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Dance Photography – Capturing Movement

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse

is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals.

He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

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