Sarah Silver: Capturing The Art Of Motion Page 2

The Right Moment To Shoot
Silver points out that the famous Henri Cartier-Bresson talked about the "decisive moment," and says that the same holds true with dance. "My years of dance training taught me something about timing--and there is definitely a right and wrong time to take that picture. In fact, I always know when I'm `early' or `late.'"

When she shoots movement fashion, the "rules" are a little different. She thinks that it's "part intuition/gut/instinct" that drives the process, although she doesn't forget that it's the fashion that drives the shoot. "If the clothing sings, 9 times out of 10, your timing is on, as well."

Stephen Petronio Dance Company, 2001.

Gauging what the clothing can do is something she tests with each model on a shoot. "I always ask the model off-set, `what does this outfit say to you?' This is my way of asking the model to literally think of the clothing as a living object, something to manipulate and understand in terms of its fabric, form, and movement."

Lighting To Freeze Action
Silver strives to get sharpness in focus, texture, and "the freezing of that special moment." For this reason, she says, strobe lighting is the only option. A quick flash duration is imperative, "since it's the flash burst that's controlling the freezing aspect of the shots. The faster the flash duration, the sharper the movement."

She advises using a limited f-stop, as a pack at full power has a very slow flash duration. "It's a constant battle of limits--depth of field vs. the flash output. I use Broncolor Grafit A2 and A4 packs because they allow me to control the flash duration. And for the large group shots I really need a lot of juice. What this means is that for a lot of people jumping all at once, I use a lot of packs and heads to make sure everybody is illuminated properly."

Lisa Pomares of ID, 2004.

How Many Takes To Get The Shot?
She says that you never know if you'll get your shot on the first take or "the 101st." Silver says that the secret is to always be ready, because you'll never get the same result twice. "Sometimes if you aren't completely lit for a shot, but the movement is perfect, you could try for the next hour to get it back again. The result is a tired and angry model and a lot of disappointment. You don't want to exhaust yourself and your subject because the images will reflect the truth."

Model Nadya of ID, 2004.

Silver's Toolbox
· Hasselblad 503 CW
· Sinar 54M Digital back
· Broncolor Grafit A2 lights
· Apple G5 Tower and G4 Titanium laptop
· Lacie Electron 22 Blue IV monitor
· ColorVision Spyder2Pro monitor calibration
· Epson Stylus Pro 1280 printer
· Moab Kokapelli Satin and Entrada Bright White 300 paper
· Wacom tablet (for retouching)

Silver says that her choice of backdrops depends on the concept of the assignment. "Flat color fields are very traditional in movement photography because they really help the subject to pop from the page. However, the really elaborate backdrops (painted color textures or pictorial scenes) from companies such as Broderson Backdrops make for a great motif that can also stylistically drive the shoot."

"I have been fortunate to work with some of the most brilliant choreographers," remarks Silver. "The experience for me is really exhilarating because we work together to create the movement/composition/form. I always stop and have a reality check and think, `am I really choreographing side by side with this person?'"

On other shoots, she acts as the choreographer, but says that this process still involves group input with the model and the team.

"I thrive in a collaborative atmosphere. I find that when you get everybody involved on set (and it's digital so we see the results immediately on-screen), we all have a dynamic and exciting shooting experience. You can feel the raw energy in the room when the right moment appears on the monitor and everybody starts jumping up and down and literally starts screaming--lots of high-fives all around."

Models Or Dancers?
Silver chooses models or dancers for a shoot depending on the client. "Fashion magazines have a readership base that's used to seeing a certain type of model. When you use dancers, they can't relate as well. However, there are some magazines that urge me to use dancers because they know the results will be extra dynamic. And don't forget that there are some professional models who are also dancers. That's really the magic combination. All the agencies in New York City know that I'm always on the lookout for dancing models."

For Dance:
Silver says she looks for models or dancers "who can really move." They don't need to have traditional dance backgrounds (although it helps). "However, if they can follow my directions well and add their own element of creativity, we can really have a great shoot. Also, a model with fantastic energy is a must."

For Beauty:
She seeks models who are not classic beauties. "I prefer models with interesting and unique characteristics. I find that a pretty girl with makeup on is usually not nearly as captivating as a model with very interesting features who, when photographed, will be transformed into something really special."

ISO & Shutter Speeds
"The shutter speed is always set to 1¼125 and the f-stop is usually somewhere between f/8 and f/11.5. Of course, it's still that flash duration problem. So f/11.5 is a rare gift. The flash duration for movement has to be at least 1¼1000. However, more is always better."

More Online
To see more of Sarah Silver's work, please visit her website at:


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