Cloud 9: Dull Day Engagement Session for Dancers

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Cloud 9: Dull Day Engagement Session for Dancers by Zorz Studios
Reading time: 6 mins

Who said you need a sunny day for a photoshoot? This dull day engagement session for dancers took place on a gloomy day facing dramatic Manhattan skyline and created some stunning images.

What’s the Deal with Wanting a Sunny Day?

People often think of sunny weather as a prerequisite for a successful photoshoot. It is true in part, as long as the photographer can tame the harsh bright sunlight. Not only do clients struggle with squinting, but the shadows on their faces may become unflattering, stressing features that some people prefer concealed. Handling such challenges requires important considerations and workarounds that I cover in my online photography class.

To an amateur photographer, however, an overcast day is a panacea. The cloudy sky turns into a huge softbox that studio photographers often use indoors for commercial work. The light is even and omnipresent. No matter where your subject turns, how she angles her head, or throws his arms, the portraits are almost bound to be clean and appealing. Of course, such weather makes things simpler and quicker for an experienced photographer, too, making a dull day engagement session a breeze.

Taking the Bull by the Horns

Whenever I can, however, I try to take this low-pressure setup to the next level. Not because I crave complicating my life — I am game for simplifying the flow, especially when working with little children — but to unveil a hidden potential in such underestimated and little-appreciated conditions. And that is, dramatic skies when the clouds are low and heavy. Shooting before a thunderstorm may be unpredictable and risky, but shooting afterwards, like this engagement shoot, is begging me for drama in at least some shots. Look, this is what I saw when arriving on location; how can I not be thrilled?

What do you do? Underexpose and use a creative angle for your off-camera flash, of course. What made this dull day engagement session score even more, is that both are, namely, former professional dancers, and the location that gave me a perfect backdrop for drama was meaningful to them.

Meet Masha and Lenny, my wedding clients for summer 2021. They trace back to another dancer whose wedding I shot. In the traditions of 2020, we had a few pleasant online meetings to discuss my engagement and wedding portfolios, packages, and their own engagement shoot. Interestingly enough, both moms (both named Yana!) joined us for the first introductory consultation. I only remember one other such involved participation of moms, many years ago in my Manhattan studio. “Mothers approved” goes a long way, you know…

Working with dancers is always a bliss, even if spontaneous. I remember an impromptu mini-session for a dance couple who was simply among the guests of a viking wedding I did in Ohio last year. I pulled them out, dressed/undressed them, and voilà:

Unlike this performing couple, Masha and Lenny left the competitive dancing about a decade ago, but I could not resist asking them for some ballroom poses. The posture and grace never abandon the dancers, and that makes them special for any romantic photographer.

Proposal Site

We shot in two locations. First was in West New York at the Riverwalk Place. Lenny proposed there, and we reenacted that special moment. They don’t have photos from that day, so I couldn’t miss an opportunity to commemorate. The pigeons and seagulls, along with the fog hanging above the Manhattan skyscrapers, added to the poetic mood. You can see how I developed that lyrical moment with their kneeling pose framed by two pillars symbolizing their temple of love, unity, and support.

One of the involved moms (the one who is Yana :P) was with us, pretty much mirroring my entire shoot on her phone. That also meant cool and always welcomed behind-the-scenes, which I include here. Other fun and romantic photos from that location:

Ever heard of “beginner’s luck”? Check out this insane snap by mom on her phone!!! A professional photographer might spend hours waiting for this moment and still never get it. All the power to moms!

Autumn Vibes

To change things around, we then drove to the Palisades Park near the Washington Bridge. Foliage colors were still hanging on, and I wanted to give our dancers a break from the urban theme.

We went under the bridge first. I thought that the massive structure would go well with a few picturesque dancing poses.

Then things loosened up and went all cozy and fun. As you can see, even a dull day engagement session without advanced lighting will give you stunning images when there is love and emotion in the air. Bright colors in the background underscore the vibes.

A police cruiser stopped by, noting that we couldn’t park our cars there. We just pulled off one last shot and left.

We returned to the public picnic area to finish this dull day engagement session for dancers at heart, and in love. What a start! I look forward to working with you in August, guys!

I had to rush away from this lovely couple to the next shoot right across the bridge. The clouds started breaking up and more sun appeared. Getting back to my point of using the sun creatively, see what I did with a young lady for her beauty shoot just a few hours later.

Bride-to-be’s makeup: Yelena Tsygankova
Bride-to-be’s hair: Natallia Akuratava

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Ed Hafizov
Ed Hafizov
Ed Hafizov is a creative director and lead photographer of Zorz Studios, Manhattan-based boutique photography studio, offering arousing and daring fashion, commercial, beauty, and wedding photography. Multiple Fearless Photographer™ award winner, named among the top 50 US wedding photographers, top 10 NY wedding photographers, winner of Adobe contests, featured by Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Elle et al, Mercedes Benz Fashion Week photographer, and a distinguished member of Grace Ormonde Wedding Style‘s Platinum List, he is eager to step out of his and willing clients' comfort zone to pursue original artwork with a lasting impression.

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