An introduction to Pole dance Photography
My name is Haze I am a photographer specializing in dance, sports, portraits anything involving a human being that can stay still or move...
I've been shooting pole dancers regularly for the past 3 years and thought maybe I would share some helpful tips for you guys out there that might want to do the same. Shooting pole performers is fun because it has become more and more popular in the past years and is now almost over the cliché we all had about the discipline.
Some of these performers have a background in contemporary dance, ballet, gymnastics, and even hip-hop... And you may have noticed it if you have watched some recent videos of shows and competitions where they all mix up different flavors and styles in their performances.
I shared with you 5 tips on posing dancers a while back if you haven't seen that video, do it right now because it might help you for pole dancers too.
Are you guys ready?
Inform yourself on the level of your performer!
A lot of inexperienced performers will try and make difficult poses and moves... they will ask you to catch it quickly because they won't be able to do it twice... and the only time they will manage to get up there, it will look like crap. If they are beginners, make simple poses with the pole, concentrate on the mood and attitude. Your chances to make good pictures will be greater.
Preparation and rehearsal
If you are shooting intermediate and/ or advanced performers, ask them to prepare mentally their session by choosing several poses they master in advance. I even ask them to practice their poses and moves before the shoot, and some of them bring a few pictures so that I can visualize what they wish to do. This will also help you place the pole and choose your compositions!
If your client asks for 20, 30 50 different pictures, poses, and moves on the pole... just say no... It's physically impossible. If you manage to get 10 different pictures it's awesome. Pro performers can do more but it's not common. Discuss the pose in advance place your lights, do your test shots before anyone gets on the pole. You can't ask your performer to get up there 20 times in a row. Make it short and only get into action when everything is in place and decided.
One of the main drawbacks of shooting outside a studio (because yes we are talking shooting pole on location)... is the pole itself! It takes time to set up, it's heavy so you cannot move it around that much unless you have a lot of people helping out. So that's where you will have to put your imagination into play. use a wide variety of focal lengths. Shoot tight and shoot wide, get close, shoot from far away, shoot from above or below... This will help you get different pictures without moving your pole.
Back in 2015
Tight shot of Sammy Lee in Strasbourg 5D mark III 1/8000 f1.8 ISO 100 at 85mm
Magalie captured in Geneva 5D mark III 1/800 f5.6 ISO 160 at 85mm
Kimmy captured in Milan 5D mark III 1/800 f5.6 ISO 160 at 24mm
Allegra Bird and Injy Pina in Bordeaux 5D mark III 1/200 f9 ISO 200 at 24mm
Sophie Roth captured up close in Lausanne 5D mark III 1/500 f6.3 ISO 100 at 24mm
Back in 2016,
Vanessa captured in the distance in Nyons 5D mark III 1/200 f7.1 ISO 100 at 24mm
The first Pole dancer I worked with back in 2015!
Sammy Lee captured From above in Strasbourg 5D mark III 1/200 f14 ISO 125 at 30mm
One of my favorite shot of 2018,
Celine Vandesraiser captured in Lausanne 5D mark III 1/500 f6.3 ISO 100 at 24mm
Spinning or Static?
The pole can stay still or spin, it's up to you and the performer... The advantage of having it still is that if you want to place your artist in a specific place, position... it will be much easier if the pole doesn't spin. The only issue is sometimes your performer finds it easier to make their move when the pole is spinning, and of course to capture a realistic shot in motion the spinning pole is your best option. So if you are spinning don't improvise too much and know in advance basically when you are going to capture your shot. During this session at la base sous-marine de Bordeaux, I wanted to add a little bit of movement in the dress for a few shots. My camera was locked on my Tripod and we used 2 lights for this scene. One Broncolor SirosL on the left for my main light and another one on the right is used as a Rim/ Backlight. The static pole helped us concentrate on the light, pose, and movement of the dress!
Cyd Sailor & Coralie captured in Bordeaux 5D mark III 1/200 f2.8 ISO 640 at 70mm
Choose with the performer the best angles, lock your focus beforehand or shoot in Ai servo (I am a Canon shooter) and make sure your timing is right because you won't be able to do this a thousand times. I love details, I like precise compositions and placing things in specific places... head, hands, arms, and so on... WIth pole dancers, you will have to accept that you won't be able to have everything perfectly in place.
Depending on the weather and quality of light if you shoot outside, I will choose to work with natural light or with one strobe. When I am indoors like all my dance work I use at least one strobe.
Racky Sow captured in Natural light Geneva 5D mark III 1/800 f5.6 ISO 160 at 50mm
Early Autumn 2018,
Caroline captured in Geneva
Broncolor Siros L Camera right 5D mark III 1/8000 f1.8 ISO 100 at 85mm
End of Summer 2018,
Coralie & Cyd Sailor captured in Bordeaux
2 x Broncolor Siros L on both sides 5D mark III 1/200 f2.8 ISO 640 at 70mm
So there you have it, 5 things to consider before stepping into your first pole dance photoshoot! If you have already worked with pole dancers feel free to share your experience in the comments section below.