How I Shot These Dramatic Bharatanatyam Dancer Portraits

I always wanted to shoot the portraits of a classic Bharatanatyam dancer, but by adding a modern touch to the 2000-year-old traditional dance form. Here is how we created dramatic dancer portraits with a little technique and lots of imagination.

The Idea

I have a strong inclination towards everything that is culturally Indian, especially a special love for the Bharatanatyam dance. And I wanted to create something unique for the Bharatnatyam dancer. Bharatnatyam dancers through their body language and meticulous movements have carried the soul of this 2000-year-old traditional dance through the time. I have shot Bharatanatyam events, but there is very little control you have when the dancer is on the stage. As a photographer, I wanted to make pictures of the dancer but with a different perspective.

The Art of Collaboration

My dream was to add a modern touch to it but without disturbing the core essence of it. I started with the costume and saw how it can be modified. I had this image in mind where the dancer is in her free-flowing meticulous expression and I wanted to freeze the movement like a painting. My belief in pulling out such creative projects always lies in the strength of collaboration. A brilliant dancer, state of art lights from Profoto, an experienced makeup artist, and my passionate team at Studio A came together and we kick-started the effort. The BTS video, in the beginning, shows a full run of the process.  

The Setup

It was a three light set up. We used a Profoto D2 as the key light from the top, a Profoto B1X as the fill light from the side and the Profoto A1 as the backlight. The body movements are dynamic so we had a Sony A7Riii to capture all the action with the fast shutter.

Experimentation and Perfection

We took a lot of trial shots and improvised. Once we had the set of images, a great deal of time was spent in the editing desk in bringing out a painting touch to the images.  It is always a delight to go beyond the obvious, experiment and come up with something new. I loved the results. Here are a few pictures from the shoot that follows. How do you like it?

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dimasa sparrow's picture

nice one, I like it! Keep it up, please do shoot some like a hanfu style in outdoors as well, it will be amazing with wider, bigger clothes. Looking forward.

Arun Hegden's picture

This is so beautiful on Amar. Good to see the full set.:)

Deleted Account's picture

These are really beautiful!

Jen Photographs's picture

There's a light bar across the middle in all of your shots. I'm not sure if that's deliberate, but I find it distracting. That aside, I do like the editing you used. It's almost painterly. I feel the lower part (the legs and feet) could use a hair more light.

Ignacio Espana's picture

Pretty sure that's a watermark.

Jen Photographs's picture

Huh...maybe? I find it more distracting than a regular WM. Looks more like a mistake, rather than a design feature. Go figure.

Nicolas Racine's picture

Very inspiring!

David T's picture

Love it! Gotta find myself some assistants now...

David Glazebrook's picture

Really like the work. Be a good ad for Profoto too ;)

subhas katikala's picture

So beautiful.... You captured the soul...mate.

Joe Hogan's picture

lovely work!

Iti Sethi's picture

Loved these photographs

Iti Sethi's picture

Loved your work.. these photographs has inspired me to paint.. i paint as a hobby.. would love to paint them.. can I paint with them your permission? Thanks 😊