Rachel Neville on Movers and Shapers Dance Podcast

I was thrilled to be interviewed by Erin Carlisle Norton, Artistic Director of The Moving Architects on the Movers & Shapers dance podcast.

rachel neville podcast movers and shapers dance photographer interview

On the episode, available now, I talk about why marketing is so important for dancers, how to grab the right attention from the right eyes in the limited amount of time you have to make an impression, and what it has been like to build a dance and movement photography business in NYC.

Listen now!

Big thanks to Movers and Shapers for inviting me to join in on the podcast. I hope you all enjoy listening to the episode as much as I enjoyed taking part in it.

Podcast also available on iTunes and Stitcher.

Meet Varvara Kalinin of Perfect Posture Pilates

Perfect Posture Pilates NYCVarvara Kalinin is the owner of Perfect Posture Pilates, a pilates studio in Astoria Queens, near our photography studio in Long Island City, NYC.

Varvara’s studio is “a contemporary Pilates studio offering private and group Pilates instruction for both body conditioning and rehabilitative needs.”

With this brand identity in mind, Varvara came to Rachel Neville Photography to create images that connected with her brand, pushed her marketing to the next level, and integrated with her new website.

We spoke with Varvara about the importance of creating powerful fitness marketing images for her business, what her goals are for her new website, and why it is important to understand who you are so you can serve your clients best.

How important is it for your clients to see a professional website with quality images?

Your website and marketing materials are the first impression of your business and your name .

Having professional pictures and images is as important for a business as having a professional website

pilates photos Rachel Neville

What did you learn about the power of images after working with fitness photographer Rachel Neville?

Images make your website stand out.  People look at images much more than text.

Through images you create your story, your approach, your name.

pilates studio in queens

What has the response been to your new website from current clients, from new clients, and from others?

I have been getting a great response from old and new clients about my new website.  They also agree that the website looks very much like my new studio, which was exactly what I wanted.  [Like the studio, the website is] bright, airy, open, clean, fresh, with spring tones and a holistic feel.

pilate pose Rachel Neville fitness photographer

Based on the experience of creating new images and building a new website, what is your number one piece of advice for fitness professionals who are worried about taking the next steps in marketing their businesses and themselves?

If you are starting a business or looking to build a website invest in getting professional images done.

For more about Varvara and Perfect Posture Pilates, located on the 3rd floor of 23-08 30th Ave., Astoria, NY 11102, check out the new website: perfectposturepilates.com or call 310-413-2293.


Congratulations Dancers! Winning Contracts with Great Audition Photos

This is an exciting time of year for many auditioning dancers, who are announcing where they are going next and what dance company contracts they have received.

It is a joy to see the dancers who attended my Marketing Workshop for Dancers and whose dance audition photos I took announce that they have signed professional dance contracts and are taking the next step in their careers.

Gianna Nicoline, who received a contract with Richmond Ballet, had this to say about her audition photos and my marketing workshop for dancers in NYC.

“I never thought too much about my audition photographs.  I just assumed a headshot and a first arabesque photo taken by a friend at my dance studio would be sufficient.  Then I attended one of Rachel Neville’s dance marketing workshops and felt very differently.  

classical ballet red tutu

This season was my first professional audition experience.  It was totally different from my past summer intensive experiences.  I booked a session with Rachel and after listening to her workshop advice.  My headshot and photos were stunning.  Rachel managed to capture the very best of me for my photos.  Her knowledge of dance and the body made the shoot so enjoyable.  

When presenting my photos at my auditions everyone did a ‘double take’ taking the time to really look at my photos, not just shove them in the pile with the rest of the applicants.  There were two companies that I wanted to audition for that were by ‘invitation only.’  I had to send in a video along with photos in order to be considered to audition.

Along with the video, I sent the required photos and a few extra special ones (all taken by Rachel of course!).  For both auditions, I was invited to the audition!  I sincerely believe that the photos got me the invite!

stylized backdrop yumiko leotard
Emily Simpson now has a contract at the Pittsburg Ballet Theater

unconventional dance audition photos

Jessica McCann also received a contract from PBT.
long sleeve dance dress full tutu white

Angeli Mamon got a contract with Pacific Northwest Ballet
dance costume dance audition photos

Ainsley Sorenson was offered a contract with Arizona Ballet.

Congratulations to all of the dancers, these and many others with whom I have worked this year, on a successful audition season!

Learn more about my Marketing Workshop for Dancers, perfect for taking the next step in your dance career.

Your Images, Your Brand: Are you Choosing Wisely?

There are all different styles of photography out there. Are you choosing the right ones for your purposes?

In this second post in our series on marketing for professional and forward thinking pre-professionals dancers

You see it all around you: The sub par images that get a lot of attention. The photos of dancers that make you scratch your head and wonder why everyone likes them or why they get printed.  As a former dancer and ballet teacher, and now photographer, images like these drive me nuts. One of my biggest pet peeves is photo’s that are technically lacking, not due to the skill level of the dancer but more for the lack of attention to detail.

dance images for branding

But if you take a closer look, and think about who the images are reaching and who your dance photos are intended for, you may have your answer.  And you may learn a little bit about dance marketing basics in the process.

The proliferation of whacked out legs, feet and hyper mobile backs that you see all over Instagram definitely has an audience, as is evidenced by many accounts with huge followers.  Many of these post dancers in one of only 4 or 5 poses. (Yes, you know what I’m talking about, the attitude, arabesque, the crotchy, over stretched a la seconde, the Grand pas de chat and the rolling over your feet dangerously fourth position en pointe).

These dance images generally attract the younger audience and non-dance community. Even if we dance photography professionals get tired of looking at flexibility for the sake of flexibility, there is a market for it. This doesn’t mean that using these types of images will further your career or always offer artistic satisfaction, but they may serve a purpose if used occasionally.

Four styles of dance photography serve professionals best, and each has a particular following and purpose with a particular audience.

4 Types of Dance Photography Ideal for Dancers and Dance Companies

1) Performance/Rehearsal Shots

2) Behind the Scenes (BTS as its called in the film industry)

3) Location Images

4) Commercial Images

hoop aerial dance marketing

Before you put your images out there, think about your reach and your goals.  What do you have to say?  What’s important to you as a person, an artist, a dancer?

Next, consider who your followers are and who you would like them to be.

It’s a great idea to be more strategic with you images, to have them target your audience in an impactful way that will grab and hold their attention. Choosing dance photography images that come from your heart rather than your flexibility is a great start!

better angles for dance photos

Happy to have a conversation with you to discuss this important topic and how it applies to you.

Dance Photos and Fitness Photos: Working with Props

Working with props in a dance photo shoot or fitness photo shoot can be really effective or really cheesy…

It takes quite a bit of finessing to make props work well in dance and fitness photos.  Working with props is a fun choice for outdoor shoots as the weather gets warmer here in NYC, but they are more traditionally used in studio shoots.

Sarah Brower white chair dance photo

Sarah Brower

A variety of props, appropriate to your look and your objectives, work if you style them well, including fabric, leaves, flowers, strands.  A couple of weeks ago I pulled the bottom of a chair out of the recycling bin in our apartment building (yes, I troll for funky props for photoshoots, shhh).  We are starting to build up an eclectic mix  here at the studio, including a hand-less mannequin (that one was Anna’s find not mine, I’ll admit it!).

props for dance photo leaves
Jessica Cobb

To make the right choices so that props enhance, rather than distract or detract from your photos, remember these tips:

1) Pick lightweight props

The heavier the prop, the harder it is to make your body look good while working with it.

props for dance photo shoots
Turk Lewis, Complexions

2) If you are working with smoke make sure you disable the smoke alarm for the photo shoot

Smoke in a can, a smoke bomb, a smoke machine… anything of that nature, make sure to disable your smoke alarm first.  It’s not so fun to be in the middle of a really great shot and have to stop to grab the ladder to climb. Yup, happens all the time!

smoke props dance photos

Veronica Hernandez

Always remember to put the smoke alarm back in working order as soon as you are finished with the photo shoot.

3) It takes just as much time to get the props to look right as it does to get your body to look right

Think of adding a prop to a photo shoot  like adding a person… the more people in the shot the longer it takes to get a good one right?

props for dance photo shoots

Alexandra Adiel

Don’t leave the prop shot to the end of your shoot when you have only 5 minutes left.

4) Extra hands on the shoot are often necessary when working with props

You may need someone  on either side to throw the snow at your subject, not just one person.  OH, fake snow, by the way, super slippery.. beware of pointe shoes and snow!

white gossamer dance photo props

Courtney Lavine
5) Do not be afraid of your props!

I have saved an important prop photo tip for last.  Be careful of the expression on your face as you swing something around towards you, or throw it away from with all your energy.  This usually makes for the funniest faces before we focus on it for the shot.

hula hoop dance prop

Juliette Bosco

Are you working with props in dance and fitness photos?
Send me your prop photos for a photo contest… more details coming your way soon!

Dancers: 3 Tips for Better Headshots

For dancers, actors and executives, a good headshot can make a huge difference.  It is also an investment of time and money, so to prepare for the perfect headshot, make sure that you hire the right photographer and do some homework.

ABT dancer Courtney Lavine dance photographer Rachel Neville

Courtney Lavine, American Ballet Theater headshot by Rachel Neville

This way you will make the most of your head shot photo shoot and you will get exactly the look and feel you need for the dance headshots that make the difference for you.

3 Tips for Taking the Perfect Dance Headshot

Nadege Hottier Artistic Director Premiere Division Rachel Neville photo

Nadege Hottier, Artistic Director Premiere Division headshot Rachel Neville

1.  Think of the adjectives, or descriptors, that describe your unique personality and style. 

We can get a beautiful shot, but if it doesn’t communicate who you are and what you are bringing, that no one else is, that headshot is not doing its job.

James Pierce Lion King headshot Rachel Neville dance photographer

James A. Pierce III, Lion King headshot by Rachel Neville

2. Remember timing and schedule your photo shoot accordingly

I always remind dancers to to schedule their headshot photo shoot in advance to have enough time for retouching and quality printing before you need to bring them to auditions.

Jackie Bologna New York City Ballet headshot Rachel Neville dance photographer

Jackie Bologna, New York City Ballet headshot by Rachel Neville

3. Talk to your dance photographer about angles, color and lighting

When planning for your headshot with your dance photographer, remember to talk about all the elements that make the headshot powerful.  Talk with your dance headshot photographer about camera angles, background color and lighting.

Dance Theater of Harlem Davon Doane DTH photo Rachel Neville

Davon Doane, Dance Theater of Harlem headshot by Rachel Neville

Every choice you and your photographer make can deliver subtle messages about who you are.  We often shoot dancer headshots right at eye level or slightly above to help project confidence as well as willingness to take direction, both of which dance directors and choreographers are looking for at dance auditions.

Dancing in the Snow

I’m sooo over this cold!  If you are here on the north east coast, you know what I mean: there is just no amount of hot chocolate, warm fires, whiskey, good sex (hehe, yes you heard me right) that makes this ok now. I’m done.
snow photos central park
So in that spirit, I wanted to say ‘screw you’ to the weather a couple of weeks ago and do an outdoor photo shoot with some dancers.  Brave? Yes.  But not on my part, on theirs.  I think the idea of shooting in the snow is very inciting when you get together with a bunch of devoted people who will do anything for their art.  Then when the reality of actually doing it sets in 2 seconds after they fling their coats off and go bounding through the snow.. well the reality is really something else!
central park photos snow 2015
I put out an open call on Facebook and invited anyone who wanted to shoot to meet at Central Park from 1pm – 2pm.  We had about 20 people sign up and about 12 show up (what I expected, it’s hard to leave your snug and cozy bed on a snow day!).
photos guys in snow
Now guys, I’m from Canada, we know snow.  I prepared the dancers by letting them know that we needed ideas to work with that fully formed from the beginning;  when the clothes come off not only do you have just about 2 minutes before your muscles start to shut down but your brain stops thinking because it can mostly only cope with the temperature. I also knew from my perspective that using all natural light (I usually augment with strobes outside to create the look I want) was going to allow us to work more quickly, so we (my #1 assistant Anna and I) were traveling light and fast.
dancers snow day fun nyc central park
Even having everyone prepped ahead of time, there were definitely some gasps and some fun but frozen looks on their faces.  Crowds gathered. Reporters annoyed.. but overall I think a fun and freezing time was had by all.
black white snow photos street lamo central park
And here is what we did!
black white photo bare trees central park nyc
ice blue leotard bare feet snow
snow day photos central park nyc dance
Big thanks to all of the dancers who came out in the cold.  Let them tell you what the experience was like…
bright blue leotard outdoors
Such a magical day! I was able to let my daredevil play in a winter wonderland in Central Park NYC in booty shorts! Ha! Carpe Diem! Many thanks Rachel!  – Miki Michelle
nyc central park bridge white coat
I only get naked in the snow for one lady….and she’s married with kids lol. – Brian Jones
The fastest photo shoot I’ve ever done. Hit it and quit it! – Emiko FlanaganIt’s really hard to jump in the snow! I have a new respect for Siberian Huskies. – Billy Blanken

dance central park
Thanks bunches, Rachel. – Kat WildishThank you Rachel and everyone who was there for this special NYC memory! It was great to see how awesome everyone looked in their photos in spite of the cold. – Nicole Fedorov

central park path ice blue leotard
I don’t remember the last time I was so cold but I can’t think of a better way to have spent the snow day or better people to have spent it with! – Daniel Salas
central park black white snow photoThanks Rachel for this freezing and wonderful experience. I had lot of fun! – Luz Marie Iturbe Oritz

snow in nyc