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.

Why You Don’t Look Like Yourself in Photos – And What to Do

Have you ever wondered why your pictures don’t really look like you thought you looked in the studio or on stage? Have you ever been in a photoshoot with a pro or a friend, looked at the screen on the phone, the back of the camera or on the computer and thought ‘wow that’s not what it felt like’ or ‘no, I thought I was better than that’?

99% of you reading that comment are smiling a little, nodding your head and saying ‘yes!!’ or ‘I thought that was just me’.

Ok, let’s get into it!

Reason 1: The Mirror Effect

You are used to looking at yourself in the mirror… backwards. No one’s body/face is symmetrical, so what your brain identifies as normal does not look the same to you in pictures. Try parting  your hair to one side. Take a picture of it… then look from the mirror back at the picture.  What is real and what is not??

Reason 2: Brain Trickery

Only 10% of the information you are experiencing at any given moment in time is coming through your eyes. The rest is coming in through your other senses and a huge portion of it is through your own ‘rose colored glasses’ or rather, your store of previous information on how something should look or feel or be. Because of the way our brains function, we are often using old information to project and fill in the blanks that our eyes aren’t seeing. I’m a little bit of a Nat Geo ‘Brain Games’ junkie… check the show out for more insight like this, it’s really wonderful.

rachel neville tips for better dance photos

Reason 3: The Other Dimension

You are used to looking at and perceiving your body and other people’s bodies in 3D. Unfortunately, a picture or screen is not three dimensional, but flat. So, often you are not just seeing one side of your leg, for example, but really 3/4s of it.  On screen, it appears as if it is one. Different lighting conditions and backgrounds can help or accentuate this.

Reason 4: Bad Angle

You were just at the wrong angle. I have said time and time again to my clients: 1 – 2 degrees of turn can make all the difference in the world. When we run tests on dancers’ angles with each particular pose or movement, they are often, dancers in my photography studio are always surprised at what a huge difference the smallest adjustments can make.

Reason 5: Selfie Distortion

Cell phone cameras are wide angle lenses. The angle that you shoot at will make a big difference.  This is why it’s so hard to get a selfie that actually looks good and doesn’t distort your head. Most people hold phones up close to their heads, causing the perspective of the top of your body to be bigger (closer to the lens) than your feet.

Now, what to do about it?

Some tips for getting your dance photos to look the way you want to look, and avoid that feeling of not looking the way you think you look in your professional dance photos.

1) Try to work for more lines that are in conjunction with the flat lines of a screen.  Always keep in mind what the screen will be showing. The more ‘twist’ you have in your body, the more likely you are to look better in your dance photos.

angles for better dance photos rachel neville

2) Remember that really small changes make a big difference in photos. Try your movement or pose from several angles and adjust in small increments. Don’t assume the first or second angle is going to be the best one, even if you think the shot looks pretty good.

3) If you must use a cellphone camera, be aware of the angle that you are shooting at. Lowering the phone to your waist level is really the best place to start, then experiment with different heights.

It’s #TutuTuesday!

Every week on Facebook, we celebrate #TutuTuesday and show of some of our favorite dance photos featuring tutus and the dancers who rock them.

Take a look at today’s tutu photo of the day.

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Brianna Crockett, Ellison Ballet

And some other great dance photos of dancers in the iconic dance wear piece (that doesn’t have to be frilly!).

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Marie Tender, Ellison Ballet

white tutu sheer top

Angeli Mamon, Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB)

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Sarah Gabrielle Ryan, PA Ballet, Second Company

Follow us on Instagram for more images from audition photos, dance company photo shoots, dance performances and dance project photography.

Fall NYC Dance Audition and Image Workshop with Dance Photographer Rachel Neville

After successful dance marketing workshops this summer in NYC and San Francisco, I am pleased to announce that the fall edition of my workshop is now accepting applicants.

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Alexander Mays, Photo Rachel Neville

Join me Saturday, November 21st, from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., at my Long Island City dance photography studio (25-19 Borden Ave Suite 216 Long Island City, NY, 11101) for an informative, fun and helpful workshop for dancers.

What We Will Cover

At the half-day workshop, we will talk about the How-Tos of image making like the elements of a good audition photo and headshot.  And we will give you the marketing tips and audition tips you need to take the next successful step in your professional dance career.

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Aryssa Alonzo, Photo Rachel Neville

What Dancers and Dance Companies Say about the Rachel Neville Dance Marketing Workshop

“Rachel gave me more than fantastic images. She gave me a new approach to and perspective on my dancing and instilled in me a new sense of confidence. It was an experience I will never forget.” – Alayna Brenchley

“Thank you for the wonderful workshop… I was blown away by all the new and insightful information and I left inspired to put a plan of action together right away!” – Laura Anne Wallace

“My students texted me after, they have found it very innovative and inspiring (me too!)” – Nadege Hottier, Principal, Premiere Division

Dance Auditioning Marketing and Image Workshop

Saturday, November 21, 2015
9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Rachel Neville Photography Studio
25-19 Borden Ave Suite 216
Long Island City, NY, 11101 (just 10 minutes from Grand Central Station)

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Claire Wilson, Photo Rachel Neville

Reserve Your Spot Now!

Email to reserve your spot at the Dance Audition Marketing and Image Workshop.

Costume and Prop Tips for Creative Dance Photos

Halloween is almost here. I’m a dance photographer. Do you think my 2.5 and 5 year old kids want to be ballerinas in tutus and tiaras that they see on my screenshot or the butterflies they love to pretend to be in pre-ballet classes? Oh no. I wish.

Or something creative like.. a slug, or a Rubik’s cube or a Japanese flag. Well, that might be projecting a little.. but no. It’s Elsa 1 and 2 from Frozen for us.

Which of course got me thinking of all of you.
What to wear is a common topic of conversation in our dance photo consultations. For those focused on audition photos, it’s often mostly about what leotards will look best and shoot well, sometimes a few tutus or skirts thrown in.
creative dance photos costume prop
Sarah Gabrielle Ryan, PA Ballet 2, Photo Rachel Neville
For those doing more images for marketing and perhaps for beginning to learn how to shoot dance photographs, we can have more fun with costumes and materials. What works well?
A few tips for you on using costume and fabric in dance photos…
Flowy material is a given, whether it’s skirts or dresses (the current Instagram fav) or a loose top. you can’t go wrong. But be careful the material doesn’t cover too much.
Stretch leggings or jeans and a more pedestrian top work well, too.  Focus on any fabric or cut that helps you see your shape (tight) but that you can move in.
Don’t forget props…
We love Michaels, thrift stores, and set and prop shops. Look for props to use that accentuate a concept without overshadowing the dancer. Oh yah, and Home Depot… you’d be surprised!
apple prop halloween wicket once upon a time green
Alexandra Polaski, SFB Trainee,  Photo Rachel Neville
So get creative and have fun with your dance photos.  And yes… I will post a photo of my little Elsas.  Happy Halloween!

Powerful Dance Photography for an Innovative Dance Company: Rachel Neville for Eryc Taylor Dance Company

I absolutely LOVED working with the Eryc Taylor Dance company and I know you are going to love their show just as much. ETD’s upcoming show, The Exhibit, runs Oct 15-18th at The Alchemical Theatre Laboratory, 104 W. 14th Street in NYC and tickets are still on sale, but they are going fast!

Dance Mission Resonates in Dance Photography

Based in NYC, Eryc Taylor Dance has a mission to “advance appreciation of dance and educate the public about dance by creating and presenting original performances, conducting master classes and workshops, and making grants to aspiring choreographers.”


Through their innovative choreography, the aim of the dance company is to “find, explore and execute new points of view and combine varied styles of dance on and off pointe.”  The company pushes for honesty in its choreography and performance.  Honesty, boundary pushing and creativity were all elements of our shoot to prepare images for Eryc Taylor Dance Company and for photo and promotional materials for the upcoming performances of The Exhibit.

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The company’s  mission is clearly present in The Exhibit, and also in the experience we had for the dance company photo shoot here at the Rachel Neville Photography Studio in Long Island City, NYC.

Communication and Openness in the Dance Photography Studio

I really enjoyed the process of working with Eryc leading up to the shoot, on the day of the dancer photo shoot and in post production, creating dance company promotional pieces including the poster for The Exhibit.  We had several meetings to make sure that nothing was left to chance, and Eryc’s communication allowed me to have images come to life in my head so that we were able to create them very specifically on the day of the shoot.

rachel neville nyc dance photographer dancers mud

His dancers were fun and adventurous in shooting, and we were really able to get them to ‘go there,’ by creating expectations but also by creating a supportive and safe space for the dancers to really ‘perform’ in the shoot.  And as a result, we got excellent results.

See Eryc Taylor Dance Company in The Exhibit

I can’t wait to see these guys in the performance space.  It is sure to be a really interesting show, and one not to be missed.

men dancing circle shape eryc taylor dance company photographer rachel neville nyc

Grab your tickets now.

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.