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taking photos of dancers

yana bell , Jun 24, 2006; 06:35 p.m.


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


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Kari Douma - Grand Rapids, Michigan , Jun 24, 2006; 07:23 p.m.

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.

gymnasts at recital

Michael Warren - Atlanta, GA , Jun 24, 2006; 08:35 p.m.

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!

Chris Leck , Jun 24, 2006; 11:32 p.m.

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.

Michael J Hoffman , Jun 25, 2006; 12:32 a.m.

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

Ramana Murthy , Jun 25, 2006; 12:58 a.m.

Michael J Hoffman , Jun 25, 2006; 07:51 a.m.

Follow-up with sample image to my original reply:

Waiting in the Wings

yana bell , Jun 25, 2006; 05:35 p.m.

Thanks for your tips. What about white balance ? Should I leave it automatic or set it to indoor ?

Michael J Hoffman , Jun 25, 2006; 06:31 p.m.

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

AWB adjusted for maximum impact

Chris Leck , Jun 25, 2006; 06:48 p.m.

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.

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