Daily Photo – All Smile

The Daily Photo series focuses on the two or three key creative choices, in terms of composition and processing, that go into creating an image.  Specific technical details about the shot have been left out — you won’t hear me talking about tone curve adjustments and whatnot unless it was a key component of the end result.

Shari Brown, of the KDH Dance Company, caught in motion during a studio shoot.


  • Shutter:  1/125
  • Aperture:  f/8
  • ISO: 100
  • Camera:  Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III
  • Lens:  Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM (at 34mm)
  • Lighting:  zeus head through white umbrella above and slightly to camera right;  second zeus head bare with 11″ reflector behind Shari camera right;  sb800 in almost same position, but aimed lower;  sb800 on floor behind Shari, camera left.

Composition and Processing

  • This shot was taken almost a year ago, and there was some question at the time how to best pose the subject.  Posing models usually involves largely static positioning;  even when they’re moving it’s within a constrained space and without massive variations.  I wanted to convey the feeling of motion, and if possible, that this was modern dance and not some random movement.  So I had Shari improvise short pieces of dance until there was something that looked like it could work on film…then had her repeat it over and over until we got the shot.  In hindsight that probably wasn’t the right approach:  the final image is interesting but really doesn’t suggest dance.  The problem was that I was trying to shoot dance as I would a performance or rehearsal, only with better lighting control.  But I had given up the structure a performance or rehearsal provides, and asking the dancer to go through an entire routine would have been inefficient.  I have a large studio-lit dance project coming up in the spring this year and I’m planning to go with more static positioning for that (which is to say, dance poses set up like I normally would with a traditional model).
  • Ultimately, this image is all about Shari’s smile.  The motion is good, but the expression is the key here and why I chose this shot from the entire batch.  To that end, making sure the background was nice and clean (solid black) and removing any other distratctions was important.  I even reduced the visibility of the floor to a small patch — just enough to keep her from floating in the frame.


February 25 2009 06:57 pm | Photography

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