Paul Colwell Self Portrait

Paul Colwell { dance photographer

Actually, I photograph all sorts of things, but I particularly like photographing dance. I like working with dancers, as I tend to find they chase perfection as obsessively as I do. Also, it's really hard to shoot dance and I like a challenge.

Photographing dance is a process of combining two antithetical art forms. Where dance is all about movement, the passage of time and space; photography is fundamentally stillness. I think the biggest and most difficult part of my job is to spot the defining, the most beautiful, and the most interesting moment within the movement.

I am also a lighting designer; so when I'm not catching light with a camera, I'm creating it on stage. I have had the fortune of having worked on a wide variety of shows, in the West End and touring around the world.

And then there's the rest of my 'spare' time which is spent as a lecturer for the Royal Central Schol of Speech and Drama, where I teach on the theatre practice degree programme.

Contact Me { if you like, at or

If you're curious about what else I shoot, you can find more of my work here: Paul Colwell

Dance Photos { how I work

Quality over quantity, always. I find that to get great dance photos, both I and the dancers have to put in a lot of effort, patience and perseverance. My objective with every finished image is to get a picture that is as close to perfect as possible and that just doesn't happen by merrily snapping away with a camera in 'machine gun' mode.

When I first start working with a dancer I usually like to watch him or her warm up and then run through a class routine or a favourite piece of choreography. This gives me a chance to assess the best way to capture the particular individual. Then the hunt begins. The hunt for a movement that will work as a still image.

Once a move catches my eye I will ask the dancer to go again and I'll take a snap shot. I look at the image (with the joy of digital!) and try to find faults with it. Then, I change something that I'm doing or the dancer is doing and take another picture; then try and find fault with the new version. I keep on doing this over and over until I can't find anything else that can be improved in the photograph. Most of the dance photos in my portfolio are the result of at least twenty images that have built up to the final version. It is a very intensive way of working but I think the results are worth it, after all, how many times have you looked at a dance photo and though, "it's really nice, but....." - I try and eliminate the "but..."

My Secret Weapon { shhh

I also have my secret weapon, my wife Marion. Marion is a classically trained ballet dancer, a choreologist trained at the Benesh Institute, a highly experienced stage manager and a phenomenally good photography assistant!

Although I like to think I've picked up quite a bit of dance knowledge in my time, there is nothing like a person who has experienced it first hand. Marion translates my (sometimes very strange) requests into dancer language. She also keeps her eye on all the dance details like pointed feet, turn out and relaxed hands and faces; as well as being a genius at suggesting alterations to make movements work better 'for the camera'.

And Then... { after a dance shoot

I usually spend by far the most time working on dance photographs after the shoot. First off, there's selection. Having taken dozens of photos in the search for perfection, I go through all the images and make sure only the very best is selected. I like to do this with help from the client and/or subject and from Marion, so that decisions are made collaboratively between dance and photography experts.

Once the best picture has been found, the processing and retouching begins. I usually do all of my own digital work, to make sure that the photograph is polished to perfection. This retouching can include anything from colour tweaking, to skin smoothing and blemish removal, to subtle body sculpting, to whole background swapping, to compositing several photos together.

This work can take many, many hours, but again I think it is worth it. A carefully processed image knocks the socks off a 'straight from the camera' shot every time.

Now What? { contact me, go on

If you would like to talk to me about dance photography or are interested in commissioning me to shoot some dance photographs, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

Copyright { please don't nick my stuff

I think it's mad and I never cease to be surprised that some people will merrily take photos from my site and use them without even a credit, let alone permission. If you do want to use one of my photos for something please contact me, if you ask nicely I'm likely to say yes. Other than that, I find it necessary to state this legal stuff:-

Paul Colwell retains the entire copyright in all of the photographs, content and designs in all pages of the website

No use may be made of the photographs, graphics, content and designs contained in this website without express permission in writing from Paul Colwell.

"Use" means any form of publication or copying of the whole or part of any photograph, graphic, content or design, altered or not, whether by printing, photography, slide projection, (whether or not to an audience), xerography, artists reference, artists illustration, layout or presentation, electronic or mechanical reproduction or storage by any other means including web site and CD rom publication.

Where the use of photographs, graphics, content or designs has taken place without permission, Paul Colwell will make such charges to the user as falls within the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

For more information about copyright you can visit the following websites:

The Intellectual Property Office

Copyright 4 Clients from The Association of Photographers

Damage to Your Computer { it wasn't me

I try to ensure that this website is free from viruses or defects. However, I cannot guarantee that your use of this website or any websites accessible through it will not cause damage to your computer. It is your responsibility to ensure that the right equipment is available to use the website. Except in the case of negligence on my part, I will not be liable to any person for any loss or damage which may arise to computer equipment as a result of using this website.

Links { some quite interesting
Paul Colwell
My website, with a mix of professional and personal work.

And now a few random dance related links:
London Dance
Ballet Photos
Dance City

Direct links to the iframe pages for site mapping purposes

contemporary dancer | the beautiful dancer in the following green dress
female dancer layout | the pink photo of a Japanese dancer in a layout
attitude devant | black top, green shorts, fantastic legs
cambre derriere / cambre back | fabulous back against an ochre backdrop
grand jete / flick jete | one of the best grand jetes I have ever seen, stunning gymnastic flexibility combined with classical ballet training
young dancer in tutu | young dancer in stunning red, white and gold tutu
dance | soft pink background with a beautifully flicked foot
dancer in layout | male dancer in a dizzying layout
dance photo | fantastically flexible dancer against a rich purple background
young dancer presenting rose | gorgeous young girl presenting a rose
attitude derriere | attitude derriere in blue
dance jump | a brilliant high jump with a martial arts feel
dancing photos | indescribable position in black and white
female dancer on demi pointe | low saturation photo of a dancer in jeans and t-shirt on demi pointe
dance photo | can only be described as a frog leap!
grand jete | effortless grand jete in orange
male dancer in layout | the green photograph of the male dancer in a layout
dance swan song | black and white dance photo
passe jump temps leve | angelic dancer in blue performing a high passe jump
penche arabesque | beautiful dance penche arabesque photo

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