The Monthly speaks to Raphael Mason about his dance photography

Can you remember what led you to be interested in photography?

I have always had an interest in photography having spent a good part of my career working as a press photographer for 15 years. I am self taught originally but try to keep up with the latest trends by following various photographers on social media such as Jordan Matter and Australian photographer Tanya Daniel whose dance photography I particularly admire.

Were there classes which you attended to learn about photography?

As a photographer you are always striving to improve and learn – I am a member of the Professional Photographers Association of N Ireland. The association is a great avenue to support each other, learn from each other and develop alongside each other.

Why did you move towards focusing on dance photography?

Dance photography is only a part of my overall business as a photographer and happened quite by accident. Shortly after the pandemic began I got the opportunity to photograph a young dancer in the summer of 2020. Her mum had purchased a new dress for her but because of lockdown due to Covid-19 she wasn’t going to get the chance to wear it in competition as all competitions were cancelled for virtually the whole season. After doing some photos of her at Tyrella Beach there was a great reaction to them when posted on social media. This got me thinking of offering a portraiture service for dancers as part of my business which I am currently working to grow – I’m trying to forge links within the dancing community with dancers, dance tutors, dance schools etc. I had never photographed a dancer prior to Covid so had to learn quickly with regards to posing, styling and editing of the final image. You can be the best photographer in the world but if your editing skills aren’t good then you are wasting your time. Whether it’s a wedding, head-shot or dance portrait the end result needs to be out of the top drawer – good editing skills are a must!

What are you looking for when you photograph dancers?

When I photograph dancers the most important thing is to make them feel confident enough to express themselves in front of the camera. Some can be a bit nervous but once we start shooting as they see some of the images captured from the back of the camera it usually goes well and they gain confidence during the shoot. When they have faith in me they often produce better poses, which helps make my job a good bit easier. There’s usually a mum present, and maybe an aunt or a granny as well to offer some moral support. Often they’ll end up helping as my lighting assistant and the sessions are great fun with the emphasis on taking fun photos of a relaxed dancer.

Have you any projects coming up in the New Year?

In early 2022 I was fortunate enough to receive funding from the Arts Council which I used to improve my studio lighting skills and studio technique. It has been a very busy year for me so I am looking at ways to grow the dance photography side of my business and will be holding a Creative Dance Photo-shoot day in Belfast on March 12th. Places are limited to 16 dancers with each dancer getting a mini-photoshoot in an amazing studio, a large print and digital files from their session. I’m organising this to help spread the word about Emerald Dance Photography – it is open to dancers of all styles from 8-years and older and I am looking forward to creating some amazing images on the day. This is the first time I have tried anything like this. If things go well I intend to offer more shoots throughout the year and possibly take this to various destinations across the province.

How can people contact your business?

I can be contacted via my social media pages on Facebook and Instagram – Emerald Dance Photography, or via email at

Do you have any other information you would like to share?

I am a member of Catchlight Camera Club and have benefited immensely from fellow members whose work as a club has won us numerous awards, namely top NI Camera Club on numerous occasions over the past few years, as well top Irish Club, top UK club and in 2017 FIAP World Cup champions which we won in Spain. The level within the club is of the highest standard which benefits us all as we push each other to better ourselves continuously.

If you want to get find out more information about Raphael Mason’s Photography see the links below

artist forms link
New Belfast Community Arts Initiative trading as Community Arts Partnership is a registered charity (XR 36570) and a company limited by guarantee (Northern Ireland NI 37645).Registered with The Charity Commission as New Belfast Community Arts Initiative - NIC105169.