images.

 Sony A77 mkII | 16-50mm f2.8

Sony A77 mkII | 16-50mm f2.8

The ballerinas had their poses rehearsed and the session was super fast, getting dozens of photos in just a few hours. All the merit belongs to them because they can make something very difficult and physically demanding seem easy and with a smile on their lips.

 Sony A7 mkII | Zeiss 55mm f1.8

Sony A7 mkII | Zeiss 55mm f1.8

There are undoubtedly aspects to improve, such as a backdrop stand and a couple of additional flashes. But despite the minimalist setup, I really liked the results.

 Sony A77 mkII | 16-50mm f2.8

Sony A77 mkII | 16-50mm f2.8


Below I present a selection of photographs from the two sessions held.

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A special thanks to DNA - Dance N 'Arts School, the teachers and, in particular, to the magnificent ballerinas.