I wanted to try and capture what it’s like being in lockdown at home during this pandemic. My son is a ballet dancer and so is, of course, missing all his classes at the moment. He’s been practising at home with videos from his teachers.
As I was watching him practise, I wondered whether I could do a shoot with him, dancing around the house. He’s always moving. Whether it’s dancing on the edge of my bed frame, on one leg, or cartwheeling across the lounge. We did a shoot together a few days ago and I thought it might be useful to share how we went about it and to help anyone that is thinking of doing their own lockdown photoshoot at home.
Here are 7 quick tips on how to shoot your own lockdown images, based on how I planned and shot these images of my son.
1. Research and planning
My son is a ballet dancer and has great natural poise but sometimes classical ballet poses need a bit of a tweak to look even better in photos. I follow some fantastic ballet photographers on Instagram – the awesome Richard Calmes and Magda Hoffman are two of my favourites and I love all the movement in their work. My son and I discussed, practised and researched poses in advance of the session. Some things worked and others didn’t. As a male dancer, he doesn’t have the fabulous outfits that ballerina’s wear and so we just had to work with him and his black tights. The most important thing was making sure that his ‘lines’ were as perfect as he could make them (taking into account his ability). No dodgy hand placements or bent legs if possible. If you want to capture a person’s hobby at home, then take time to research other images in the genre. Work out what your subject can do and what they can’t do. Tweak and adapt ideas to suit your subject and the environment that you have to work with.
2. Consider the setting
Doing a shoot at home is different from shooting in a studio or outside. There’s a lot more general debris around a family home! I looked around my house for suitable areas to shoot (my bedroom, upstairs landing and lounge) and made sure that I cleared away any mess (the guitar, dumbbells, wet towels, paperwork, abandoned socks and framed pictures). Depending on the sort of photography you like, you might like to include general household detritus. If not, then find an area that you can clear, or dress to suit your images.
Outfits for this sort of shoot are super important. I didn’t want my son to wear his usual ballet outfit, as things are different in lockdown. I wanted a sense of informality but still needed to see his body shape properly. So, he wore his ballet tights, but with a t-shirt instead of a leotard. He wore his hair down too, instead of wearing a bun to add to the informal ‘at home’ feel. If you’re planning a shoot at home then outfits should be a top priority. Try and avoid writing, or logo’s on clothing as well as pictures as they can be very distracting. Consider colours, textures and style of clothing and work out what you think would suit the situation. Do you want something colourful, joyful or fun? Or perhaps something more serious, classic and formal. Planning and thinking about clothing in advance will make a big difference to the end result.
4. Find the light
I’ve spent a lot of time in the house lately! Haven’t we all? So, I’ve become very aware of the light and shadows at different times of the day. I knew that the sun would be shining through the lounge window, casting lovely patterns onto the carpet in the late afternoon, so I planned the shoot at that time. Look around your house, find the lovely patterns made as the sun moves during the day. Look for naturally shaded areas or bright spots, depending on what you like. You could plan a silhouette picture (shooting into the light), or use the patterns cast on the walls or floor to make interesting shadow images.
I used my Sony A7iii for the shoot and chose my 35mm Sigma Art lens. I needed a wide-angle lens, so I could capture him within the setting and not have to stand miles away (plus there wasn’t enough room to use my 85mm!). Shoot with what you have. Use a phone if you need to! Work out in advance what you can fit into the frame before the session. I did a couple of test shots a few days prior to the actual shoot, just to work out what I could fit in and where I would need to stand.
I can’t advise on what settings you should use for your shoot, as it totally depends on what you’re shooting and the available light etc. I can tell you the settings used for this shoot though. For the static images, I used a wide aperture (f2.8) and a shutter speed of around 1/250. Upstairs my ISO was a little higher (400) as it was darker. Downstairs, there was more light streaming through the windows and my priority was to capture his movement, so I used a faster shutter speed (between 1/640 -1/800). My ISO was 100 and aperture f1.8.
Dance photography isn’t easy. I’m no expert at this sort of thing but photographing my son over the years, I’ve realised it’s easier to ask him to jump from standing, rather than across the frame, to make sure that I can get the focus correct. It took quite a few takes to get the images in this set. The slightest movement in the wrong direction can ruin an image. He’s more of a perfectionist than me, and so won’t let me use an image unless he’s happy with it.
As with most things, practise makes perfect, so just keep trying and learning as you go. If your images are too light or too dark or too blurry, consider your settings, change something and try again.
I knew in advance that I wanted the whole set of images to be in black and white. The woodwork in my house is a pale green colour and I didn’t want it to distract the eye away from him so I thought black and white would look better. With that in mind, I chose a dark outfit for him, so there would be a contrast between him and the background. I processed the RAW files in Lightroom and did any small tweaks and cropping in Photoshop.
Lockdown photo sessions can cover any hobby or activity. What does your child love to do? Can you work out a shoot that will show them in action? You could do a shoot showing them dancing, exercising, practising a musical instrument, painting, drawing – there are loads of options. I’d love to see your lockdown images! Share them with me on my Facebook or Instagram accounts.
If you want to learn about dance photography – then check out Dance Photography Workshops from the fabulous Nina Mace.
About the Author
Gemma Griffiths a family and commercial photographer based in the Vale of Glamorgan in Wales, UK. You can find out more about Gemma on her website and follow her work on Facebook and Instagram. This article was also published here and shared with permission.