#1 Bob Karman • Pro Dance Photographer
by Callisto - The Netherlands
Let me briefly introduce myself. My name is Bob Karman, and I am a professional photographer from the Netherlands. My main discipline is Dance Photography, and I’ve been practicing professional since 2012.
My very first big dance related assignment was to photograph The Ultimate Dance Battle (TUDB), a Dutch TV show. It was an incredible experience. At this event I photographed dancers during both their live performances and rehearsals, and had full access to the frontstage and backstage areas. Soon after, SYTYCD and Everybody Dance Now contacted me for assignments. Since then, I have taken on work with many significant dancers and choreographers, both on location/stage and in my photostudio.
Dance Photography became an easy career choice for me because it appealed to my natural interests in pro-sports, controlled emotion, lighting and music. Unlike many pro-athletes, dancers train in front of mirrors and learn to separate their emotions from physical exertion. This phenomenon enriches their photos with exceptional dimension, and I have a great passion to capture these moments on camera. Throughout my career, I have discovered that the best photos are born not only of well-lit and well-planned atmospheres, but from the ease of the dancer. A dancer’s sense of serenity is of the utmost importance, and this begins before the photoshoot is even scheduled. A great photoshoot is not just about what the photographer does to prepare; it’s about what the dancer does to prepare.
If you’ve had photoshoots in the past, you may already know a few tricks, but if you’re new to this, or would simply like a perspective from the otherside of the lens, please read on. I've got some useful tips for you (or your parents) on how to capture your best moments on camera. Here are the top ways you can prepare yourself for the safest, most successful photoshoot.
Know Your Photographer
The first tip is more of a warning. Unfortunately, not every photographer has your best interest in mind, and there may be a hidden agenda, beyond art. One way to explore the intentions of the photographer is to review his or her portfolio. Are the photos really about creating art, or are they perhaps a bit seductive in their content? (Of course, both can be fine, as long as you agree on the terms.) Also, pay attention to the language used by the photographer, and whether or not they allow you to take someone with you to your photoshoot. If it's not allowed, that is a red flag that their intentions might not solely be for art purposes, and I would encourage you to be wary and ask more questions. Lastly, ask the photographer for a couple of references, and reach out to them the models/ dancers to hear about their personal experiences with this photographer.
Always Bring a Buddy
If you are a minor in the Netherlands, permission from a parent or guardian is required by law, but bringing family or friends along is always a good rule of thumb, no matter what the law says. Having a buddy with you is fun and a good, and safe, idea.
Have a Contract
This is a wise decision in order to safely and clearly define agreements. Common items to clarify would be: How many photos will you get? When will you get them? What are you allowed to do with the photos (print, duplicate, publish, etc)? What is the cost and what does it include? Will the photographer’s brand logo display on your photos? (Not very good looking if you want to make a print.) Are you or the photographer allowed to use the photos for commercial purposes, are you allowed to tag your danceschool or clothing sponsor when you post on social media? These are all good things to know in advance of your photoshoot, and they should be in writing, ideally within a contract.
Set Your Mood
The most beautiful photos come from the dancers who have done their part to make themselves feel good before the photoshoot, and throughout, because they understand that their mood is reflected in the art. In other words, your joy is paramount to the success of the photoshoot. For example, if you wear overly restrictive clothing and can’t do certain poses, or are feeling grouchy from hunger or lack of sleep, or find discomfort from something in the environment, etc., it will not be easy to hide your distaste. Your emotions will be captured. It’s imperative that you are mindful of this, and I would highly encourage you to note your preferences and share them with your photographer. If you are unsure of what you like, or how to articulate your needs, take some time before the shoot (really, before even booking or agreeing the shoot) to pull images from magazines, books and websites, and create a mood board for yourself. Look for different poses, dancewear, environment settings and lighting styles that resonate with you. Note the things you love. This information will be extremely helpful for the photographer to create the most mutually pleasing environment in which to create the best photos for you. Be sure to choose poses which you can (easily) perform and dancewear which fits you well. The overall key here is to feel good. Do whatever it takes to put yourself into a great state of mind, and feel your best. Share all of these ideas with your photographer to find out if you are in agreement on styles, and if they are able to meet your needs. Just like dancers, photographers have their own style - some you like, some you don't. Dare to say no if the photographer has a (last minute) concept in mind that doesn't suit you at all.
Have an Internet Presence
Prior to any shoot, I always view my dancer’s publicly available websites or social media accounts, to get a feel for their individual styles. If you choose to utilize social media over a website, I would encourage you to designate a special account which only features your dancing, and keep it separate from any personal accounts. This way the people that are interested in working with you, such as photographers like myself, won’t be scrolling through your private photos and posts. It’s not only easier for professionals to find relevant images of your work, it also gives your profile a more professional appearance.
Remember, This is Teamwork
In order to capture the best poses possible, it’s crucial that we work together with a harmony of continual communication and patience. Throughout the entire shoot, we will need to interact with each other both verbally and visually, by reviewing and discussing poses and images together, and adjusting things as we go. To assist in enhancing our communication, I will have a large monitor to view images, instead of the small screen on the back of the camera, so we can clearly see all of the details of the expressions and poses while we work. Since expression is so important in dance, it’s essential that we stay attentive to them. We will continuously review the images on the monitor together, and talk about what is good and what could be improved. If necessary, we will do the poses again (and again), until we are both happy with the results. This can take extra time and patience from both of us, and sometimes the conclusion won’t turn out the way we wished, but we will always strive to do our best and to create the best results, together. Your dance is your calling card, and good photos are my calling card, and in my view, you can't be critical enough of your poses, nor of my photos. We work together, and we both give everything our all. Only the best will be good enough to use.
Last but not least, remember when viewing the images on the monitor during the shoot that this is not the final result. The photos will still need to be edited. Unsightly objects in a studio, for example, will need to be removed in an editing program. Once the editing is complete, you will make selections of your favorites.
You may want to have a look at the photos of the dancers Lotte van Breukelen and David Vermeulen (independent professional dancers). You also see two photos in two different styles that I like to use, with different atmospheres. One is from Ella-joy Boog (Codarts student) and the second is by Cuban dancers Yumi Garcia (left) and Ailadi Travieso Winograd (both from the National Ballet of Cuba).
If you would like to see more of my work, take a look at my Instagram account @bobkarman.
Have a wonderful photoshoot! Bob Karman