The Art of Photographing Dance

One of the basic forms of human expression that have continued to be a part of our culture is dance. This form is one way that communicates beyond speech, much like the art of photography. Both do not have a specific dialect or language. Dance conveys raw emotion through movement that extends over all kinds of boundaries.

Here are effective tips on how to shoot fabulous dance images:

 dance6 The Art of Photographing Dance Shoot with manual settings at the widest aperture possible – more often than not, most of the dance performances involve a lot of dramatic lighting. This can be a reason to lose a lot of detail pertaining to highlights and shadows in an image. Always remember, though, that it is better to lose details from shadow than details from highlights. To get the best possible outcome, manually set your camera to the widest aperture. Also remember to adapt the exposure to the performer’s skin tone.

Do not even bother using spot metering. Another way to tackle exposure is to adjust shutter speed setting until you are able to see details in the performer’s face. However, whenever the lighting changes you will still have to adjust the settings each time.

Shoot in RAW – as much as possible, shoot in RAW format. Although it can slow you down in post processing as you make adjustments to your images, you will be able to capture more detail. But always remember to use a memory card with adequate memory since RAW files are rather huge.dance7 The Art of Photographing Dance

Familiarize yourself with the camera – stages have lighting that is usually centered on the performances and it varies depending on the tempo of the music or the type of mood that the performance wishes to convey. In most cases, you will probably have to be working in the dark. So it is best to familiarize yourself with all the buttons of your camera to make sure you are pressing the right one. Also make sure you know the proper settings to adjust your camera.

Have the right timing – the more performances you attend, and the more times you persevere to capture great dance stills, the more chances you will have of ddance5 The Art of Photographing Danceeveloping your skill. It takes more than just constantly being on the look-out for a great move because once you see a great movement in your viewfinder, chances are it is too late to capture it. You must always anticipate what will happen next to get the perfect opportunity. There are plenty of opportunities for you to be able to gauge when a highlight moment is about to take place, such as a change in music, lighting or movement of the dancers. You can sense that that something big is about to happen. It helps to love your niche because there are different types of dance performances that do not always follow the norm in lighting and music.

Capture the perfect pose – the visual impact of a perfect pose immortalized in a photograph is a rarity because you only get one chance when the whole body of a performer is in the right position allowing it to speak to the viewer when looking at the image. It will be pointless to set your camera to continuous mode and take random shots because the only way for you to get the precise moment is through patience.


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How to Photograph the Essence of the Dance

 

To be able to convey the elements of dance in one single photograph can be a very difficult goal for any photographer because photography is mainly the capturing of unmoving images, while dance is the total opposite.  The art of photography should be able to convey a three dimensional perspective using a two dimensional plane. Time also plays an important part in dance. With all this to consider, how can a simple photograph of people or a person dancing hold such visual impact? In creating an ideal dance image, your photograph should be able to embody the magnificence of a dancer in mid-motion. The spectacle on stage is compounded with choreography and the essence of motion. Every movement that is expressed in every fraction of a moment during the performance is a photo opportunity for you. Many photographers throw in the towel after many attempts and getting blurry images. 

Here are some great tips on how to take fantastic dance photos:

Catch the motion – one of the most difficult tasks that the photographer might encounter is the constant movement of the dancers. Low lighting is possible since stage lighting is not enough to get sharp images. When the performance is going on, using a flash is usually not allowed because it can be distracting for the performers and the audience. Make sure that your digital camera has the capacity dance1 How to Photograph the Essence of the Danceto shoot at high ISO of 1600 or more. If possible, make sure you are equipped with a lens that is 70mm-200mm for bigger aperture sizes of f/2.8 and below. It can be difficult to use zoom lenses with a stop down of f/4 or f/5.6 aperture so try to avoid using this. Even with adequate lighting, you may want to show some motion blur in your shots to portray the movement of the dancers. A relatively slow shutter speed such as 1/20 sec can show movement trails while leaving parts of the scene sharp enough to be recognizable. The best way to know the right settings would be to experiment and settle on the exposure adjustments that work best.

Know how to shoot and focus within a split second – with constant movement happening during the performance, capturing the right moment can be difficult. Due to the lag time of the shutter mechanism of all cameras. Shutter lag is the length of time between the clicking of the shutter button to when the shutter actually opens and closes. Although this might only be a fraction of a second, it is enough for you to lose a valuable opportunity. Bear in mind that there could be two reasons for the delay. For one, the autofocus system might need some time to adjust to the distance of the subject as well as gauge the focus to match this distance. Second, digital cameras need some time to assess any available light to be able to get the right settings for shutter speed and aperture to get the appropriate exposure. The camera measures these two actions each time you press the shutter. Make sure that the camera you use can quickly focus and lock unto a subject. If you have the budget, you can check out a lens that is capable of ultrasonic motor (USM) which would be ideal for catching quick movements.dance2 How to Photograph the Essence of the Dance

Focus manually – with low-lighting situations, it is oftentimes not advisable to rely on autofocus. The great advantage in capturing dance images is that the subjects dance on stage. This assures you that there is a specific distance between you and the stage. This way you can effectively manually focus. A common term for this is a photojournalist’s working mode. You can do this by disabling the focus from the shutter and put it on a varying button located at the back portion of the camera. With constant practice, you will get the hang of this. As long as the distance between the camera and the performers are constant, all you have to do is adjust your focus on the performer, get a few photographs in, and then adjust your focus yet again for the next series of shots. 

dance4 How to Photograph the Essence of the Dance Preset your aperture and shutter speed – by setting the aperture and shutter speed to manual mode before your shoot, you can get rid of auto-exposure delay. Usually you can use a shutter speed of 1/60 sec for relatively slower dance performances and 1/125 sec for faster performances. If you use a shutter speed slower than 1/60 sec you will most definitely get blurry images. Try to use different types of aperture until you find the right exposure and do not forget to check the exposure indicator for that. For low lighting scenarios, the camera’s indicator will tell you that the image is underexposed even at a time that the aperture is wide open. Here you will have to adjust your ISO to a higher level. Some DSLR cameras can still produce sharp images even if the ISO is set up to 1600. Remember that as you increase your ISO, the grainier your images will be, or the more you will have digital noise. That is why it is always advantageous to invest in good quality DSLR cameras when you would start to encounter these types of problems with an ISO at 3200.


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