So tomorrow is one of my favorite days of the entire year... Company Picture Day!
Now, normally I detest picture day at the studio. Every student in our entire studio in and out of the building at least once, including the entire entourage they show up with. Loose sparkles from one end of my studio to the next, bobby pins everywhere that clog my vacuum, and of course parents think it's the day to address every other issue they have. I loathe the forth coming of Picture Day every year... which is why this year I have opted out of it!
Instead, we are offering a professional photographer on site at our Recitals with a photo booth set up in the lobby area. Students can then have individual pictures done there at their leisure and parents can preview and order everything right there on the computer screens. We are also offering stage shots of every one of our classes, just like they do at competitions. That way were helping people to preserve those really special moments on stage that you can't duplicate. I feel as though it's a really great compromise to having Picture Day, which I know a lot of parents don't enjoy either, especially while the weather is so nice on the weekends.
However, I do like the pictures that come out of all of this, so I have found a suitable compromise to satisfy my needs!
Last year I hired a friend of mine, photographer Greg Tjepkema to do some more professional like photographs for the Competitive Team. I was tired of the same old poses in lines, in front of a grey cloud background in the studio... and I'm sure the kids and parents were as well. So, we rented out Berkley Church in downtown Toronto instead for an evening and decided to take advantage of the natural settings and the beautiful architecture. It ended up turning out better than I could have ever imagined!
We only took a bunch of our Intermediate & Senior student last year to try it out and see what would happen. We did a quick sitting for all of the kids to have some head shots done, instead of doing a solo picture in every group costume. We did all of our group pictures in various locations around the building and we tried to get some really special shots that took a lot longer to process, but turned out beautifully. I tried to make the pictures more like art, so people could be proud to show them off to their friends, and frame them on their walls as more than just another dance routine photo.
One of the great things about it was that a bunch of the kids actually needed head shots done to send to the National competition we were attending for the Title Competition. So it was kind of like killing two birds with one stone. They got a few shots taken, then Greg touched them up and we sent in what looked like head shots worth hundreds of dollars. We are doing the same again this year with the head shots, as about 7 of the kids need them for the Title Competition again this summer at our Nationals, so I make a lot of parents happy by taking care of that for them!
We have planned to do this again this year with Greg, but with our entire Competitive Team now, and we have moved to a different location. We've rented out a loft downtown for the day, where we have access to a great indoor space, but there are also a lot of outdoor areas to take advantage of around it. A really extraordinary picture day like this requires a lot of planning so we have already organized a lot of group shots before we get there. However, some of the greatest pictures last year came from the kids doing some improv around the space and Greg just snapping shots of them as they went. We'll do quite a bit of this on the fly, but I do have a concrete idea in my head of what I'm looking to accomplish before I get there.
Check out some of our pictures from our 2009 Company Photo shoot!
I have recently noticed online that a lot of my dance teacher friends have also started to get creative with their studio pictures and are having them professionally done. I'm glad that I may have inspired people to take another approach to something that might seem so insignificant in the grand scheme of the year, but these pictures do represent an entire year of work and growth in the kids. I take a lot of pride in showing off these pictures as a representation of my studio and how creative I can be with all aspects of what I offer. Sometimes it's the little things that you can do differently in your own studio that really shows people that you care and can set you apart.
When I look back at these pictures years from now I will be reminded of the great routines I choreographed and the wonderful kids I worked with. And even if the routine wasn't that great, at least I have a really nice picture to convince myself otherwise!