How I Got This Shot – Broadway Ballerina Stephanie Kim

Broadway Ballerina Dancer Stephanie Kim Body in Motion Cool Photographic Lighting I have been wanting to do a shoot with a ballerina for quite some time.  When Stephanie contacted me asking me to make some images of her I was ecstatic since I have had several ideas for a ballerina shoot floating around in my head for almost 8 months.  The main idea was to capture her in motion and then freeze her at the end of the shoot.  I have seen, hell, we all have seen too many shots of ballerinas in static poses.  Beautiful poses, of course, but static and a little cliche at this point.  The biggest issue is to find a location with fresnel lights and the space to capture her overall motion. The location for this shoot was at a place with a massive stage and stage lights.  These are constant lights, fresnels with various colored gels on them (red, blue, neutral, purple and green).  Once we arrived at the location I started scouting the stage and lights to see the overall space with which I have to work and how best to bring my vision to life for Stephanie.  When I talked with owner of the location, Steve, I was informed that all the fresnels are on a board and can be individually controlled.  After I learned this I was running up the stairs to the control room to start playing with the various combinations of colors and intensity so I can make my vision come to life.  After a little trial and error I found the right combination of lights that I wanted to use for the shoot.  They were a combination of red, blue and neutral (lights without the gels). The whole purpose of making certain I had constant lighting for this shoot is because I want to create the motion with the constant lights and then freeze her with the strobe lights at the end of her movements.  By running up and down the stairs to the control room for the fresnels I wanted to make certain I had the overall look I needed for the "moving" parts of the shot.  I knew the strobes I place at the end of her movements would freeze her motion and I wanted to keep those lights daylight balanced (no gels or coloring) to create a nice "POP" or separation from the other lights.  I am also a HUGE fan of late night infomercial barker Ron Popeil and his "Set it and Forget it" mantra.  So, by setting the lights to get what I want allows me to just focus on the ballerina, her moves, expressions, gesture, etc.  The more you can learn about "Set it and Forget it" the easier it is to make the photos you want. In case you are not aware of the infamous infomercial from Ron Popeil then you can see it below I truly believe in the "Set it and Forget it" principle especially when it comes to something like this type of shoot.  That way I can focus on getting the image we want from the shoot.  The finished shot above was the SECOND in the process.  The first shot (below and in RAW format) was used to get the feel of the shoot.  And, when I first started I only set the camera to a :02 second exposure.  I quickly learned (after one image) that I needed to be in BULB mode with my remote trigger so I can pop the flash when she finished her movement.  I say that because by only letting her move for :02 seconds limited her in her movement.  It's like trying to time, to the EXACT tenth of a second when she will finish her movement.  Rather than rely on chance, I stood back and watched her movement and then let go of the cable release as soon as she finished her movement.  In the image below you can see a little bit of trailing movement but in the image above you can see her more clearly and crisply.  That's because I fired the flash as soon as she was done with her movement.
Broadway Ballerina Dancer Stephanie Kim Body in Motion Cool Photographic Lighting

This is the first, RAW, image from my shoot with Stephanie. This image relied on timing and chance rather than precise firing of the strobe. Fortunately I recognized that and quickly changed things a bit.

Perhaps some of you are wondering why I just didn't make one image of her with the fresnels and then another image from the strobes and then combine them in Photoshop.  I could have done that and did, for the purposes of this blog, make images to demonstrate how those images look separately.  But as you will see, I believing getting the image right in camera and in one shot saves me a TON of time in post production.  Plus, why make extra steps when I can get it right in camera and have a better, more organic image.  The sequence below shows what the images look like with just fresnels, just strobes and when I made one single image from getting it right in camera. Fresnel lighting to create movement in a photograph Broadway Ballerina Dancer Stephanie Kim Body in Motion Cool Photographic Lighting Broadway Ballerina Dancer Stephanie Kim Body in Motion Cool Photographic LightingLastly, I wanted to provide a quick description of what gear I used, the settings and the lighting set up for the shoot.  Please feel free to ask any questions or comment on this process.  I would love to see your images like this as well. SETTINGS
  1. Nikon D3s (Manual Mode)
  2. 70-200mm 2.8 Lens (Manual Focus)
  3. Really Right Stuff Tripod and Ballhead
  4. Bulb Mode for Shutter
  5. Aperture f8.0
  6. Nikon Shutter Release Cable
  7. Had model stand in roughly the finished location of her movement and pre-focused
  8. Rear Curtain Sync
  9. Broncolor Move 1200L Pack (both lights)
  10. Broncolor 5-Foot Octabank
  11. Westcott Bruce Dorn Strip Bank
LIGHTING/SHOOTING SET UP Stephanie-Kim-Lighting-DiagramUntil next time... SH

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  1. Ed mixon says:


    That is what a real PRO can accomplish!!! ;-))

  2. Thanks for the great idea and the steps to reproduce it. We’ll try to duplicate with our photo group and will post the finished results when we are done!