I started my photography business in 2009 as a dance photographer. At the time I felt like I had to work my way into the industry blindly. There were plenty of resources to learn how to become a wedding photographer or a senior portrait photographer, or even photographing newborns or family portraits. But there was nothing on dance photography.
What equipment did I need? What products should I offer? What prices should I charge? What marketing strategies should I use? I was clueless and in 2009, hardly anyone identified themselves as a dance photographer. I couldn’t even tell which photographers or studios were doing these shoots, so I couldn’t ask anyone.
It took me a few years to begin partnering with dance studios. I had been photographing the Houston Ballet and some other professional dance companies, and through that, I had been published in Dance Magazine a few times. That, and the artistic quality of my work, was my entry into the professional dance photography business.
Now, 10 years later, there are still not viable resources out there for people wanting to break into the dance photography business. And dance schools are still using national companies that do the high school yearbooks, or sometimes using people who don’t have the equipment, experience, or skills to create professional portraits.
My wife, Beth, and I decided to change that this year, and so we founded Pas de Deux Photo, an organization designed solely to be a platform for the community of dance photographers. We created our website full of resources, and we are now ready to offer our first dance photography conference in Phoenix on Jan. 31 – Feb. 2, 2020. We will feature some of the most well-known dance photographers, including Jordan Matter, Rachel Neville, Eric Pare of Canada, Jonathan Givens, David Hofmann, and Taylor-Ferne Morris of Australia, and others.
As a dance photography enthusiast, it’s exciting to have all this talent at one conference in one weekend. These speakers bring a wide range of skills and worldly experience to the conference. Matter and Givens have both had books published, and Hofmann is one of the most widely sought-out dance photographers on Instagram. Neville is amazing with the work she produces at her studio in New York, and on the road with numerous major professional dance companies. Morris does a lot of work with the Australian Ballet and other professional dance companies in Australia. Pare and his partner, dancer Kim Henry, do cutting-edge work with light-painting, and are constantly traveling the world to do workshops.
The conference is designed to provide attendees with classes on the artistic side of photographing dancers, both using natural light outdoors and also using strobes in a studio setting. There will be classes on how to acquire dance schools, and how to do the recital costume portrait sessions, right down to providing pricing information and how to do your workflow. There will be business classes and editing classes. We want to help photographers develop marketing and workflow strategies to form strong relationships with dancers and dance studios.
Photographing a single medium-sized dance school’s costume recital portrait session can potentially generate $8,000 in revenue. One large dance school (800-plus students) can generate potentially more than $24,000 or more in revenue, not to mention doing multiple sessions with the studio throughout the year, and all the individual and family sessions that derive from that. We’ll teach you how you can do that at the conference. Learning how to secure these gigs and to produce gorgeous photos will be covered at the conference. The hardest part about this conference will be choosing which classes to take.
We decided to hold this inaugural conference in Phoenix at the Arizona Grand Resort so we could be blessed with good weather, and because the resort has so many great settings to do photo shoots with dancers.
There will be dozens of dancers there to go out and model for photo shoots on the resort grounds, or head over to some hills in the desert just a few blocks away. We will also have several studio rooms set up with dancers so you can test out lighting equipment and build your portfolio at the same time.
Some of our classes will include being able to watch Rachel Neville, or one of the other featured presenters, working with dancers as if they were doing a real shoot in their studio. But they’ll be talking to you, and talking about what’s going on in their minds as they do the shoot.
There will also be exhibitors there to help answer any questions you might have about their products.
The Early Bird discount will end on Sept. 15, so sign up now to take advantage of that. Our Early Bird attendees will be the first ones allowed to sign up for the free 20-minute spots in the studio setups with dancers, and on-location photo walks with Jordan Matter, Jonathan Givens, David Hofmann, and Taylor-Ferne Morris.
Here’s where you can go to learn about the conference: https://www.pasdedeuxphoto.com/conference-1.
I hope to see you there!
Full disclosure: This article was sponsored by the International Dance Photography Conference.
About the author: Ron McKinney is an award-winning Chicago-based dance photographer and the founder of Pas de Deux Photography and the International Dance Photography Conference. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of McKinney’s work on his website and Instagram. You can sign up for the conference here.