©Lindsay Winkler

Light as a Feather

The airborne fabrics in Lindsay Winkler’s dance portraits add energy and movement to her elegant images. Here’s how she makes the most of tulle and other fabrics in dance portrait photography.

1. CHOOSE SKIRTS MADE OF LIGHT FABRIC. Lighter fabric falls slowly through the air, so you’ll be able to catch multiple frames as it falls. Heavier fabric falls faster, so you’ll catch only one or two frames before it hits the floor.

2. ADD LAYERS TO ADD DRAMA. Winkler prefers three to five layers of tulle fabric because that leads to more variety of shapes as a dancer moves. Tulle is also forgiving when she manipulates its shape in post-production.

3. USE A FLOOR FAN. Air adds movement to clothing as well as the subject’s hair. “The more overall movement in the image, the more real-life it appears to the viewer,” she says.

4. HAVE AN ASSISTANT THROW THE SKIRT. In a pinch, subjects can do it themselves, but when an assistant handles it, subjects can fully focus on posing and facial expression.

5. KEEP YOUR VISION IN MIND. When Winkler is working with large dresses, she always has a plan for possible compositions. She keeps examples on her phone to show the subject what she’s looking for. That said, sometimes ideas don’t pan out, so don’t be afraid to move on to a new one, she advises. 

Amanda Arnold is associate editor.