sara ribeiro

Sara Ribeiro and Laura Perrot dance shoot

2nd June 2016


I met Sara after seeing one of her piece that she choreographed at the Norhern School of Contemporary Dance featuring my friend Kit King. I thought it was very funny and the way she had woven in the humour was priceless. We had a chat afterwards and I wondered what it would be like to work with a choreographer during a dance shoot. So we gave it a try. Laura was roped in later. I was to find out later that she is a house mate of Flow.

In many ways this shoot was a return to what I doing with Rhiannon when I first started out photographing dancers except I now had a lot more experience in photographing dancers. The basic equipment was pretty much the same except the key (front light) was turned up more. I wanted to strip this back to the bare minimum, no special tricks with the flashgun or lighting. This was all about dance and the dancers.

The shoot

I did not have an agenda in terms of what want for this shoot. I just turned up with a few props like scarves, fans, long pieces of shiny material, a Chinese umbrella and let the girls let rip. When I was setting up I turned around and noticed that Sara had wrapped one of the scarves around her torso like a sash. I liked it. She was messing about and we had not even started. It was also my first shoot in the lighting studio for a while. A few black boards covered in material helped adsorb any stray light so that cut down on a lot of post processing work.

Sara Ribeiro

1. The lighting set up was to designed pass through Sara's hair and the skin of the umbrella creating highlights and details that would otherwise be lost if it were lit evenly. It also brings out a bit of muscle tone and body shape.

Sara started off with the umbrella. I was a little concerned because during her piece that I saw, they broke a number of them. This one is only decorative and part of me wondered if it would survive the shoot. It did.

Sara Ribeiro

2. You can see where the back lights were placed from the shadows they cast on the floor. Once again light is coming through the skin of the umbrella and Sara's hair. It also brings out the folds of the skirt. There is a hit of flash on the right. I also love the way her hair has fallen over half of her face. A wonderful horizontal arm too with a strong vertical line running through her body. We were off to a good start.

Sara Ribeiro

3. I love the shapes created by Sara and textures captured by the the lighting set up. The light through the umbrella stops it from disappearing into the background. Sara has created a wonderful vertical line. The slight tip/tilt of the umbrella creates a bit of tension as it is slightly off the vertical. I think she is auditioning for Mary Poppins. This is a the kind of shot photographers love. It has wonderful lighting, shapes, strong lines, grace and a bit of tension.

Sara and Laura swapped in and out throughout the shoot. That suited me fine. It gave the other dancer time to think up a move and time to play behind the camera.

Laura Perrot

4. Some photos take a few shots to bag, we pulled this off first time! I looked at the back of the camera and knew we had this one in the bag. I had to retouch some of the shadows on Laura's face as they were a little dark otherwise it is spot on. The flashes of light in her hair stopped her dark hair being lost in the background. Check-out the shadow from the spines of the fan on her upper arm. The purple fan is translucent. I think this shot is beautiful, agree?

Laura Perrot

5. Kit and I were admiring this shot. We love the backwards 'S' shape of the legs, the amount of air and the shape of the left hand. Once again, I had to lighten some of the harsh shadows on Laura's face. Next time I will power down the side lights and increase the key (main) and use a larger softbox.

Laura Perrot

8. You can see that the fan is translucent in this shot. The side light just catches the ends of Laura's hair. Nice skirt swish.

Three photos of Laura then once again a change back to Sara and orientation of the camera from portrait to landscape mode.

Sara Ribeiro

9. The only shot where Sara is using a fan to cover her face. I love the way the light picks up Sara's hair and the ripples in the ran. I think this photographs has great energy.

Sara Ribeiro

10. Timing is important for this shot to catch Sara when she is bolt upright. Laura liked this photo. The hair is moving so fast it blurs even at 1/400th of a second.

Sara Ribeiro

11. The same again but the shutter is pressed a split second later. I love the way the light to the right has snuck in and adds a lot of contrast to Sara's hair.

Laura Perrot

12. This is the first time this white translucent cloth has been used in one of my shoots. It pretty much has Laura wrapped up. I love the sheen of the cloth. By covering most of her face, Laura made herself look like an Arabian dancer.

Joanna Bordon, Leake street, david bowie

13. When you are onto something you need to pursue and develop it. Laura made a angular 'S' shape with the cloth and a gorgeous reflection in the floor. Once again most of her face is hidden and this added an allure to the shot.


Throughout the shoot a full-frame camera with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens was used. The camera was hand held. The lighting set up is below.

The camera was set to ISO 2000, f/4 and 1/400th of second. Next time I may boost the power of the main light so I can dial down the ISO and use a large octagonal softbox with one of the diffusers removed. The back lights would be reduced by a stop too.

lighting diagram
Laura Perrot

14. The white cloth created a balance with skirt flaying out. Great feet! The lighting brought out the muscle shape of her lower legs too.

Post processing

Most of the post processing was done in Lightroom. A bit of cropping, lens correction adjusting exposure.

The rest was performed in Photoshop. This was mostly dodging and burning (lightening and darkening specific areas) and sharpening the detail.

Sara Ribeiro

15. Another dancer change and using the eye catching red cloth. We took a number of shots of Sara dancing with this. This is my favourite because of the shapes she is pulled.

Sara Ribeiro

16. A bird of prey. I think Sara is like a hawk banking and swooping in. The skirt is like a tail spread wide open.

Sara Ribeiro

16. This one just has tons of circular movement in it.

Final thoughts and thanks

This is the first time we had collaborate together. The resulting photographs were different from what other dancers had created using the same props. The lighting set up did its job too. It was a shame that we did not have that much time for this session there was a few things I would have liked to have tried like them letting go of scarf during the move so it is left hanging in mid air.

Sara Ribeiro Laura Perrot

17. Sara and Laura just having fun with the cloth. I love the light in Sara's hair and it coming through the red cloth.

Sara and I have discussed doing a duo shoot with her boyfriend Nuno. I have not covered a shoot based on lifts and the like. So we will have to arrange that.

The original plan was to do hold another shoot the next day with Sara, Laura and Flow. Sara pulled out because it was too late and clashed with a rehearsal, Flow was exhausted so it ended up with it being Laura and myself, but more of that in the next blog entry.

Thank you ladies for being fantastic and fabulous dancers as well as people. It was great working with you and seeing how all of this came out. One thing I absolutely adore about working with students from the NSCD is the number of nations I have worked with. Sara is Portuguese and Laura is French. So far my tally include Danish, Hungarian, Greek, Chinese and Spanish dancers not to mention indigenous ones.

Sara Ribeiro Laura Perrot

15. It took a few attempts to bag this shot. It would have been perfect if both their feet were same.

Please leave a comment below and let me know what you thought of the photographs.

Your thoughts


Please leave any thoughts, comments, questions or just say, "Hi!" (not literally) below. I really do appreciate feedback. E.g. What is your favourite photograph and why?

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