Step Behind-the-Scenes of the Mark Steelman Dance Portrait Experience

November 24, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Join me in this exclusive look into a portrait experience, with local Wilmington dancer, Lydia!

What is the difference between a portrait session and a portrait experience? For me, I desire to create an experience for the talented clients who choose to work with me, from start to finish. See for yourself with this behind-the-scenes look at a recent portrait session with Lydia, a local dancer from The Wilmington Conservatory of Fine Arts!

Lydia and her mother came to me in order to create her senior portraits for graduation, which featured her love for dance. They needed the final images for not only her graduation announcements but for artwork to hang in the home in celebration of her many achievements.

The Mark Steelman Portrait Experience starts with the first consultation, where we collaborate on the session's creative direction, costume changes, and location. For her session, Lydia and her mother were inspired by their 150-year old home and the timeless nature of dance itself! They wanted a final masterpiece that was classic, timeless, and perfect to adorn the walls of their historical home.

On the day of the session, I wanted Lydia to feel like a soloist, the lead cast member for the day's events. So when she walked in, Lydia was greeted by her own dressing room, refreshments, and fresh bouquet of flowers. We were joined for this Mark Steelman portrait experience by Lydia's mother and her own dance instructor from the Wilmington Conservatory of Fine Arts, Cory Smith.

Before we begin the session, I always take a few minutes to review the client's vision for the shoot, as well as the various costume and background changes. I always recommend to clients, that they bring a few images on their phone that can give me an idea of what they are looking for in the final product. 

Lydia has been dancing for over ten years, in various styles like jazz, lyrical, hip-hop, and contemporary. Her favorite style of dance is Classical Ballet, so we decided for that to be the focus for her dance portraits. 

As we progressed through the session, it was clear that this was not only a positive experience for Lydia but her mother as well. Who helped us toss fabrics, make wardrobe adjustments, and decide on which poses to try next. 

Lydia's experience with me didn't come to a close until she and her mother joined me once again in the studio a short time later. It was at this final meeting that we reviewed the images together, checking not only for little errors, but ensuring the final product showcased exemplary execution of skill. 

Post-graduation, Lydia plans to transfer some of the college credits she has already earned from Cape Fear Community College to a four-year university. When I asked her what advice she would give to her younger self at the start of her training, Lydia said this:


"A piece of advice that I would give to my younger self, would be to enjoy every moment that we are given to dance. Naturally, it is easy to be apprehensive of the future. Looking back, I can see now that I was very blessed to have the instructors, dance education, and opportunities that I had, and I wish I could help my younger self to realize this and learn to be more grateful."

Taking the final images Lydia selected, I made my master edits to create this final masterpiece.

If you know a talented, young dancer who would like images like the one above, capturing their own artistry. I am currently accepting applications for my ambassador program, where they will have the opportunity to create art like this on a regular basis. Learn more & Apply Here by November 29th: Ambassador Application

Senior Portraits: Tips for an Impossible-to-Forget Portrait

October 12, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Leave your mark in the yearbook by incorporating these ideas into your senior portrait session

It is finally here! You worked hard and you can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel – high school graduation. You may plan to go off to college, trade school, start your own business, or pursue a career in the arts. I know a lot of the clients who work with me desire to pursue a career as a professional dancer!

It also means that is time for that final yearbook. To sit down for that final yearbook picture. Perhaps, this is why most high school yearbooks reserve such a large chunk of space for the seniors, to showcase their many hobbies, interests, and achievements. Your senior yearbook is truly the final chance to leave your mark, or as those in the performing arts might say – the final curtain call.

So why then, do most senior portraits all look the same? When this is your final chance to stand out from the crowd and to give your classmates something to remember. Below you will find tips for creating an impossible-to-forget senior portrait. Although I primarily work with dancers and performing artists, these tips can be applied to any senior portrait session!

If you are a dancer graduating from high school in 2022, I am currently offering a unique, once-in-a-lifetime senior portrait experience. For a limited time, I am offering 75% off my usual session fee for senior dance portraits. Why? So you can have the opportunity not only to create a masterpiece sure to amaze your classmates, friends, and family – but so you have the chance to hang with a professional ballerina – Alex Gosiengfiao! Click here to learn more.

Now on to the tips

Work with a photographer who can work a little photoshop magic

I will preface this tip by saying senior portraits with the normal image touch-ups are beautiful! However, if you desire a bit more drama or a touch of creativity in your photos, I suggest working with a photographer who is comfortable with photoshop. I call these images – masteredits, because of the additional time I put into adding creative elements. This could be as simple as adjusting the lighting to adding lightning! Anything is possible!

Add character to your portrait by adjusting your environment – like adding a chair or shooting on location!

The best images incorporate the immediate environment in a creative way. Even in the studio, we can chairs, box elements, and even change the background. When shooting on location, there is no limit to your imagination. For example, it is a common practice to incorporate your car into your senior portraits. Don’t let this limit you! Think of the story you wish to illustrate to your loved ones.

Add an explosion of color with smoke, glitter, or fabric.

Color elements are a fun way to add personality to any photo. In my experience, I have used different color fabrics, smoke, and even natural elements like sand. Adding pops of dynamic color can add drama, fun, and even showcase movement. This is why I use this tactic with so many of the dancers who step into my studio!

Play with color and fabrics for your senior portrait session!Play with color and fabrics for your senior portrait session!Play with color and fabrics for your senior portrait session!

Play with light – both inside and outside the studio

If you want a dramatic senior portrait, make sure to talk with your photographer about how you can use light to achieve your desire imaged. In the studio, this can be adjusting the lights to create angles. On-location, it is key for the photography to contour with the natural light available, so make sure the sun is out if this is the route you choose to take.

Achieve a dynamic portrait by choosing the right on-location venue

So you don’t want a studio senior portrait? Shooting on location is a sure way to create a unique senior portrait. I suggest choosing a location that is either important to you or a location that provides a dynamic background. A location with vibrant textures is always the best route, like the beach or an urban setting with a lot of brick.

Add in a prop important to you, showcasing your well-rounded interests

Showcase your well-rounded interests by incorporating them into your portrait session. May it be music, sports, etc., just make sure to pick a prop that can either be used in the background or is easy for you to adjust your poses while holding.

Incorporate an in-action time-lapse to creatively show your athletic prowess

For graduating seniors who may be athletes or performing artists, ask your portrait photographer if they will work with you to do an in-action time-lapse. This is the perfect way to showcase your athletic prowess.

Include a hint at your graduation year somewhere in the picture

Find a creative way to incorporate your graduation year into your senior portraits. You can add it to the background of the image, like in the sand if you are shooting on location, or adding it as a small detail. It is common for some seniors to put this on the bottom of their shoes.

Put that graduation cap to good use

I have never understood why graduation caps are not frequently used in senior portrait sessions. You worked hard for the cap, it would be a shame to only use it once on graduation day. Even if you don’t want to wear the cap, it makes a fantastic prop for your senior portrait session.





Senior Portrait Ideas for Dancers

September 28, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Standout in the yearbook by showcasing your stunning artistry

It is finally here, the long-awaited senior year and before you know it, graduation will be upon you. There are a lot of boxes to check as you near your graduation date, from applying to college and ordering your cap and gown, to staying on top of your schoolwork as you near the end of your primary education.

One such box to check is your senior portrait! These pictures are used in the yearbook, your graduation announcements, and as a family, heirloom showcasing your amazing achievement. Often, senior portraits all follow the same uniform look, typically using the same background, the same poses, and sometimes…even the same photographer.

These senior portraits get the job done but let’s be honest…many don’t remember them long after graduation has passed. For dancers, you may feel the pull to do something more dramatic for your senior portrait. Here are a few suggestions for Senior Portraits for dancers:

Demonstrate your Artistry

dance portrait by Mark SteelmanMark Steelman Senior Portrait ExperienceStunning dance portrait by Mark Steelman, the exclusive dance photographer in Wilmington, NC.

Dancers often spend years in the studio, training and honing their craft, sometimes in more than one style of dance. May it be Classical Ballet, Modern Ballet, Contemporary, Jazz, Tap, or Hip-Hop, you have worked hard to evolve into the artist you have become. Your senior portrait is the perfect medium to showcase all of your hard work to your fellow classmates, friends, & family.

Imagine this, your fellow graduates are flipping through the yearbook, turn the page, and what do they see? Do they see you with the same backdrop as everyone else, the same pose, possibly even similar outfits. Or…do they see your stunning mastery of movement?

Integrating your artistry into your senior portrait showcases the time and dedication you spent outside of the classroom, mastering your craft. It cements your artistry and it is sure to be remembered for years to come.


Highlight your unique style

As a performer, you have had the opportunity to wear many costumes, may that be as the Corps de Ballet or as a soloist. However, these costumes are usually decided for you by the show director. It is rare for you to become the creative director and decide for yourself the character your wish to display to your audience.

For your senior portrait, you could showcase some of your favorite costumes from performances past or bring a new character to life. The choice is yours!

Showcase your personality with props

Including props in your senior portraits is a common practice for upcoming high school graduates.
These props can range from small flowers to using your car as a backdrop. When deciding what props to bring to your senior portrait session, think about your many hobbies, interests, or passions that you have explored throughout high school, what stands out to you?

Keep in mind, that any props you use as a dancer for your senior portrait will have to integrate with your movement. For example, you could pose with a guitar (see below), but it would be difficult to perform a leap while holding the guitar.

Be as creative as you can when picking out your props and don’t worry, the photographer will assist you in incorporating the props into your poses!


Illustrate your love for adventure (or drama)

When you see your dream senior portrait in your mind, do you see an image with dramatic lighting and shadows? Or do you perhaps see a beach as your backdrop?

The beauty of senior portraits is they can range from studio portraits to senior portraits shot on location, like the beach! It just depends on what element of your personality or artistry you wish to showcase in your high school graduation pictures.

If you wish to illustrate your sense of adventure, you could do an on-location shoot where you use the beauty of nature as your backdrop.

Or you could desire to show your artistry with a dramatic flair, harnessing the power of lighting equipment in a professional studio to contour your movement.


Work with a professional dance photographer

Not all photographers are created equal. There is a major difference between a photographer
who specializes in portraits and a photographer who specializes in dance photography.

Dance photographers have a wealth of experience in capturing detailed movement and a deep understanding of how to use elements such as light, shutter speed, and unique editing to bring your artistry to life. Choosing to work with an expert dance photographer turns what would have been a normal, average senior portrait into a true work of art!

One such photographer in the Wilmington, NC area, is none other than Mark Steelman Photography. As the exclusive dance photographer in the area, he has worked not only with local dance studios but with professional dance companies as well, such as the International Ballet.


Right now, Mark Steelman is offering up to 75% off your senior portrait experience, which includes your own dressing room, qualified dance instructor for posing feedback, and of course, a masterpiece sure to stun with shock and awe!

Reach out to Mark today and start working on your masterpiece!


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