A few weeks back, I had a chance to do another one of those “non-traditional” photography sessions that I’m suddenly becoming known for. 😉 First it was a college baseball signing, then pictures with a chinchilla, and now…ballerinas! But these aren’t just any ballerinas; no, they’re better, because they’re hockey mom ballerinas—and what could be cooler than that?! 😀
Back in May, I was at a birthday party for a hockey player’s sibling, and one of the moms on my older son’s team very hesitantly asked me if I could take some pictures of her and another of our hockey mom friends. I’m always happy to take pictures of friends, so I agreed right away, but when I found out that they wanted me to take pictures of them before their ballet recital, I was geeked! I mean, let’s face it: lots of photographers can take family portraits or senior portraits, but how many get to take ballet pictures?! 😉
We agreed to do the pictures the day before the recital, at the dress rehearsal. It happened to be the same day as my son’s second 10k, so that meant I had a tight schedule, but not as tight as one of the moms (Ann), who not only completed the same race that morning, she did the 10-mile run! So yeah, if she can run 10 miles and then do ballet (in pointe shoes!!) a few hours later, there was no room for complaining from me!
I spent most of the time leading up to the photo shoot fretting about what we’d use as a backdrop. The recital and rehearsal location was at a local high school, and that’s not a great place for either backgrounds or lighting. 🙁 I was so busy fretting about it, I forgot my step-stool—argh! One thing I learned from doing Katie’s first photo shoot was that being above your subject is one of the most critical aspects of good portrait photography. With me being 5’2”, that’s almost always impossible without a stool. But, I’m a good improviser—I found a (very heavy) bench and dragged it into position in the auditorium lobby (which had plenty of windows, so good for natural light).
The background situation was rather iffy, unfortunately. My choices in the lobby were pretty slim, but I ended up finding a dance-themed impressionistic painting with some fake trees from the corner that I put on either side. I knew it could be better, but in these situations where it has to be done quickly and on-site, I have to work with what I’m given.
As I was setting up the shot, my friends’ dance instructor (a woman who has been instructing dance for decades, and who I think actually was their instructor when they were in high school!), came up and, when she saw what we were doing, starting moving the fake trees around and instructing the girls in how to pose. She basically kind of took over the creative aspect of the shoot, and, well, I won’t lie…I was feeling a bit put out. 😛 I’m the photographer, damn it! 😉 But then, as I watched her help pose each woman with great confidence and authority, I realized how silly it was of me to be so egotistical. The reality was that this woman (Diane) had decades of experience with dancers, and if anyone would know how to make a ballerina look her best, it was her! So I swallowed my pride (LOL) and just let her do her thing. In the long run, it turned out to be the best thing I could have done! It allowed me to stop worrying about the setting and just worry about taking the pictures as best as I could.
The good news is, despite the lackluster background, Ann and April were just beautiful in their costumes! Below is a link to a gallery of all the photos included here for easy viewing. From there, you can read on to learn more about how the photo shoot went, and how I got the pictures from “RAW’ to “final.”
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The first shots were did were of them in their pointe shoes.
Aren’t they gorgeous? And good golly, they are amazing in their ability to stand on their toes for so long! (They were amazingly patient with me as I fiddled with my camera settings, lol). The above shot was done with the One Willow Studios Lyric preset from the Timeless collection. The original is below, with just some minor editing in exposure and skin tone continuity.
Notice that the final version is just a bit softer in tone, with a slight vignette (haze) around the edge.
The next shot was good enough that I made it kind of the “feature” shot.
Aren’t they just gorgeous? That one is edited with the OWS Eternity Preset, and then I took it into Photoshop to do a heavier pink vignette (to match the pink of their shoes). The original is below.
I did individual shots of them in their pointe shoes, and I was just in awe of how elegant and beautiful they looked.
As you can see, I’m a big fan of the pink vignette (mostly because it helps hide the crap in the background, lol!) It was challenging to use it, though, because obviously in these shots, with their arms outstretched, it’s hard to size the vignette properly. I tried a bunch of other things in Photoshop, including using a mask to blur the background, and cropping out the entire background and just putting them on a white layer, but it was hard to “cut” them out of the photo with any great precision without spending oodles of time on it. I didn’t really have oodles of time, and I knew my two friends wouldn’t want me to work that hard, so I let it go. 🙂
Ann and April had another friend in their program, and she was kind enough to let me take some pictures with her, as well. Just like with kids, though, it’s hard to get multiple people to look at the camera at the same time. Thank goodness for Photoshop, lol!
Here’s the two originals.
And here is the spliced together version with the OWS Impression preset added.
This final one below of the three of them is my second-favorite shot of the shoot. I am not a graceful person by nature, and ballet pretty much boggles my mind for the coordination and fluidity of movement it requires, and to me, this picture is exactly what makes it beautiful!
Once we finished with the pointe-shoe shots, we went outside for some better natural light (pointe shoes don’t go outside, you know!). These had their own challenges, but I think they turned out pretty well.
They are so stunning!! I enjoyed the outside shots, and although Diane did not accompany us outside, they came up with a few poses on their own, which I think really showcased their grace and beauty.
I took another shot of April that I just wasn’t overly happy with.
It’s not bad by any stretch, but it just seemed to need “something.” So I went back to my Pretty Preset Spring Collection and found Touch of Sun II Right, which included a slight sunflare and haze.
Sometimes, when Mother Nature doesn’t give you what you want, you just have to improvise. 😉
My two friends were surprisingly shy in asking me to do this favor, which I attributed to the fact that they were uncomfortable having their pictures taken, especially in ballet costumes. I could certainly understand that—from what I can tell, it’s not a common thing to do ballet as a mom! But I personally think it’s an awesome thing—I mean, how many moms will take on ballet lessons and a recital in addition to all the other demands on their time? I know I wouldn’t!
I did my best keep the mood light while offering lots of positive feedback as I took the pictures. I was hoping to keep them from getting nervous or shy about it all, and I think I did okay. We laughed a lot and I had a ton of fun learning from them. I think they had some fun, too.
That is my favorite shot of the whole session. 😉
All in all, I was happy with the shoot, if for no other reason than I know that someday, these two ladies will be able to look back on their ballet recital and have these lovely pictures of themselves to remember it by. More importantly, they’ll have photos to show their grandchildren and maybe great grandchildren, to prove that they were once graceful, elegant ballerinas and cool hockey moms—all at the same time! 🙂
Thank you, April and Ann, for giving me the opportunity to capture this very special moment in your lives! 🙂