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The following tutorial on capturing movement in dance photography was submitted by Bryant Gover.
This is a lesion on capturing movement. I have been doing dance photography for 6 years now. I specialize in lindy hop photography for those of you who don’t know what style that is I will just say you have to be very fast to capture people when they are flying through the air.. So how do I capture this movement without getting too much blur.. well I will explain how in two different camera choices.. First I use a Canon 20D with a 580EX flash I have used the on camera flash sometimes but I use a white piece of paper taped over it as a diffuser.
There are three things all cameras do (SLR or point and shoot) when you take a photo. First, it focuses then reads the light and then chooses the settings. Now if you start cutting those down the camera will shoot faster.
I shoot at ISO 800 to 1600 (depending on how many photos I will take in a night and how much battery life I have) I shoot on manual setting also that way I tell the camera what to think. f/5.0 1/125. Next, I set the focus so I have the subject filling the middle of my frame and then I set it to manual so that I don’t have to wait for the camera to focus (as most cameras are not good at focusing in low light this is a very big advantage.)
Using the 580EX is also a big advantage, as I will often point it at the ceiling or a mirror. I also set the flash exposure compensation to -1 or -2 depending on the amount of ambient light I have available. This is to make sure I don’t blow out the subject.
Using a point and shoot is often very frustrating I took this shot with a friends Sony 3.2mp (I really don’t remember the model see photo #2 above) but what this says is its not the camera it’s the photographer. Use the manual settings and if you don’t have manual focus (as most P & S’s don’t) Then find your subject focus on them and hold the focus till your ready to shoot. This will make a difference. If you still find your getting a delay well learn it and remember it so you can shoot 3 seconds (or what ever the delay may be) before the shot you want. I also use some masking tape or a white piece of paper over the flash to defuse the light.
But with this all set you still have to shoot moving people. So, my advice is to listen to the music and shoot for the possibility of something happening (if you watch the movement you will often find your missing the correct moment.) My camera has the ability to shoot 5fps but I usually only shoot one or two at a time. Besides we shoot digital so just keep shooting.
So the last thing is to play around with your settings you never know what you will create. Use different f/stops or shutter speeds. I took this photo with f/5.0 and 1/10 (photo #3 above) my trick is I panned with the subjects. Just like second photo, I followed the movement and it gave me this great second technique. I also use my flash on an ETTL cord and hold it an arms length to one side this gives me a different depth to the photos and the hard light isolates the dancers (photo #4 below.)
June 25, 2013 11:02 am
Not to confuse speedlight flash duration with continuous light duration! 1/250 in continuous light is different from strobe light. The higher the power the shorter the duration -> freezing power of the strobe. My $20 SB24 captures at over 1/5000 on full power. Takes longer to recharge on full tho.
The camera sensor indeed makes a difference! Usually full frame is better but they say the Nikon D7100 DX is real sharp. I have shot Canon 50D, 20D, 7D, Mark 2 DII, DIII, 1D; and Nikon D90, D700, and D800. Hands down, the Nikon D800 tops them all, especially at ISOs 6400 and higher. I often don't need any noise reduction til I get past iso 10159. Try it and you'll be spoiled. Never attempt panning an important moment. Panning is not nearly as reliable result as faster shutter speed higher iso. Unless you don't care of you mess up the shot. Happens real easily w panning. JMO
March 16, 2013 02:18 am
Hello. What type of camera and lenses would you recommend to shoot Ballet dancers both in the theatre during performance, backstage from the wings and in the studio in natural light?
January 14, 2013 07:39 am
I think Flash is cool for effect, but you're only gonna get 1/250th tops. Flash will not capture faster than this no matter what your settings are. If you want to freeze the motion you'll want to shoot 1/750th at least. Typically you'll be stuck with indoor light, so I recommend a fast lens (f2.8 minimum) be careful though, if you're too close to your subject you might have some DOF trouble. At 2.8 you're gonna be shooting an iso of 1600 to 3200. So you'll want to have a good camera body that can handle high iso with minimal grain. I use a Nikon D700.
Also, often flash isn't allowed at all. But if you can use flash it's a really cool effect. You can semi freeze your subject and drag the shutter to blur background movement. Flash will capture the subject at as fast as 1/250th, depending on how close you are to the subject and how much charge you'll need to pop the flash at. If you're more than 30 feet away the flash will not reach the subject. At 25 feet, you'll need a full charge and consequently the speed of the flash will be slower. If you're 7 to 10 feet away you should be able to get 1/250th out of the flash. So if you set your shutter to 1/30th you're subject will be semi frozen and the background movement will be blurred. It's your aperture that controls the exposure of your subject when using flash, not the shutter speed. The shutter speed is adjusted to balance the exposure of the background (if you exceed 1/250th some of the image will get cut off. Flash cannot process faster than that.
November 28, 2011 11:32 pm
Any tips & tricks on how to shoot a ballet lesson and theater performances?
My 8yo's demonstrative lesson soon - and I'm still fresh with my DSRL (Nikon D3100 with VR 18-105 lens).
I will be taking images from the gallery, and due to space issues, won't use a tripod.
I've shot these lessons before with my pro-zoomer, but I wasn't satisfied with the quality of images - I was able to shoot only in Auto Mode - it was the only mode that allowed proper lighting and the images weren't (too) blurry. P mode was too slow.
So - shooting with DSRL, 18-105 VR lens, no tripod, average lighting conditions - any tips you could give me?
For the theater performance - the same 8yo has a main role and I would really like to have gorgeous pictures.
Cameras in general are not allowed in the theater due to the official photographer (who takes, IMHO, portrait pictures and doesn't capture the movement and expressions very well), but given this is a performance of a classical ballet school for Christmas, they tend to turn a blind eye to a presence of cameras in the theater - at least they did so previously.
So again - less equipment as possible, no tripod, same lens (have only these at the moment), lighting: dark with central stage lights, and I as the photographer must keep a low profile.
Where should I sit? Downstairs sitting area, or up in the gallery? Any techniques I could practice before?
Settings for the camera?
Many thanks in advance!
November 18, 2011 09:12 am
i have been shooting dance for about eight years now, more with film, for dance you cannot use flash, what are your sugestions for the proper settings, no flash , no tripod and no lcd review allowed, shoot in the dark about 100-200 feet from the stage, what are your suggestions on mode, focus and sharp pictures??
May 29, 2011 04:29 pm
im 16 and want to become a dance photographer (praise dance) but im not sure what is the best camera.
also i ve always hear that to be a dance photographer its all about shuter speed so can you give me some advice on what camerashave the best
April 17, 2011 08:28 am
It would be nice to see more on this subject. I've been shooting dancers for several years now and its one of my favorite things to shoot.
I wanted to make one comment. Using a flash for dance really depends on the dance and the situation. An onstage performance you wouldn't shoot with a flash, its hard for the performers and the audience wouldn't appreciate it. So in this case having good fast glass (70-200 F2.8 L, for example since you are a canon shooter) and you have to rely on solid stage lighting.
November 25, 2010 04:26 pm
dance schools that also offers free yoga classes would be very very nice '~'
September 17, 2010 11:20 pm
Tricks in shooting a night club. Low light , dancing etc.
August 18, 2010 04:01 am
Thank you for this! This is EXACTLY what I was looking for! I am a lindy hopper and was planning on photographing our next dance. I know how to shoot in low light, but I wanted to freeze motion. Thanks for this!
August 4, 2010 12:49 am
Wow! I'm so glad I found this. I just googled "dance photography" but I'm heading out to a swing dance tonight and want to capture some pictures of fellow lindy hoppers! That's some fast stuff! I love the 2nd photo. :)
May 28, 2010 10:49 pm
Some very good tips here. I recently shadowed a pro photographer at a wedding.
The reception was the most difficult part to shoot, very low light, various types of lighting and lots of movement.
I had brought two cameras, Nikon DSLRs with me, one set up with an 85mm 1:1.8D with speed flash and diffuser and the other set up with a fixed 35mm 1:1.8 lens, not using the on cam flash. That 35mm prime saved me when the light was too low to use in AF. Both of those lenses are relatively inexpensive as far as DSLR lenses go so you don't really need to spend a fortune on lenses if you use the correct settings and techniques. One thing that taught me a lot is I have acquired a lot of the older Nikon lenses, the D and G versions which speak best to the Nikon cameras. I like some of them far better than the newer releases.
I don't often focus manually as my vision is not that great. I Always shoot using the viewfinder, never the screen as the screen resolutions leave too much to guess. I found a viewfinder magnifier which helps. They're relatively inexpensive and easy to install. Once you get used to them you'll find they're a good thing to have. The site address is of shots I took with no flash at a dance recital using a 70x300 telephoto.
What's my point? You don't need to spend a fortune to get good results by knowing your camera and using good technique.
January 20, 2010 11:15 pm
Thank you for your time and experiences with your photography, I class myself as knowledgable but I have soooo much to learn. I have just been asked to take photos at a local dance school so I can't wait to get on with the job. Cheers
January 15, 2010 09:15 pm
this article seemed very helpful. i got something i was really looking for from this..
December 2, 2009 05:26 am
great tutorial, I'm off for my first dance photoshoot tonight and will certainly be trying out your advice...especially the panning the subject...here goes!
November 26, 2009 06:31 pm
Hi Darren Rowse it was a Great fun with your photography. The entire tutorial idea was fantastic. I would love to read more of your blogs. Please keep posting
July 18, 2009 08:57 pm
hey,it's a great tutorial!love the pic's!Dance photography can be exciting and easy to partake in.nice post.thanks for sharing.........
July 17, 2009 06:36 am
as a photographer and dancer, I would love to know more about dealing with different settings, stage lights vs. sunlit outdoor festival, and also would have enjoyed a little more on timing and composition. familiarizing yourself with music and getting a feel for the moves helps to anticipate a sweet move, sultry glance, or big finish.
good article, but I hope to get a little more out of the next one.
June 19, 2009 08:27 am
Does anybody know how to set up a budget DIY for low_key portrait photography?
April 17, 2007 04:30 pm
I loved this tutorial - movement in dance or any type of sport is alot harder then it looks! I agree with Nick - I would love to see a tutorial that deals with outdoor sport in winter when there is low light! Some tips to shoot in any low lit conditions where flash's are unable to be used would be great!!
April 3, 2007 02:20 am
I like the idea of panning with the subject, I picked some good ideas thank you. I have also found when shooting indoors at cheerleading competitions, using an f2.8 lens or faster gives the ability to shoot motion and brightens the colors of the uniforms. Thanks for the tips, I use them all.
April 2, 2007 07:47 pm
It is a nice tutorial and there are some great example photos in this article, the forth is my favourite. For me shooting moving subjects is the most challenging and complicated in photography, so thanks for your tips.
April 2, 2007 09:24 am
Another interesting idea I've seen for these night events is creating a photo collage combining the movements into one view. I love #2 above, very romantic.
April 1, 2007 08:02 am
That was a very nice article. I particularly liked the first and second photos. Dance in general is one of the most difficult things I have ever shot, and social dance like you described is particularly tricky.
One of the main reasons your photos work is your success separating figure from ground. It can be the most interesting shot in the world, but if your subjects are visually too intermingled with the crowd around them then it's all a chaotic mess. You used a couple different techniques above, and the all work well.
March 30, 2007 08:47 am
How about a tuturial in capturing motion during a athletic event whether indoors in an arena or outdoors?? And then if its outdoors how to capture a winter sport or a summer sport?
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