taking photos of dancers

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by yana_bell, Jun 24, 2006.

  1. Hi

    I am going to take some photos of dancingevent, there will be one dancer on a
    stage. There will be a professional stage lighting. I am using Canon EOS
    350D. And lenses 28-90 mm, 75-300mm. I was told to shoot in RAW and in AV
    mode. As it is my first time that I take photos of indoor event, I would be
    grateful for any tips.

    Thanks. Yana
  2. This is tough! I just shot a dance recital too. I had to shoot at 1600 ISO at 2.8, and my shutter speeds varried depending on the light. Make sure you shoot in RAW if you can, and try to make your shutter speed at leat 1/180- 1/250. Good luck! This shot was actually the gymnasts in the show.
  3. Definitely keep your shutter speeds up, especially if using a long lens. Remember they are moving and it doesnt take much motion to ruin the picture, unless you are purposefully wanting motion blur. Also, stage lighting can be brighter than you think. If there is a lot of dark areas being metered as well, you can easily overexpose your dancers. Good luck!
  4. I shoot dance fairly regularly (http://photostore.chrisleck.com/Dance). There's a recent article at http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/dance.shtml that is quite good.

    Professional stage lighting often is 3200K. If you are near the stage, the 28-90mm zoom should work well. You may need to underexpose 1-2 stops from your meter readings to to contrast and dark bright subject on dark background.

    In my experience, most dance lighting is for mood -- certainly not for photography. This usually means 'dim,' especially if no spotlights are used. I often find myself at ISO 1600, f/2.8, and low shutter speeds.
  5. In addition to your exposure concerns, be mindful of floor surfaces and backdrops. Watch for seams and anything else which may imapct the overall orientation of your compositions. If possible, visit the location before the day of the assignment to inspect the layout in full light. Make mental notes, or even hard copy, of what can help and what can hurt (i.e. emergency exit signs) your compositions on the night of the performance. You may even be able to request a partial tech run, or attend the scheduled tech run. Ask about these things; it will only make the job easier. A tech run will show you which ISO and exposure settings you need for which "numbers". You may need to acquire some fast(er) glass. I photographed an assignment similar to what you describe in April 2005, though there were sometimes large groups of dancers on stage in addition to individual performances. My most used lenses were the 100/2 USM and the 50/1.4 USM, and I was using them at the very limits of their technical constraints (with ISO settings anywhere between 400 and 1600). Try this during the performance, shoot across the stage and into the "wings" if possible to catch dancers awaiting scene/performance changes (the company will love these images); try placing focus on the on-stage performers fro some and on the backstage performers for others. Also try to get some images from backstage looking out onto the stage, and some behind-the-scenes stuff (i.e. costume changes) as well.

    Best of luck, and be sure to post some results. Have fun!

    Michael J Hoffman
  6. Just saw this article
  7. Follow-up with sample image to my original reply:
  8. Thanks for your tips. What about white balance ? Should I leave it automatic or set it to indoor ?
  9. For white balance I'd set to auto and adjust as necessary. The "correct" white balance and the most pleasing looking image may be very different. Michael J Hoffman
  10. WB is where I differ from some, including the excellent article that I provided a link to above. I set mine to, or near, 3200K. This is because most dance that I shoot has standard 3200K lighting.

    Sometimes I shoot JPEG and I want to get as close as I can to a workable WB for everything. I shoot a D200 and haven't tried auto WB with it. My D100 (and possibly other other Nikon models) does not do a good job of AWB down below 4000K or so. I also don't like the inconsistent look of AWB.

    As mentioned above, you can shoot raw and tweak WB for effect or for 'accuracy.' Why not? Stage lighting for dance is not about reality and proper skintones, at least in my experience.
  11. You will want to highlight individual performers:
  12. As well as the entire company:
  13. Thank you Michael for very helpful tips. I helped Blue Mountain Dance (www.bluemountaindance.com) with Ballet recital. It helps to attend the rehearsal to be familiar with the performance and to know what to expect. A very fast lens is a must, tripod may be helpful too.
  14. You're quite welcome, Agnes! Yes, a fast lens is key! I've never been a fan of working from a tripod, although it is better form to do so when the opportunity presents itself. Don't discount the potential benefit of motion blur - that is best done from a tripod - just don't confuse it with camera shake. Best of luck, and I hope the young dancers and their parents enjoy your images!

    Michael J Hoffman
  15. you may ask if you can attend dress rehearsal, they may give you more freedom to move around... ex: backstage, different places in the audience and sometimes even on the stage.

    also in catching action the dancer will always do a prepretory step before they turn or jump it is most always with the accent of the music, if you can count with the music and capture the dancer at the heigth of their jump there is a moment they freeze in the air before they come down. they also assume the best position to photograph at that moment.

    I took up photography in high school in the late 60s, managed a chain of portrait studios and have been working freelance since. I started dancing when I was 7 and became a professional dancer and now a dance teacher for the past 20 years. Good luck!

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