Crafting the Optimal Hula Portrait

Royal Hawaiian Center Hula - Honolulu, Hawaii

Royal Hawaiian Center Hula – Honolulu, Hawaii

My photographic goal during this Hula show was to create one optimal portrait of a performer. I shy away from saying it’s a perfect portrait. Because there are countless changes — small and large — that can improve a picture. Too many things are out of one’s control. For this last post of this mini-series, I’ll go through some of the steps I took to create my favorite picture of that event.

Once the framing was set, I shot numerous frames to capture my favorite gesture. I also was conscious that the couple in the background didn’t have distracting expressions. As an aside, I believe they are the parents of the Hula dancer.

I used the default Provia film simulation for the color version. I preferred this over the muddier Classic Chrome I used for the last two posts.

Royal Hawaiian Center Hula - Honolulu, Hawaii

While the color version looked fine. I opted to go black and white for a more traditional look. There were a lot of extraneous details in the frame, however.

Royal Hawaiian Center Hula - Honolulu, Hawaii

I cropped in aggressively and in portrait orientation. This made the Hula dancer the indisputable subject. I like how the parents in the background give balance to the composition. This also removed the distracting blown-out building in the top left.

While I don’t religiously follow the rule of thirds. The Hula dancer, in this case, is perfectly positioned. In fact, her face is in the top and right third of the fame.

Finally, I did some minor burning and dodging. I lighten the dancer’s face and body slightly. I also darkened some background elements.

I would’ve preferred to shoot from a higher position. Which would’ve made me more on the level with the dancer. However, I didn’t want to block the performance for the audience behind me. Given the constraint of shooting from a fixed position on the ground, I’m happy how this came out.

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