Are You a ‘Poser’ or a ‘Flow-er’?

Regularly we see dancers in our studio that come to us saying ‘I don’t take very good pictures’. These are often really beautiful dancers who have trained at wonderful schools or who are already with a company. They often know what they look like in a mirror but don’t know why what they see in the mirror doesn’t translate to a photo or a screen.

look better in dance photos rachel neville nyc

Katherine Duffy, Dancer Photo Rachel Neville

I explain to the dancers that work with me that it is not that a matter of “I never look good in dance photos” just that they just need to finesse the poses and find the lines and shapes that work for them. Sometimes  small details need to be altered for the perspective to work in 2D. Sometimes it’s the angle or the shape of the leg or a specific shoulder line that needs to be adjusted.  We have explored these ideas here on the blog and in my studio.

But today I want to talk about something new that I’ve been working with over the last year: identifying dancers who are more movers rather than posers.

tips for better dance photos  know your dance style

Jordan Miller, Dancer Photo Rachel Neville

A few months ago I had a shoot with a gorgeous dancer from City Ballet. Just beautiful. A dream to watch. But when it came time to get down to shooting specific movements she had a hard time getting her lines, and specifically, her arms to look the way we wanted. She became frustrated and almost gave up. Really, the challenge for this dancer, who was used to a fast paced, flowing, moving environment in her work, was to slow down, breathe, and align with the details to get great shots.

Over the next couple of months, I started working to identify those dancers that I would categorize as ‘movers’ and those that are ‘posers’. And yes, my little internal, completely non-scientific experiment seemed to work.

dance photos better angles rachel neville know your dance style

Hayley Tavonatti, Dancer Photo Rachel Neville

Once a dancer was identified to be a mover, one who loves to flow, move quickly, whose energy is felt best emulated through fluid motion, I started working differently with them. We would pause, talk about the pose we were working on, breathe, slow down, get the muscle memory in place to build the shot. Once all the pieces were in place, we would then go back to performing it with the dancer’s energy and emotion. The results tended to be much more successful for them.

Now ask yourself, are you a mover or a poser? How does it affect your dancing? Could you benefit from slowing down, taking a breath and fine tuning the details before jumping back in? Or are you more of a poser who may get caught up in the details and need to throw some energy around, and just go for it now and then?

Drop us a line if you have a thought or found this helpful!

Dancers Review Photo Shoot with Rachel Neville in NYC

Recently, we did a mini-photoshoot at the Rachel Neville Photography Studio in NYC with a group of dancers from the Richmond Ballet.  After the shoot, we caught up with dancers Mara Milner, Anna Sundquist and Alexandra Lammon who shared what it was like to work with Rachel Neville, the kind of preparation needed before the dance photo shoot, and the lessons they learned from the photo shoot.

How would you describe the experience of shooting with Rachel?

Shooting with Rachel was unlike any other photoshoot I have ever experienced. Instead of spending a few hours taking some photos, I left feeling like I had just completed a course in Audition 101. Rachel has such an incredible eye for both dance and photography and it seemed like every suggestion she threw my way immensely improved the final product.

I especially appreciated how she wasn’t afraid to tell it how it is. From giving leotard and pointe shoe advice to yelling at me when I wasn’t reaching my full potential in a shot, she really knows just the right way to motivate her clients and do the best she can to help them be successful in this industry.

She is such a knowledgeable reference in the dance world and I thoroughly enjoyed every second of the 11 hours we spent at her studio!

-Mara Milner

dancer richmond ballet photo rachel neville

Mara Milner, Richmond Ballet Photo Rachel Neville

How did it feel to participate in the photoshoot with your fellow dancers?

It was so helpful to be working and learning alongside my colleagues and friends.  From the second we stepped into Rachel’s studio, I immediately felt more comfortable than I would have been, had I been alone. With music playing, the atmosphere felt like our dressing room at the theater. The positive feedback from both Rachel and my friends when we nailed a photo was so reassuring.

In addition to giving us a chance to rest a bit in between poses, I learned so much from observing the other dancers being shot and hearing the compliments and critiques coming from Rachel. Feeling what Rachel is suggesting is useful, but sometimes, seeing those changes on another body can be even more advantageous.

-Mara Milner

What is the biggest challenge for you during the photo shoot?

For me, the biggest challenge was describing myself as a dancer in order for Rachel to get the shots to best portray me. Throughout the day, the photos, talking with Rachel, and support from my friends, I came out of the shoot with a much better idea of who I am as a dancer and how I can use that towards my advantage.

-Anna Sundquist

two piece black dance ware ballet photo rachel neville

Anna Sundquist, Richmond Ballet Photo Rachel Neville

What did you enjoy most during your Rachel Neville Photography dance photoshoot?

My favorite thing was seeing the evolution of each pose. At first, the pose might have looked alright, but as we tweaked it, the photo became extraordinary. Rachel’s tips and corrections made all the difference. She also encouraged us to be more artistic with our arms and experiment, to find what looked best.

-Anna Sundquist

What is the biggest challenge for you when you prepare for a photo shoot?

For me, my biggest challenge is getting my confidence up. I can be very insecure and compare myself to others and think I won’t be good enough.

-Alexandra Lammon

richmond ballet photo Rachel Neville dance Alexandra Lammon

Alexandra Lammon, Richmond Ballet Photo Rachel Neville

What would you tell other dancers who are preparing for a photo shoot – any tips or tricks to remember?

Definitely let your ego out the window and trust in Rachel. She has a great eye for things and may do something the unconventional way, but you won’t be disappointed with the results. Keep your head up, just because the dancer next to you is doing something does not mean you’re supposed to be able to do it also. Everyone is different and unique. You’ll shine more being your own person than trying to copy someone else.

-Alexandra Lammon

Schedule a dance photo shoot for you or a group mini-photoshoot.


Advice on Transitioning from Dancer to Trainer: Spotlight on Katie Dettling

We recently had the pleasure of working with Katie and Grant Dettling, co-founders of Fit-Arts, a Pilates and wellness studio on the Upper West Side.  In addition to being a successful entrepreneur in the health and fitness field, Katie and her husband Grant, are former dancers.

Katie spoke with us about navigating the dancer to trainer transition and the resources she used to cultivate a successful career after dance.  She also told us about the lessons she brings from dance into the world of fitness and entrepreneurship, and what it was like working with Rachel Neville Photography to create fitness marketing images for her company and its new website:

1. What lessons from your dance career did you use to transition to a successful fitness training career?

A long career in dance instills qualities like discipline, work ethic, adaptability, strong multi-tasking capabilities and more that we have used to transition. But beyond that, a critical quality in a successful fitness trainer/wellness coach is empathy.

Between collaborating so intimately with colleagues to achieve a common goal (the performance), dealing with a wide variety of personalities, ups, downs, achievements, disappointments, pain and injury, dancers can be very empathetic. Put that together with a career that only lasts until late thirties if your lucky, and a dancer in their thirties (like us) can empathize uncommonly with client’s pain, life transitions, frustrations and stressors. These are the reasons they come to fitness and wellness. These are the issues they are trying to address. If you can’t put yourself in your client’s shoes and really see the world through their needs and pains, you won’t be able to motivate and help them.

dancer turned trainer photo by rachel neville

On the more technical side, many years of experimenting with diverse dance techniques and cross training methods have allowed us untold hours of trial and error experience in achieving a desired aesthetic from the human body. These elements combined allow us to use the anatomy and postural analysis we’ve studied to draw from multiple exercise and wellness modalities to tailor sessions (both the actual exercises and the focus of those exercises) to exactly what a client needs and responds best to. It is what we love about fitness training, it’s like a human puzzle:)

I think a combination of these skills allow us to first connect with clients and then give them the results they are looking for. There is nothing more rewarding than having people leave time with you feeling better than when they came in!


2. How does the concept of marketing change from marketing yourself as a dancer to marketing your fitness business?

Some aspects are the same, close attention to aesthetic for one. It’s difficult to market your business without marketing yourself, “walking the walk” if you will. The difference with fitness is the aesthetic tends to be aspirational but still attainable: exuding health, vibrancy, musculature, good form, ease of movement. In dance, it’s all much more extreme. This can feel inaccessible to your average client.

Another big difference is amount of control and content. As a dancer, your company often controls images. Due to the limited resources/time of non-profits, results are usually minimal dated content, and in my experience not anything I would have chosen. Additionally, social media was in it’s infancy during much of my career. So I didn’t have a whole lot of content nor anywhere to put it. In marketing our own fitness business, we can prioritize good content and control the images/branding we are putting out there. It does take time but it’s also really fun to play around with ideas and document the journey of our business!

From start to finish the experience with Rachel Neville Photography was not only incredibly results driven and effective, but fun and inspiring.

3. What was your experience like working with Rachel?

Incredible! My reaction during the shoot was, “Where have you been my whole career?” Photo shoots during our dance career were often disorganized and the results disappointing. Something like: run out of rehearsal for 1 hour, throw this costume on that doesn’t quite fit and pose yourself somehow. It wasn’t unusual to hate every shot that came out of it. The dancers or ballet master or whoever might come up with decent posing ideas, but it just never came across well on camera. Rachel explained to me that lines end up looking different in 2 dimensions, you have to know how to tweak them for the camera. And that is even MORE important nowadays, since so much media is out there in 2 dimensions. Similar to the precision I was speaking to earlier, Rachel has a very precise eye from her dance background. She will keep tweaking every detail of your position until it looks right.

From start to finish the experience with Rachel Neville Photography was not only incredibly results driven and effective, but fun and inspiring. Rachel is an incredible entrepreneur and so knowledgeable about images for marketing. She not only takes great pictures, but helps you figure out what style of images to go for.

 pilates studio photo rachel neville

4. Did anything surprise you about your photo shoot experience?

Yes. How much Rachel pushed us to get our best possible results. I can’t tell you how many times in my past I wish someone had told me to point my foot really hard or press my shoulders back in a photo. I was sore for 2 days after the shoot, and it was SO worth it.

5. Can you describe your primary goal for your marketing efforts?

We are just building our new business, so our goals are simple. With our marketing, we want to clearly embody our mission and name (establish our branding). They combine our artistic and fitness perspective into Fit-Arts: where every body is a work of art. We will use this image on our website, social media, targeted Facebook ads, plus limited print flyers etc to increase awareness of our business and offerings. We hope to attract a range of core clients who need our specialties including: Athletic & Dance Conditioning, Injury Rehabilitation, Women’s Health, Barre For Men, and Stress Reduction. Ultimately, the goal is to increase our client base and online presence enough to open a separate location (our studio is dedicated space within our apartment to start), as well as run workshops on special subjects and offer summer retreats/intensives.

6. Did the act of making these images change the way you thought about your marketing and your business?

Yes! Rachel had two long discussions with us to figure out where we were going with our business before we even showed up for the shoot. Her questions were the first time we had to express out loud things like: Who is your core customer and what makes you stand out from your competitors? We already knew we needed great professional images. From our previous experience managing for dance, we knew how limited marketing is without great images. Plus, with all the “do it yourself” web building and graphic design tools out there, great photos can pay off big time by going a long way towards designing great marketing for yourself. We also had ideas of a series of “artsy” body shots. But that was about it.

Rachel helped us shape a comprehensive set of images that would be of multi-purpose use for quite some time. She researched what was already out there so we were sure to stand out. She also encouraged us to think bigger and not sell ourselves short (as dancers are apt to do). Ultimately, she was even able to suggest which final images she would edit in a certain way for a website home page etc. With Rachel, it’s a whole process from ideas to implementation, much more than just the day you are in the studio shooting.

 A professional dancer needs to know where their pinkie finger is in relation to their opposite toe at all times. They constantly create subtle shifts in timing/balance/muscle recruitment, all while keeping in perfect sync … This allows us to understand exercise and anatomy at a visceral level.

7. Are there similarities between your dance career and your current career that strengthen the ways you are able to serve your clients?


Most fundamentally, the joy and habit of moving our bodies to their fullest expression and capability, a human birthright that is often denied in modern life. This is one of the reasons that dancers become dancers and why transitioning to a career in fitness is a natural one. Keeping that as our life focus and sharing it with others to improve their lives and health is why Grant and I got hooked on fitness. We’re so grateful we found a second career we are as passionate about as we were dancing. It took years, but we got there. Passion is SO important to success.


Because ballet is so precise, it instills the ability to perceive every intricate detail of the physical form. A professional dancer needs to know where their pinkie finger is in relation to their opposite toe at all times. They constantly create subtle shifts in timing/balance/muscle recruitment, all while keeping in perfect sync with either a partner or a line of 16 other dancers for example. This allows us to understand exercise and anatomy at a visceral level, and also along with years of teaching dance, to see and coach that level of specificity in others.

8. How would you characterize the transition process from dancer to trainer?

Natural, but with plenty of uncertainty, experimentation, risk taking and patience (admittedly reluctant patience more often than not). Our transition was quite roundabout (as they often are).
We moved to New York in order to keep working as freelance dancers while exploring options for our “life after performing.” We pursued Arts Management in hopes of improving situations experienced in our career and had a wonderful opportunity to co-manage a dance company here in NYC for two years, Dances Patrelle. We were able to hone our business skills and learn how to embody another role other than dancer (it’s amazing how long it takes to stop answering “dancer” when people ask you what you do).

It’s so satisfying to put all of our energy in one place, instead of pursuing 6 different career avenues at once, and to put all of that energy into something of our own making.

At the same time, we had been pursuing fitness certifications, not necessarily planning that as our long term focus. Destiny had other plans however, and we connected with some out of this world inspiring mentors in the fitness world right about the time we realized spending our days behind a desk just WASN”T for us. We also did counseling with Lauren Gordon at Career Transition For Dancers. She had us do a Myers Briggs personality test and low and behold, it suggested we would be great in things like healthcare and coaching.

SO despite the fact that it wasn’t what we would have thought a few years earlier, when I look back at it, it was meant to be! Put that together with the fact that I come from several generations of entrepreneurs (my great grandfather founded Hygenic, a 3 generation family company that produced health products and eventually invented the Theraband!!), and this is the perfect fit for us to now have a business.
It’s so satisfying to put all of our energy in one place, instead of pursuing 6 different career avenues at once, and to put all of that energy into something of our own making.

Discounted Mini Photo Shoot in NYC with Rachel Neville

Nothing makes us happier than to create killer images for fitness professionals that help them get clients so we are hosting a mini photo shoot day for fitness professionals here at Rachel Neville Photography Studio in LIC Saturday, April 23rd.

What is a Rachel Neville mini photo shoot?

A mini shoot is really a short version of a regular studio session.  It includes about one hour of shooting, a copy of the proofs and 2-3 high res retouched images.  These mini shoots are $319, with additional retouched images available at $49/each and help to make it possible for fitness pros who are on a tighter budget to get the quality images they need to start creating professional fitness marketing materials that deliver real results.

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Photo Rachel Neville

The shoot is not watered down, it’s just short.  We are aiming for about 2-3 killer shots.  In my experience, at most you can get 4-5 really fantastic images in about the time of a mini-shoot. If you aim for more, the wow factor just isn’t there (certainly we could have you whip off a larger number of movements and poses but then we won’t be fine tuning and making them fantastic).

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Photo Rachel Neville

Does the mini photo shoot include photography consultations with Rachel Neville?

While we don’t do consultations for clients that choose the mini shoot, we do provide an intake form.  The mini photo shoot intake form is a series of questions that I will email that helps you figure out what you need, what kind of clients you are targeting and how you are marketing yourself.  That way we can know the backgrounds, what outfits and all the rest so that you have time to plan what to bring to the shoot.

aerialist rachel neville photo

Photo Rachel Neville

Who should book a mini fitness photo shoot?

We are opening discounted mini photo shoot sign ups to all NYC yogis, trainers, aerialists, Pilates, fitness professionals, or dancers turned trainers.  And we are looking forward to a great day of creativity and hard work.

How do I book a mini photo shoot with Rachel Neville Photography?

Contact us now to book your fitness photography mini shoot on April 23.


Spring Dance Performances in NYC

I love photographing dance performances because it’s a change of energy, a different dynamic.. Normally in my studio I’m the director and creator, but when I’m shooting a show I have the reverse opportunity to capture someone else’s vision.. for me mostly it’s just a nice change, it’s not really a challenge actually but more just a change of pace.. I also usually get to see in person what my clients are up to and I love to go out and support when I have the chance

There’s something about spring – it is one of the best times of year to see dance in NYC, and there are so many performances happening in the coming weeks.   NYCB and ABT have wonderful seasons planned.  Here are a few others that I’m looking forward to.  Check them out!

April 6 – 9
Dance Theatre of Harlem
City Center
DTH returns to the mainstage at City Center April 6 – 9.  See “power on pointe” and experience the beauty and mastery of Dance Theatre of Harlem. I love photographing DTH dancers and I am looking forward to their season at City Center.

nyc dance photographer rachel neville dance theatre of harlem

Dance Theatre of Harlem, Photo Rachel Neville

March 26
Brooklyn Dance Festival
BAM Fisher: Fishman Space
The 5th Annual Brooklyn Dance Festival features twelve dance companies. I will be photographing the festival this Saturday and highly recommend you come check out these talented dancers.
Brooklyn Dance Festival Company – Choreographer, Sidra Bell
Kristin Sudeikis Dance
10 Hairy Legs
Dormeshia Sumbry Edwards
Earl Mosley
The Bang Group
Rebecca Stenn
Steps Repertory Ensemble
Freespace Dance
BARE Dance Company
Peridance Youth Ensemble

April 10
My friends Cellopointe have their performance at MMAC.  Make the time to see them and experience their creativity and beauty, live.

cello pointe rachel neville nyc dance photographer

Cellopointe Dance Company Photo by Rachel Neville

April 17
New York Theatre Ballet
Cinderella at Florence Gould Hall
I’m taking my girls to see this one-day performance of Cinderella that includes an interactive lecture demonstration for kids, guided by Diana Byer, NYTB Artistic Director.
If you have small kids like I do (about 3/4 year or older) this is a perfect ballet company experience for you and a performance you do not want to miss.  NYTB is doing great things for our children!

Dance Audition Photo Shoot Lessons from Dancer Laura Anne Wallace

Recently, Laura Anne Wallace came into the Long Island City studio for dance audition photos.  We had a great photo shoot and afterwards had the chance to talk about what the dance audition photo shoot experience was like for Laura Anne, what her dance goals are, and what advice she has to share with her fellow dancers in NYC and beyond

Where are you headed next in your career?

I’m looking to find a company where I can contribute as an artist in a meaningful way. My goal has always been to be the best dancer I can be, for myself, but more importantly, for the company and the audience. I feel over the last several years I have challenged myself to acquire the fearless qualities that allow an artist to push their limits and [I] desire the opportunity to dance with a company whose mission incorporates such endeavors.

rachel neville nyc dance photographer photo shoot laura anne wallace

Laura Anne Wallace, Photo Rachel Neville

What is the biggest challenge for you when you prepare for a photo shoot?

The biggest challenge in preparing for a photo shoot is taming my nervousness about “getting it right.”  Ironically, I am more apt to have a successful shoot if I simply trust my dancing and let my authentic self shine. All I have to do is drop my wall of protection and dare greatly.

What was the biggest challenge for you during the photo shoot?

My biggest challenge was giving myself some grace during the beginning of the shoot when I wasn’t warmed up and in the zone quite yet. I had to trust my dancing and believe I would learn the correct angles that show best. I realized the need to keep pushing and as long as I kept fear from holding me back that magical shot would come, often earlier than expected.

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Laura Anne Wallace, Photo Rachel Neville

During the dance photo shoot, did you discover anything that you will bring back with you to the dance studio (new angles, notes on facial expression, etc.)?

What’s your look? What’s your vibe? What’s your dancing personality? What creates that magical moment for you? These were all questions that were fully answered through my experience of shooting with Rachel Neville.

It’s really important that you know your body and what angles show it off best. The beautiful lines of a dancer aren’t always straightforward to photograph, so you have to learn what works best for you. I will take what I discovered in this arena to every shoot I do in the future. This will be especially helpful for collaborations with photographers that are less familiar with dance [than Rachel is].

We all know a dancer is assessed in a quick once-over. Facial expression and body language aren’t always discussed but are vital to the message you are sending through energy in your pictures as well as in person, while auditioning or taking class.  It was interesting to me how my facial expression didn’t always match the emotion I was feeling or it would read differently than I expected it too. Receiving immediate feedback with the photos was helpful in practicing whole body presence and projecting an energy congruent with what I was feeling inside.

I also discovered what “lit the fire” within me; what I need to tell myself to obtain that magical shot. This is priceless knowledge. A photo could often be technically beautiful, but would fall flat because I would be thinking too much. This is when you have to get out of your head, stop trying to control, and just let go. I had to tap into “that mindset” that makes me unleash and shine on stage. This information is so key and will be relied upon again and again in the future.

What did you enjoy most during your Rachel Neville Photography dance photoshoot?

I don’t think dancers get enough moments to stand back and appreciate their art. We work so hard and focus on all the details that need fixing, to a fault sometimes. This is a great opportunity to love yourself a bit.

Secondly, I don’t think there is a much better feeling than being utterly and completely yourself, knowing that it’s unequally spectacular, and capturing that for a memory. Often the expression can be, “This is me, I’m different, I’ll make the changes I need.”  Instead, the photo session was all about, “This is me, I’m different, look at me and love it.”  What a confidence booster!

conceptual dance audition photo Rachel Neivlle

Laura Anne Wallace, Photo Rachel Neville

How would you describe the experience shooting with Rachel?

Shooting with Rachel was such a gift. Her knowledge, her spunk and her passion to capture “YOU” makes for an incredible experience. I went in a little nervous, just desiring to “get it right” and I basically skipped out, so confident in who I was as a dancer and as a person and where I was headed.

How do you feel about your audition process now that you have had this audition photo shoot experience?

My photo shoot experience was the perfect catapult into audition season. I not only have beautiful pictures to send out, but also a new knowledge of myself and greater confidence to go along with it. I love having such a clear picture of who I am as an artist and what I can offer a company. Eliminating any doubt in this arena will be so essential in presenting a confident energy in an audition. If I know who I am and what I can offer, a company can be confident in who they are hiring.

What would you tell others about how to prepare for dance audition photo shoots?

Get out of your head, stop thinking so much and unleash yourself. This is so essential for getting a stunning photo as well as having fun.