Editorial Photography : Fencing & Dance

I have worked with Angela from www.zero-superhero.com on a few projects before, so when she came to me with the idea of a combining fencing and dance in a photo shoot I was of course up for it.

The Idea

As part of her stunt training Angela also took up fencing. As it is a very interesting sport she was thinking of how she could make fencing more attractive to other women. Part of her idea involved getting images different from the usual fencing sports photography, but rather some more cinematic shots.

So after some brainstorming we came up with the idea of two women (Angela and her friend Danielle, who is a dancer) in long dresses and Venetian masks fencing each other and maybe incorporating some dance moves.

The Mood Board

The next step for me was to create a mood board and get a better idea of what we wanted to achieve. I use Pinterest to get inspiration and have a few boards where I collect great images from many amazing photographers, but I also use it to create mood boards, which you can even share with other people so they can add images too.

The final mood board I put together in Photoshop and it would be a great tool during the shoot to get ideas across. Often it is easier to show a picture of a certain pose than to describe it, especially dance and fencing poses,…I don’t really have a clue what they are called, just what I would like the subjects to do :-)

The Budget

As this project was a personal one we actually didn’t have any budget to spend, so we had to improvise and keep the costs as low as possible. Angela was in charge of the props and found the dresses and masks on ebay while the Leon Paul Fencing Store in Hendon was very helpful and generous to lend her a couple of fencing swords, including one very old one actually owned by Leon Paul himself! You can see it in the last image of this post.

We did the shoot a few months ago when it was still very cold, so I had to find an indoor location, even though I usually prefer shooting outdoors.

Professional photography studios or locations were way over our budget, so I had a look at www.hallsforhire.com, but the best way to go is to look at community and arts centres in your area.  The Leavesden Community Hall proofed to be reasonably priced, big enough and as a bonus easy to get to for everyone of us.

The Shoot

Because the location was just a big hall without any good background I tried to create low-key images with a dark background. To avoid a lot of light spill I used grids on all my lights, which made it difficult to keep the subjects in the right position. Any unwanted things still visible in the background had to be taken out later in Photoshop. The main light was a gridded beauty dish high up on a boom arm to create some dramatic lighting.

The posing was the biggest challenge, especially the jumps needed exact timing from both the subjects and me, the photographer. If just one of us was a split second off the image wouldn’t work. You can imagine it took a lot of trial and error to get just a few keepers.

In contrast to the fighting shots the stills were a lot easier, even though attention to detail is always necessary.

I definitely learnt a lot on this shoot again, on the one hand about how much you can actually achieve on a tiny budget, on the other hand I also got a lot of experience through this challenge, which will be useful on other projects.