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11-29-2013, 01:24 PM   #1
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Dance photography - need help

Hey guys!
I'll be photographing my girlfriend's ballet presentation in like 10 days, but i need some tips. I've never really done anything like that.
Here's my kit :
___________
Pentax K-30
DAL 18-55
DA 55-300
FA 100mm 3.5
F 50mm 1.7
Sigma 24mm 1.8
DA 40mm 2.8 XS
SMC K 135mm 3.5
Bower 8mm
___________

I'll be mostly photographing during the final rehearsal, so i'll have the entire theater for me.
I want to take mostly close up shots of her, but i'm afraid that i might not have the right equipment for that. I'm afraid the HIGH ISO capabilities might not be enough to keep the shutter speed high (i also don't know how's the theater lightning, my girlfriend says it's "pretty bright"...), and the tracking might not keep up.
What lenses do you recommend? Also, AF-C without expanded area, AF-C with expanded area, AF-S, AF-S with release priority?
I'm thinking the FA 100mm 3.5 will be a good choice (it's AF is surprisingly quick, even though its a macro lens...), maybe the 50mm 1.7 or the 55-300 for close ups...and i'm thinking i'll use the Sigma 24mm 1.8 to take one wide shot...
Any type of help is welcome...thank you!

EDIT : Ooh, and also...i'm a RAW shooter, i use it 100% of the time...maybe i should switch to jpeg in some cases to get nice bursts? (i could assign the raw/fx button to change it quickly)

11-29-2013, 02:10 PM   #2
dms
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I will tell you what I use--and you can go from there. I use iso 1600 on K20d. My lens choices usually are 35mm f2, 28-90mm 2.8-4 and 70-210mm f 2.8-4 (actually I use a 21mm lens a lot--but that's for theatre department--to capture stage set).

Wider than 35mm is not likely useful to capture 1 dancer, and maybe even a fast 50mm will be good. Take a few fast lenses and a few zooms and see the menu. (Its not a performance so you can bring big camera bag and choose.)

I only use raw. Burst mode is (for me) not workable--I think you always know when you nailed the shot!

If there are other dancers get there early and practice on them. I usually try to get about 3-5 rows back and well over to the side (maybe 3/4 way across)--I find that view is more interesting than straight on.

Most shooters (and most/all adds for ballet) try to freeze the motion--IMO one should try and get blurred hands/feet/etc. Dance is about motion! Anyway if you aren't sure do try some slower shutter speed--hard to generalize as it depends on the ballet. There is usually a pause/peak where even 1/30s may be good. Anyway I would suggest trying 125th sec as a starting point.

Iso above 1600 on pentax is not (as I understand it) useful, if you are using raw. But I don't believe trying lower iso for less noise makes sense. Although I expose to the right--noise is largely irrelevant in this kind of picture.
11-29-2013, 02:29 PM   #3
dms
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As far as exposure--I use manual or aperture priority and either center weighted or spot--depends on the backdrop and how different it is from the dancer. (BTW most of my lenses are PK, not PKA.)

This is an area where you will need to chimp a lot at first.

I believe the ideal approach (with a longer lens) should be to spot meter off of the dancer 's skin (or white clothing) and use a consistent e.v. adjustment--but I have been doing this for 5 years and I still don't have the exposure down right. One problem is their use of spotlighting--so the lighting is rather uneven. It's tough.
11-29-2013, 02:47 PM   #4
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Lighting in indoor events is usually poor even though non-photographers might consider it good

You need to shoot at your fastest apertures. You will need fast shutter speeds, at least 1/200 which means you will wind up with an ISO of 1600 or 3200. Shoot in shutter priority with auto ISO and use spot metering with highlight protection on. If the light is pretty consistent you could use manual. With new cameras you could go upto ISO 3200.

My favorite lens is the Pentax 50-135 and at f2.8

{Below are 3 dance performance pictures in 3 different kinds of lightings. For the first one I only had an f4 lens it was shot at ISO 1600 and a shutter speed of 1/250 but with an older camera and it was quite dark and the only way to make it look good was by using a preset to make it look more stylistic The second one was with a K5, ISO 1600 at f2.8 and shutter speed of 1/160. The problem was that there was a spot light that would go on and off and it got overblown some but I was ok with it. The third photo was in a lot brighter setting and it was with the older camera at ISO 1600.]


Last edited by psychdoc; 11-14-2015 at 03:41 PM.
11-29-2013, 03:16 PM - 1 Like   #5
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I've been photographing ballet for a few years now. It will all depend on stage illumination.
Higher ISO is the way to go.
As obvious as it may sound, Flash is a BIG HUGE NO-NO I've seen performers distracted by flash and that is very dangerous. Not to mention annoying and disrespectful. As a staff photographer in the ballet company where my daughter dances, we have removed people from theaters for using flash.

My lens of choice is the F50 f1.7, followed by the 35 f2.4
Forget about setting white balance. Shoot raw with auto WB and deal with it later.
Ballet is fast. Faster than what you may think. Shutter speeds of 1/160 ~ 1/250 to minimize motion blur.
I use apertures between f2.8 and f4. Wider than that and shallow DOF can bite you more than it can help.
I shoot either TAv mode in the K20D and limit ISO up to 2500, or Av mode in the K-X with ISO set at either 2500 or 3200.
I suggest center weight metering because spot can be tricky due to movement and matrix metering can be confused with the dark surroundings.
Bottom line: It is all about adjusting on the fly to the ever changing conditions.

Here are a few from last week's The Nutcracker


1/250
f4
ISO 2500



1/250
f4.5
ISO 2500



1/250
f2.8
ISO 2500



1/250
f3.5
ISO 2500



1/250
f3.5
ISO 2500



1/400
f4
ISO2500



1/250
f4
ISO 2500



1/250
f4
ISO 2500



1/500
f4
ISO 2500



1/400
f4
ISO 2500



1/125
f5.6
ISO 3200

Most important: Have fun anticipating the moves...

Thanks,

Last edited by ismaelg; 11-29-2013 at 05:08 PM.
11-29-2013, 06:57 PM   #6
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Thank you all!
What do you guys think about the focusing modes? I'm thinking that would be a big problem if i decide to use 100mm + lenses...
11-29-2013, 08:06 PM   #7
dms
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Focusing modes? I am only manual focus. But depending which way the motion is you can focus and follow, or prefocus on a location and take the picture. Do remember to hold the shutter 1/2 way a lot of the time so the SR works when you need it.

Actually the longer FL can give a much more exciting photo! I usually have two cameras--one w/ 70-210mm zoom. Actually I suggest you bring a second camera--maybe borrow one. I purchased a K-x (as a 2nd camera) and found the viewfinder impossible to use quickly--so now I borrow a friends K20d.

Not sure what my thinking is when I do it, but now as I write this I think I would say just don't cut the feet off w/ most of the leg shown--either get the feet (and some stage floor so it is in context) or make it of the upper body/arms. Not that I you actually think about these things--hopefully your gut reaction will result in exciting framing of the shots.
12-08-2013, 05:12 PM   #8
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Hey guys...turns out i won't be allowed to photograph on the final rehearsal, so i photographed on one of the regular rehearsals, and i'm going to photograph during 2 days of presentation...
I got some okay results...the lightning on the final presentation is going to be better, since this was only illuminated by natural light...
With some editing tricks (masking and defocusing the background to bring the subject to focus), it turned out to be kind of nice...
Here is an example :


12-08-2013, 05:27 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by GabrielFFontes Quote
it turned out to be kind of nice...
Here is an example :
Good job! And a great subject!!!
01-31-2015, 07:59 AM   #10
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Hi Gabriel, my daughter is on Ballet. I am very intersted on buying a Pentax k50 to photograph her during her graduation presentation. How was your experience with camera ?
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