Jaqlin Medlock is a dancer and a photographer who works in the NYC tri-state area. Her experience as a dancer and as a model influences her work as a photographer. She relies heavily on her intuition to capture her images, and that intuition is undoubtedly guided by her dance training. We discovered Jaqlin through Instagram, where she has been tagging us in her colorful portraits for years. Below she shares three techniques that she uses to add color, character, and theatricality into her dance photography.
As a dance photographer, I get hired to take a lot of photos on white backgrounds for educational establishments to use for their marketing purposes. Gray backgrounds are also highly requested by dancers for their audition photos, but I have a confession… I absolutely LOVE color. Whenever a dancer comes to me and requests color for their photoshoot, my soul jumps for joy. When choosing my colors, I tend to gravitate towards monochromatic & split-complementary color schemes, and I greatly prefer color “Tones” & “Shades” over vibrant hues & light tints. Here is a Basic Color Theory Chart, so you have a visual for my vibe…
I own four Rosco Color Effects Filter Kits. Having multiple kits on hand enables me to use the same color simultaneously on multiple lights or to double up for more vibrancy. I use the colors in these kits often in my dance photography in the following three ways.
1. To Create Time-Efficient, Custom-Colored Backgrounds
Dancer Dava Fearon in front of a background lit with a desaturated E122 Fern Green(L), and Dancer Bailey Kolaras in front of a background lit in a combination of E020 Medium Amber + E035 Light Pink (R).
First, I’ll determine an ideal background color based on what my subject is wearing. I do have a few rolls of colored seamless paper (mostly earth tones), but when I want a colored background during a dance photoshoot – I turn to gels. Because they’re so customizable, gels are a very time-efficient way to create colored backgrounds. In my opinion, they’re also much safer than paper for dancers too. All you need is a little gaffer’s tape to stick the gels onto the lights and a little creativity.
I suggest placing one light on each side about 6 feet from your background. Most importantly, make sure to keep your key lights off the background so that they don’t wash out the gel colors. Luckily, dancers look fierce when they’re side lit ??. Sometimes, the gels straight out of the kit are all I need. But sometimes, I’ll mix gels together, play with the saturation, or adjust the white balance of my camera in order to create the custom color that achieves my vision.
2. To Create A Character
Dancers Lily Sheppard & Payton St. John, photographed for Marymount Manhattan College. Lily is lit with E122 Fern Green & E002 Rose Pink (L), and Payton is lit with E002 Rose Pink & E079 Just Blue (R).
For me, nothing creates a character faster than a fully saturated color gel on a key light. This will completely change your subject’s skin and/or background, to the color of your gel. This technique results in some really cool, moody images. These types of conceptual shoots make for eye-catching promotional images for dance schools, companies, and individuals to use on social media.
3. To Create The Atmosphere Of A Stage
E106 Primary Red illuminates the background and sidelights Dancer Larissa Asebedo (L). A similar technique using E079 Just Blue was used for Dancer Kayleigh Bowen (R), but the sidelights are desaturating the background.
One of my favorite elements of stage lighting for dance comes from the low lights on booms in the wings. These low lights are responsible for lighting the dancers without getting any light on the floor. If you’ve ever been backstage during a live performance, you’ve probably seen the stage crew changing out the gels on those lights during pauses and intermissions. I love to mimic this setup in my studio. I’ll put a light very low and angled up off the floor, usually a gridded strip box or a zoom reflector. Then I’ll stick a gel on it to use as a fill light. Sometimes I’ll restrict this light to be only on my subject, and sometimes I’ll raise it higher and allow it to spill onto the background. If I’m going for something particularly moody, I will turn off my background lights to achieve a darker shade of color.
Jaqlin Medlock’s photography career developed simultaneously and organically alongside her dance career. What began as photographing her fellow dancers for their audition photos, transformed into a full-fledged business. Some of Jaqlin’s clients include dancers of all levels, fitness models, choreographers, dance companies, dance schools, and dancewear designers. If you’d like to learn more about Jaqlin and her work, please visit her website: jaqlinmedlock.com, or follow @jaqlinmedlockphotography on Instagram.
All images © Jaqlin Medlock Photography, 2022.
If you would like to learn more about the Rosco gels that Jaqlin uses to create the colors in her dance photography, please explore the Color Effects Filter Kit page on the Rosco website.