Christy Russell: Zumba Dance Teacher

In June I photographed some dance portraits for Santa Cruz Zumba instructor Christy Russell. I invited my friend and follow photographer Diego Tabango to join me for the shoot. We met Christy at her studio in Scotts Valley and began scouting for an interesting background for the portraits. Since Christy incorporates a fair bit of hip hop into her dance we decided that an urban feel would be cool for the shots. Outside the studio we found a simple concrete wall with some neat holes and lines in it, as well as a standard roll-up garage door. We knew that with the right lighting both of these would provide an interesting background for her portraits. What’s more, we were in luck since both the wall and the roll-up door were in the shade, giving us a lot of flexibility with our lighting design.

Santa Cruz Zumba Dance Photo Shoot, reviewing poses with model
Reviewing posing ideas with the model


For the concrete wall section of the shoot we went for a 4-light approach: the key light is an Einstein blasting through a large octobox. We then used two bare speedlights for rim on Christy, and a third speedlight to splash a little separation light on the background. Diego and I both love this lighting setup because of its punchy feel. Here’s a short behind-the-scenes video which shows the lighting setup pretty well.

Santa Cruz Zumba Dance Photo Shoot
Photo by Diego Tabango


After catching a few cool shots of Christy jumping in front of the concrete wall we moved on to the roll-up door. Here we went for a simple cross-lighting design: the same key camera right, and a single bare speedlight camera left for rim. But here, to punch things up a bit we added a colored gel (1/2 CTO?) to the speedlight to help with color contrast. As we hoped, the metal of the roll up door reflected the lights and added some great color highlights to the images.

Santa Cruz Zumba Dance Portrait

Santa Cruz Zumba Dance Portrait

Santa Cruz Zumba Dance instructor Christy Russell

All in all it was a really fun photoshoot and Christy was great to work with.

If you’re interested in getting portraits like these, please contact me.

One Response

  1. Hey Joshua,

    Thanks for the instruction with the lighting. I’ve gotten comfortable shooting with a single speedlight/umbrella setup and you’ve inspired me to up my game. These punchy sport/athletic shots are really cool.

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