The Woman Behind the Camera at Curtain Call

Ever wonder what its like to be on set for a Curtain Call catalog photo shoot? Our long time photographer, Pammi Simone, shares her passions and favorite tips, while giving you an inside look at her life behind the lens.  Pammi

Where did you gain your professional experience in photography?

My ‘formal’ education was a vocational program during my last year of high school. I immediately began working at a studio and learned most of what I know and developed my photography skills on the job.

How many years of experience have you had?

I have twenty years in the field.

When did you initially know photography was your calling?

When I was 17 years old, and the instructor at the vocational school I was attending had to kick me out of the darkroom well after the school day had ended.

What was your first experience in the field like?

I began as an assistant. I remember showing up to the job interview, all dressed up with portfolio in hand. The owner of the studio breezed through it, snapped it shut and said… “these are nice… can you lift a heavy trash can?”

What/ who are you greatest inspirations for you work?

First and foremost Bill Simone. He taught me almost everything I know about light, composition, and professional conduct. Other inspirations have come from studying the work of Irving Penn, Edward Weston, Phil Marco and Terry Heffernan.

When did you begin working with Curtain Call?

Curtain Call was already working with the studio when I began as a teenager. I assisted on their catalog projects, loading film magazines and raising 80 lb. backgrounds.

What is a day on set at Curtain Call like? What are some of your roles?

We have a lot of fun while we work through the Curtain Call shoots. Dance and photography are both creative fields, and the team at Curtain Call pulls together talented minds for collaboration. There are costume designers, graphic designers, textile experts, choreographers, myself as the photographer and, of course, very talented dancers and gymnasts.

Do you have any funny experiences that come to mind since working with Curtain Call?

There could be a “top ten” quotables list somewhere of phrases like “back shot!” and “you’re kinking it!” that will always bring a laugh to the team as we work. We also frequently recall models that were in catalogs of years gone by, and talk about where they are currently in their dance careers and share laughs over what they were like as a three year old.

It’s recital day, my dancer is all dressed-up with their hair and makeup done, how can I capture the best picture of my dancer with my smart phone? Where should I go?

Smart phones are so advanced today compared to what you had even just five years ago. Have fun with some of the different features available like speed ramping video and film effects. However, any image will be improved if you first begin with good light and good composition. Try to find large, soft sources of light to stand your dancer next to: patio doors, the shady side of a building, a large window. If those backgrounds don’t measure up, try finding a plain wall or place them far away from a background and zoom in so the background goes out of focus.

While taking pictures of my dancer, how can I pose them to capture the best photo?

Standing with hips straight on to the camera will surely add those ‘ten pounds’ if you are an adult female dancer. Try angling your dancer to one side or another a bit, then turn their upper body back to the camera. If this looks too ‘posey’ just have them stand comfortably and shift all of their weight to their back leg, away from the camera. Of course, a well executed dance move- in costume and at the right angle will always make a nice shot! Wide angle lenses will exaggerate anything that is closest to the lens. Zooming in a bit will diminish that effect.

I’m sitting in the audience at my dancer’s first recital, how can I capture the best photo of them from my smart phone?

Often times the wide angle lens of smart phones makes the stage look very small in your photo. If you are able to, get closer to the stage so you won’t have to zoom in as far. Also, levels of light are very low in the theater, and very high in contrast on the stage. Smart phones have a hard time with this.

Getting closer will also fill your frame with more lit objects, and give the impression of a clearer image. You can engage the HDR function of your smartphone to reduce the contrast.

There is often a delay from the time you touch the screen of your smartphone to the time it actually captures the image. Try to anticipate the moment you want to capture and be ready for it.

Do you have any generic tips to avoid?

Hmmm, the obvious:
Don’t force a small child into posing for a shot when there is something they aren’t happy about.
Most people don’t like butt shots of themselves.
A real smile or laugh is always better than a forced one.
Don’t give up on the first try if you are doing a dance move. We always do more than one take!

In general, if you have a DSLR with a high ISO capability and a long lens, (and an understanding of how to use them) you will be able to achieve images that are more on par with what you might see in dance articles and magazines. You’ll be able to freeze action better and adjust for carrying lighting conditions. However, if you know the limitations of your smart phone (i.e. when to stop zooming in, how it handles low light levels, etc.) you can work within those parameters.

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