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Newbie needs advice for dance recital photos!!

Melissa Schumacher , Mar 05, 2008; 08:44 a.m.

Since I have been taken photo classes at our local college, I have been asked to take the photos for my daughters dance recital. The nice thing is there's only 16 kids in the school, the bad news is most are between 3-7. All I have is my Canon Xti and the speedlite flash and a reflector. The photos will be taken under fluorescent lights that are part of the church basement. There is a part of the wall that is white (used as a projector screen), one half of the room is bright green and the other half is bright orange. Anyways, my question is how can light them and what can I use for a background? Most of the costumes are bright, but there's a couple dancing together with him in a black suit and her in a white dress! Please help!! I want this work out because a lot of the parents are asking if I'll do their family portraits in the summer. This is my make it or break it moment-so to speak....Ok I'll stop rambling now.....Thank you all ahead of time for your advice!!!

Responses

A. Davis , Mar 05, 2008; 10:20 a.m.

The approach I would suggest depends a lot on where the walls are located...if you can bounce off the green wall you might be able to avoid gelling your flash to match the fluorescent lights, which would be kind of cool, but probably won't work.
I'm guessing that the basement has a low (8-10 foot) drop or white ceiling, so you could bounce your flash off that to diffuse and spread the light.
However you use your flash, you are going to want to drag your shutter and bring in some of the fluorescent light. My typical setting for shooting in a room like that might be ISO 400 1/60 f2.8. Use your camera's light meter to take a reading, then set your camera on manual and dial that setting in, plus or minus a stop or two to adjust for how you want the background to appear.
Not seeing the bright green and bright orange, my gut would be to go with the white wall as a background. Set your exposure and white balance so that the wall will be white, then set your flash to expose the kids. Buy a CTO gel, and your flash color will match the flourescent.

Mark Sirota , Mar 05, 2008; 01:31 p.m.

CTO will match incandescent, not fluorescent. You need a greenish gel for fluorescent; "plusgreen" is good starting point, but there's a wide variety of fluorescents. Ideally, if these are posed shots, turn off the fluorescents.

Craig Shearman , Mar 05, 2008; 02:11 p.m.

1) Turn off the flourescents!!! 2) Put the white wall to your left or right and bounce your flash off of it 3) If you don't like the color of the wall that's green or orange, either invest in a proper muslin backdrop or find a large piece of fabric to cover it with. Or maybe you like the color of it. 4) Go experiment with this first before you do the shoot for real. If you want to get more elaborate, to to www.strobist.com to learn how to use your shoe mount strobe like a studio strobe by adding a cheap umbrella and lightstand, and consider a Photek People Popper or Background in a Bag backdrop system (about $150).

John Beaver , Mar 06, 2008; 12:04 a.m.

At my kids dance recital's there is no flash photography allowed. Very dangerous for the dancers up on a stage. You might check on this before you shoot. Fortunately 3-7 year olds don't move as much as older kids, but I find it best to go with out flash, and just balance for the lights in the room. A fast lens, and a fast camera help. The other parents won't object to a little extra grain (iso noise) if you can get a good sharp action shot, so don't be afraid to go to a high iso. Believe me, if you capture a good action shot, the other parents won't care about the lighting.

Craig Shearman , Mar 06, 2008; 09:45 p.m.

I don't think she's talking about shooting the performance. She's talking about posed pictures before or after.

Melissa Schumacher , Mar 07, 2008; 07:23 a.m.

Craig is right. I guess I forgot to be more specific. But I appreciate all the advice everyone is giving me. Thank you so much.

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