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Jerry Finley: Vibrant Ballet Photos with Sony a7III and Flashpoint

Updated: Dec 19, 2020

Speedliter's Blog is thrilled to feature vibrant ballet photos by Greenville, SC based photographer Jerry Finley. An accomplished teacher and forever student of photography, Jerry is not content to draw within the lines and this shoot is no exception. Jerry combines traditional ballet with urban architecture along with a generous dollop of color to create beautiful juxtaposition in his portraits.

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What gear did you bring to this shoot?


LENSES: I took several lenses but they all stayed in the van except for the Sony 28-70mm 3.5-5.6 kit lens. The quality of this inexpensive lens never ceases to amaze me.

LIGHTS: Flashpoint XPLOR 600 and 2 Flashpoint Zoom Li-ion Speedlights. Say what you want about Flashpoint/Godox, but this system has never failed me. I generally don’t take my Profoto B10s or Profoto D2s out in the field (there’s not a lot of wind or rain in my studio).

MODIFIERS: I brought my Phottix Raja 41" Softbox and my Westcott Rapid box, but I was really looking for hard light on this shoot. So I ended up just using the 7” reflector and a purple gel on the back light and some Rogue Photographic Design colored gels on my speedlights.

STANDS: For field work I always use my Manfrotto Alu Ranker air-cushioned stands. They’re well constructed and they clip together for easy, compact travel.

Why do you use the camera and lighting brands/systems that you use?

I became a mirrorless “fan-boy” about 7 years ago when I bought the Sony NEX 5-R which, at the time, was one of the only compact APS-C cameras that had relatively quiet, continuous auto-focus in video mode (which is what I bought it for). Come to find out, it was an incredible still camera as well. So after using it for about a year, and after I had taken what I thought were some pretty good pics (looking back though, eh – never stop learning - “stay in school kids”) I decided to enter the realm of “professional” photography starting my own company. I even gave it a clever name: Jerry Finley Photography – gripping. My gear has grown as my knowledge, experience, and creative prowess have grown. I now purchase gear based on the shooting environments and the results needed/expected by my clients. When it comes to gear, I try to live by this mantra, “only when my creativity and photographic knowledge exceed my gear’s technical capabilities should I get new/better gear.” At least that’s what I tell my wife.

How did you approach this shoot from a planning perspective? What was on your mind?

I have been blessed to be the company photographer for one of the most prestigious ballet/dance school/companies in my area for the past 4 years. I am drawn to the beauty of the art form. For this shoot I wanted to take a beautiful, delicate dancer and put her in a rigid, dichotomous environment and create something different. I didn’t just want to light her dramatically, I wanted to create something that bridged the gap between dancer and environment by stripping away the audience’s expectations of how they normally see/perceive a dancer, the world, and the two together. Wow, that sounds awfully artsy-fartsy when I write it, but it’s really what was in my head. Also, a little pre-planning and location scouting goes a long way.

PHOTO #1: This photo is what I had in my mind when I set up this shoot. I wanted to connect the dancer to her environment, while taking the audience away from the normal perception and appearance of a dancer in an urban setting. I used the colored gels and the sheer fabric to accomplish this. I also wanted there to be a strong sense of action and movement so I asked her to jump. You can see a little bit of water spraying from her feet – it was still quite wet.

SHUTTER/APERTURE/ISO: 1/200 - f/5.6 - ISO 640.

PHOTO #2: When I originally scouted the location it was dry, so the opportunity to use water from a recent storm to create symmetry was an added bonus. This location caught my eye as we were walking up the stairs to the bridge. I love it when that kind of stuff happens.

SHUTTER/APERTURE/ISO: 1/200 - f/4.5 - ISO 640.

PHOTO #3: As a variation of the first shot, I wanted something that highlighted the dancer a bit more. I still wanted all of the color of the first shot, but I wanted to accentuate the athletic prowess a dancer must possess.

SHUTTER/APERTURE/ISO: 1/200 - f/5.0 - ISO 640.

For comparison, here is an image taken while scouting the location.

What software and tools/processes did you use for post-production & retouching?

I started my process in Adobe Lightroom. Then I moved to Photoshop to remove environmental distractions and retouching. Then back to Lightroom for the finishing touches.

What do you like most about the final images? Is there anything you would do differently next time?

I like the colors and contrast as well as the juxtaposition of the dancer in an urban environment. There’s always room for improvement and I never want to stop learning and growing, but I’m pretty happy with the final results of these images.

Where can photogs see more of your work?


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