I’m often asked to photograph a wide variety of projects and subjects. This project was a photographic commission from The School of the Pennsylvania Ballet, the school that is affiliated with the Pennsylvania Ballet in Philadelphia. They asked for a variety of promotional imagery using their students as the subjects.
First, a Bit About Lighting
When lighting, practicality sometimes wins out. All lighting modifiers produce a particular field of optimal light. Certain modifiers such as snoots, barn doors, or grids provide a narrow and focused beam of light. This can be particularly useful when you, as the photographer, wish to highlight only a certain portion of the photograph. A good example of this can be seen in my work with Syd Carpenter on my blog. For the portraits we made together, I used a small gridded softbox to shape and draw attention to her face. This adds drama, shadowing, and three dimensionality to the image. Because of their narrow beams, these modifiers are also well suited for rim lights and accent lights.
The flip-side are larger, un-gridded modifiers that provide a very large and broad light source. These can be particularly useful when you have multiple subjects, or if your subject is moving. A narrow beam means only a small area in which the subject is getting hit with that optimal light. A larger and broader source provides a larger usable area. Good examples of this can be seen with artists Ben Howard and Lucas Kelly. I lit them with large light sources. They were able to move freely throughout their studios to work while I made my photographs. Using more narrow lights may have provided more dramatic imagery, but as I wanted to allow them to work naturally, I determined that a larger light source was ultimately more practical.
Now, Back to the Dancers
This same idea applied to the dancers. Anticipating a lot of movement, I went with an Elinchrom indirect Octa as my main modifier. This thing is huge, and the light it produces is beautiful. It provides a very broad swath of light, which I knew would be helpful with the movement I anticipated. With some groups consisting of eight dancers, it was also large enough to offer sufficient coverage of these larger groups.