Scrolling through your Instagram feed, you probably notice tons of awe-inspiring dance photos: a penché in front of a waterfall, a jeté over a busy city street. While these tend to get a lot of likes and attention, they may not be the best types of pics to send when you're trying to book a job. You want to keep the focus on what's most important to casting directors: you! So how do you find the right balance between eye-catching and professional? We talked to insiders across the dance world to find out.
First, it's important to know exactly what kinds of jobs you'd like your photos to help you book. Photos for castings and auditions will look different from specialty dance shots, which will look different from editorial-style fashion shots.
Photographer Lee Gumbs says it's key to work with someone who understands dance, so they can capture the right moments for the specific shots you need. Talk with your photographer about exactly what you want to use the photos for, and which jobs you'd like to book based on those images. That will give them ideas about how to light and frame the images.
Don't Go Overboard
Remember, your photos will never stand in for your dancing, which is why most agents and casting directors aren't interested in seeing action or dance shots. Aris Golemi, the founder and CEO of Xcel Talent Agency in Atlanta, says that photos during the casting process are most important for showing the casting directors "what your vibe is, what your energy is, and what your look is." Your photos aren't the place to show off how high you can jump—that will happen in the audition room. "You still have to prove yourself on the dance floor," says Golemi.
Griffith's commercial headshot (David Muller Photography, courtesy Griffith)
Jennie LaCovey, an agent at Bloc L.A., agrees, saying dancers don't actually need many full-body dance photos in their portfolio if they're looking to book commercial gigs. The two basic looks are commercial and theatrical, and should feature dancers from the waist or shoulders up, so that casting directors can still clearly see their faces. Commercial looks are "high-energy and relatable, and feature pops of color," LaCovey says. Theatrical looks can show more of your personality.
Griffith's theatrical look (SMAC Photography, courtesy Griffith)
Keep It Clean and Natural
It's important that your photos be current and look like you. "If you change in any way, you have to change your picture," warns Marguerite Derricks, a choreographer who's worked in TV and film, most recently on the newest season of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel." Casting directors don't want to be surprised by your look when you audition in person.
LaCovey recommends keeping your photos clean with a simple background: no shrubbery, no graffiti, no textured walls. Casting directors should be able to see your body without any extra distractions. The same goes for what you're wearing. Stick with solid colors, avoiding too many layers or crazy patterns. And beware of anything that might hide or distract from your face, like sunglasses, hats, or large jewelry.
One of Griffith's fitness shots (Wes Klain, courtesy Griffith)
While it's a great idea to seek out other photos for inspiration, remember that your photos should ultimately represent you. LaCovey has noticed that many dancers see each other's pictures on social media and use the same photographers, so all of their photos end up looking exactly the same. "They'll wear the same outfit and be in the exact same pose," she says. Let your individual qualities shine through.
Know Your Specialty
Photos that showcase your dance skills are important for booking specialty commercial jobs. For these types of gigs, you actually don't want photos that reflect your versatility. "They're looking for a very specific dancer with very specific skills, and it's uber-important to have shots that reflect those skills," says LaCovey. She's noticed that b-boys and b-girls who have photos of themselves in freezes are the ones who get called in for the most auditions. The same goes for ballet dancers with photos on pointe. "They're very literal!" she says. She also suggests that dancers think about including a fitness or yoga shot, if they're interested in booking a fitness job. Dancers who want to book music videos and tours should have a more glamorous, trendy body shot.
Griffith's body shot (Wes Klain, courtesy Griffith)
Be Creative Online
Even though full-body dance photos don't usually play a huge role in the normal commercial casting process, LaCovey says agencies will often use them for promotional purposes, like social media callouts and agency websites. She also advises dancers to use their dance photos to build their platform online. Social media can be a great place for more editorial, fashion-forward photos, and casting directors do often look into people's online presences. Online, you can have more fun and be more creative with your photos.
A version of this story appeared in the March 2019 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "The Dance Photos You Actually Need to Book Jobs."