AmyIf you are interested in dance photography but have yet to do your first shoot it can be difficult to find dancers willing to work with you. You can be stuck in a never ending circle of dancers wanting to see your previous dance images before they will consider working with you.

There are basically three different approaches to starting your dance portfolio.

1) Approach some local dance schools and ask if their students would be interested in some photographs. This may work for you but my experience was that, once again, the schools wanted to see a portfolio of your previous work before they would recommend you to their students. Also consider the age range of the students. If the dance school mainly caters for students under 18 then there may well be a requirement that you have a police check before working with the dancers.

2) Pay someone. You are looking for a specialist and it really is worth paying a good dancer to get that first set of shots. Model Mayhem and are both good places to look. If you are looking on Model Mayhem or similar sites make sure that the model’s portfolio contains images similar to those you want to shoot. Lots of models list “Dance” as one of their working categories but not all of them have dance training.

3) Ask and Look. This is the route I took into dance photography. If I was doing a shoot with a model I would always check their profiles to see if they were trained dancers. I had a couple of good pieces of luck and that got me started.

Amy was one of the first dancers I photographed and that was at a “Stobist Meetup” organised on Flickr. This wasn’t a dance shoot but was a portfolio building day. I had looked at Amy’s Model Mayhem profile and noticed that she worked as a dancer. I didn’t actually work with Amy at the Strobist Meetup but I did get the chance to ask her about a dance shoot at a later date. It took us nearly six months to set up the shoot on a date we could both make, but the results were well worth the effort.

Similarly Lizzie contacted me about a fashion shoot. I would have happily photographed Lizzie anyway but noticing that she was a dancer gave me the opportunity to ask about a dance shoot. I did the fashion shoot with Lizzie and got the edited photos back to her as quickly as I could. We did the dance shoot a couple of weeks later and she even brought a second dancer along to the shoot.

So, although it can be a daunting task, there are several ways you can start work on your dance portfolio and the work you do in those first shoots can lead on to many other opportunities.

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