Tips for Great Audition Photos

My Tips for Great Audition Photos has been a huge success and a great help to so many dancers looking for the inside information they want to prepare for the audition photos they need.

Audition Photo Tips for Dancers, A Blog Series by Rachel Neville

Everything Dancers Need to Know About Audition Photos

So, I thought since my most popular blog post to date talked about what to wear for an audition shoot, I would expand the topic and share much of what I’ve learned over the last many years of shooting them.

I’ll be writing on topics such as How to Prepare for a ShootWhat to ExpectMore on What to WearWhat Directors are Looking ForResearch To Do Ahead of TimePoses That WorkFind What Looks Good on Your Body and much more

Audition Photo Tips: Research To Do Ahead of Time

As a freelance photographer, I seem to spend so much time thinking about marketing (and not enough time doing it, but that is another conversation…).  As a sole proprietor this is one of my least favorite hats to wear: who really likes talking about themselves and getting people to ‘like’ their work on Facebook and other sites?

Igor Tauber Ellison Ballet Dance Audition Photos by Rachel Neville
Igor Tauber, Ellison Ballet Photo Rachel Neville

So I really understand that this is not an area where dancers like to spend much of their time

Audition Photo Tips: How to Prepare for a Photo Shoot

Picking up from last week’s post, let’s assume you’ve spent the time researching your target companies/audience and looking at a whole lot of dance photography.  You know where you would like to send your images and information and you know what type of images you want to be able to send.  Now what’s next?

Christina Schifano photo by Rachel NevilleChristina Schifano, Colorado Ballet Photo Rachel Neville

 1)   Contact and speak with/email a photographer(s) whose work you like, find out if the photographer is a good fit for you and your budget (learn more).
2)   Review with the photographer what you need and want.  Make sure your photographer has a clear understanding of your goals and what you would like to look like, coming up with a rough plan for your shoot. Start planning some of the poses you might like to try

 What to Expect at Your Audition Photo Shoot

Today’s audition tips offer insight into what to expect at your audition photo shoot including how to prepare   mentally and physically and what questions you need to ask your photographer to make sure that you are getting everything you need out of your shoot.

So Young An, freelance dancer in NYC

So Young An, freelance dancer in NYC Photo Rachel Neville

  • Expect to arrive with plenty of time to relax and warm up, putting your mind in the right space to bring out the personality traits you most want to show directors.
  • Expect to use 10-25% of what you brought for clothing and costume options as you and your photographer decide together what works and doesn’t work for your shoot.
  • Expect all aspects of your wardrobe choices to show upon the computer screen; make sure that:
    • everything is ironed/steamed and folded nicely to transport to the studio
    • black items have been de-linted
    • everything is in repair… tights with holes and runs will almost always show

Get Audition Tips delivered direct to your Inbox.

Audition Photo Tips: What to Wear

The question of what to wear for audition photos is probably the most commonly asked question by auditioning dancers.

There are 2 parts to the What to Wear Question:

A) What style of clothing/costuming will work best with what you are trying to present to a director?  The type of companies/jobs you are interested in is key to this question, as are the characteristics of your dancing and personality that you want to represent and highlight.

audition tips what to wear contemporary photos

B) What you like or would like to wear vs. what actually looks good on you and what shoots well?

For this installment, let’s tackle Part A…

Audition Tips: What to Wear Pt. 2 Remember Your Body

We talked in the last post about choosing your styling options based on two key questions: A) Who is your target audience, and B) What personality and  performing traits you most wish to convey.

Rachel Neville Audition Tips leotard guide

Now, we are ready for the next two parts of the What to Wear question: C) What actually looks good on you and shows your body to the best advantage? and D) What type of garments actually shoot well??

Keep these points in mind when you are gathering your wardrobe for your audition photo shoot:

Show off your best physical attributes….

What to Wear: Finding the Right Leotard for Audition Photos

In past posts we’ve covered what to wear for audition photo shoots.  Ten days ago I did a shoot with two outstanding students who will be graduating from Ellison Ballet School in NYC this year and looking for contracts.  These ladies were perfect examples of different body types needing different leotard styles to complement their shapes, and they graciously agreed to be ‘models’ for me to show you what I’ve been talking about (thanks Lauren and Sara!)….

Great Audition Photo Tips What to Wear Rachel Neville Photography
Lauren Archer finds the best look for her body with a Yumiko spaghetti strap leotard.

Audition Photo Tips: Poses that Work

If you’ve been following this blog thread on Audition shots for awhile now you should be feeling a little more confident in your preparation and what to expect.  One of the last pieces of the puzzle now is to come armed with a few poses that you would like to start your session with, some that you know will look good, some you think might do well, and some that might be a jumping off point to experiment and come up with what looks cool on your frame, all the while speaking what you need them to speak to the director.

Start with the basics and build from there.  If you take a moment at the beginning of your session to make a simple 5th position or passé look good, you will have a better idea of how to make the other poses work

Audition Tips: How a Dancer Prepares for Audition Photos, Interview with Emma Powers

I wanted to blog this week about my shoot with Emma Powers, a dancer who came to New York over the holidays from Oregon Ballet Theatre to shoot as well as take classes and see some family members in Philly.

Rachel Neville Audition Photo Tips Contemporary Dance Photo Emma PowersEmma Powers, Dancer Photo Rachel Neville

Throughout this post series I’ve talked quite a bit about what you want the company director/viewer of your audition images to know about you in the very few seconds they have to look at your images. It’s not just enough to give a sense of your line and body shape, what your facilities are, but that you give a sense of who you are as a dancer, what you can offer and bring to their work/company/choreography.

I think Emma really was able to nail it in our shoot.  In particular she was able to make her facial expression and personality shine, through her choices in color/style, and what she brought to the shoot in her manner and being

Most Common Question Dancers Ask about Audition Photos – Poses

In the pre-photo shoot consultation my dancer clients want to know if they should prepare a list of poses.

Basically, dancers want to know what to do during a photo shoot.

Over all, this is an individual process and complicated topic because every dancer is different.  Even seemingly ‘perfect’ bodies shoot differently.

dance audition photos white ballet dress white pointe shoes photographer tips auditions

Rebecca Reeves, Ellison Ballet, New York

For dancers about to book audition photoshoots who want to know what to do and what poses work for audition photos, here is a quick list of tips

Continue reading.

Poses that Work for Audition Photo Shoots

Arabesques and Attitudes
(1st, 4th, 5th & open 5th)
Arabesques and attitudes almost always shoot better directly to the side.  But if you have killer technique, try a very slight diagonal line, up or downstage

classical ballet audition photos rachel neville audition photos

À La Second
This really works well only if you really have a 180 and strong core to hold it.  Try several different arm positions to help facilitate a leg close to the ear

Continue reading.

Dancers: Bring Your X Factor to Dance Auditions

Too often we caught up in the ‘DOING’ of it all.. working technique, sewing endless shoes, learning new choreography, sending out email inquiries… Are you remembering who you are ‘BEING’?

nyc dance photographer rachel neville summer intensive photo shoot

Who are you, as a dancer and as a person, for the companies and audiences you want to work with?

Of course, directors are looking at your technique, line, turns and jumps etc.  But when I talked to a few dance company directors recently a common thread of conversation was about personality. They are looking for dancers who are great to work with and have a certain quality and personality that will fit into different roles and shine on stage

Continue reading.

How Do I Make My Dance Audition Photos Stand Out?

If you’ve been following me for awhile you know I’m all about dancers beginning to brand themselves and stepping it up in marketing. The investment of time, energy and yes more than likely a little bit of money (not going to sugar coat that, quality images and video packages cost a little bit but are worth the investment) makes all the difference. Like so many of my clients have attested to, really good pictures and video can get your foot in the door.  They get you noticed where you want to be seen.

Purple leotard Yumiko ballet dance audition photos

So, how do you do that? Of course, I have some tips.

1) Make sure you shoot with a photographer who knows line and technique

Continue reading.

The Techniques You Need Now for Successful Auditions and Dance Careers

If you are auditioning next year, this should be your game plan.

dance audition tips summer workshop

When we are working in my studio, so many of my clients really see that when you give beyond what you think you can, go for broke.  Push for 300% of your energy and see results that are outstanding. When we have worked a movement 20, 30, 40 times to get it just right and then we push for more, the wow factor arrives and I so often hear  ‘I didn’t know I could look like that!’

Now imagine what audition success would look like if you put that same time, energy and preparation into it?..

Continue reading.

Must Do List for Dance Auditions: June Edition

First up, we are talking about landing and completing successful dance auditions.

If you just landed your job, and you’re ready to think about continued marketing for your career, make sure to check back in here next week. I’ll be talking to you guys next.  In the meantime, share this advice with your fellow dancers who haven’t signed contracts yet.

3 Must Dos for Dance Auditions

You’ve made it – or almost made – it through the year.  A few well deserved weeks off are coming to you now before your summer intensive begins. So let’s take a few hours of that time, maybe an hour a day or two hours every other day, to get yourself headed down the right path.  Your next year or two need to be full of focus, eye on the goal, pedal to the medal

contemporary white tulle with crop top dance audition photosAllison Lang

Continue reading.

4 Audition Tips to Do Right Now

1. Continue your research and deepen it.

Look at youtube videos of  dance companies and think about why you would like to work for those companies (beyond just wanting to land a dance job).

Write down your reasons on a chart or spread sheet. This makes great content for a quick email to each of the companies when you need to ask for information and when you are sending them your materials.

2. Get in the right mindset

Continue reading.

Why You Don’t Look Like Yourself in Photos – And What to Do

Have you ever wondered why your pictures don’t really look like you thought you looked in the studio or on stage? Have you ever been in a photoshoot with a pro or a friend, looked at the screen on the phone, the back of the camera or on the computer and thought ‘wow that’s not what it felt like’ or ‘no, I thought I was better than that’?

99% of you reading that comment are smiling a little, nodding your head and saying ‘yes!!’ or ‘I thought that was just me’...

rachel neville tips for better dance photosContinue reading.

More and more, I find myself reminding dancers to practice facial expressions in front of a mirror.  Yes, it makes you feel a little silly in the moment.  Yes, it’s worth it to get over it!
This is how the high fashion models who make really good money with their faces have honed their craft.
tips for dance auditions face rachel neville nyc dance photographer
Dancer: Emma Harris, Photo Rachel Neville

Tips for Improving Your Facial Expression and Communication in Dance Audition Photos

Look for the differences in your smiles
When I shoot headshots we test this out so that we know where we want your expressions to land

Dance Audition Photo Shoot Lessons from Dancer Laura Anne Wallace

Recently, Laura Anne Wallace came into the Long Island City studio for dance audition photos.  We had a great photo shoot and afterwards had the chance to talk about what the dance audition photo shoot experience was like for Laura Anne, what her dance goals are, and what advice she has to share with her fellow dancers in NYC and beyond

rachel neville nyc dance photographer photo shoot laura anne wallace

Laura Anne Wallace, Photo Rachel Neville

Where are you headed next in your career?

I’m looking to find a company where I can contribute as an artist in a meaningful way. My goal has always been to be the best dancer I can be, for myself, but more importantly, for the company and the audience

Continue reading.

Watch Rachel Neville’s Dance Audition Tips Video Series

episode 4 rachel neville video series marketing for dancers

How to Capture Energy and Emotion in Dance Audition Photos

We are heavily into the throws of audition photo season, and I wanted to take a moment to talk about something that is coming up more and more this year: Energy and Emotion!

In our dance photography studio, we shoot images in a particular order. First we figure out the moment or pose. Next we set the lighting. Then we take some time to fine tune the movement so that the dancer’s lines and technique look their best. Then we start working with the emotional content that is the driving forcebehind what we do as communicators. Without that, we have a bland shot that never really lifts off the ground.

add emotion and energy to dance audition photos Rachel Neville Photography NYC

Andrew Daly, Dancer Photo Rachel Neville NYC

I find that this order is essential: our brains are actually not hard wired to multitask! We can in any split second only think about one thing. So in order to really accomplish our goals in dance photography, we need the body to develop a little muscle memory as to the best lines possible for a shot

Continue reading.

I recently had the chance to work with Erica Cornejo of Boston Ballet and this came up.  Within the first couple of shots, her delicious, expressive hands were something I immediately noticed.



Erica Cornejo, dancer Photo Rachel Neville

You know how people who are into football excitedly shout at the TV for the Super Bowl?  Yah, that’s me, swooning over beautiful hands.  Erica and I had a moment as we talked about the importance of hands and how much she had worked on hers to make them so expressive.  In a single gesture she had me breathless