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05-27-2012, 05:20 PM   #1
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Dance performance tips!

Hi guys,

My friends just asked me to take photos at their dance group's spring show!

I dug around and found this post a few weeks ago, but I'm probably not going to buy a k-5 for this, nor do I have a very fast lens.
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-dslr-discussion/185402-dance-recit...lp-please.html

What I do have is a K-x, kit lens, DAL 55-300, and M f/2 50mm.
I also have a flash, but I don't know if I'd be allowed to use it.

There are windows at the venue and it's in the afternoon.

I've attached a few of my shots taken with the kit lens, and a shot by someone else at the show last year.

For my own it was a different show at night, and I had to boost the brightness/fill light in photoshop a lot later.


I'm wondering if anyone has tips on shooting in indoor, fast-moving performances.
I'm not sure if using the 55-300 (which always give me better/sharper images) would work in this case because it has a smaller aperture.

Any suggestion from camera settings to angles, composition, set up, and accessories is appreciated


Thanks!!

Attached Images
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PENTAX K-x  Photo 
View Picture EXIF
PENTAX K-x  Photo 

Last edited by jasonch; 05-27-2012 at 05:30 PM.
05-27-2012, 06:25 PM   #2
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I would probably go for the 55-300 for ease of use.
The 55-300 is faster at 55mm than the 18-55. The 55-300 is f4.5 until 190mm, so it's "kind of" a quick lens. It's also easier to focus, track the dancing and you're less intrusive if you're standing further away.

The 50 f2 would be quite good, but you will have to estimate your focus distances. Those lines on the floor may be useful - you could get there first with a tape measure and get a bit of a system going in your head - ie if they're on the second floor board it's 2m away, if they're on the third it's 2.5m... But you would need to practice this first when it's not critical.
05-27-2012, 06:47 PM   #3
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The first shot is very good! The other two have, shall we say, issues with light and contrast and intrusive backgrounds. A super-fast lens isn't necessary to work with dancers. Here are some ideas:

* If you can't use flash at the show, how about at rehearsals? Rehearsal shoots will also be less stressful and will help familiarize you with the venue, with where to position yourself and aim the camera for best results.

* Find the best-lit spots in the performance space, also the spots where you know action will occur, and where backgrounds won't intrude. Anticipate your shots.

* Shoot in Tv mode and let the ISO float up. High-ISO noise can be fixed in PP; motion blur and bad focus can't. Nail the focus, and everything else can be fixed. Set the shutter slow when you want motion to flow, or fast when you want to freeze action. I forget if the Kx has TAv mode. If so, keep the shutter at your desired speed and stop-down the aperture for thicker DOF in ensemble shots.

* Bracket bracket bracket. Also do some continuous-drive shots: spray-and-pray. Burn enough frames and eventually you'll get something good, eh? Remember, digital isn't film, shots don't cost money. Your only expense is time, as you filter-out the luzers. Even Ansel Adams was happy to get one really good photo per year.
05-27-2012, 07:01 PM   #4
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Here's another thread you may find helpful.

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/152083-lens-ad...ter-stage.html

05-27-2012, 08:15 PM   #5
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Wow thanks!

I'll definitely ask about rehearsal!

And the continuous drive is a good idea. I've been trying to limit the number of shots i take in hope of practicing composition, but this is definitely a good case for this.

I'll probably put on DAL 55-300mm for the most part then. About the A50mm (corrected from M50mm), what are people's experience with the catch-in-focus mode?
Has anyone had good success with it?

I have never been able to get it to work?
What do I have to do other than enabling it and pointing?
05-27-2012, 08:38 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by jasonch Quote
And the continuous drive is a good idea. I've been trying to limit the number of shots i take in hope of practicing composition, but this is definitely a good case for this.
When you have the luxury of time to carefully compose shots, great. Otherwise, just nail the focus and crop as needed. Editing, cropping, PP, are part of the picture-making process. Picture-making comprises more than shapshots.

QuoteQuote:
About the A50mm (corrected from M50mm), what are people's experience with the catch-in-focus mode?
Has anyone had good success with it?

I have never been able to get it to work?
What do I have to do other than enabling it and pointing?
I use CIF most of the time with MF lenses. To use CIF, enable it on the menu, and set AF to AF.S. But there are limitations. Aim, hold the shutter button down, and the camera shoots when IT wants to, when it gets focus confirmation. That instant might not be the instant when something exciting happens. With action, I'll get better results by combining CIF with continuous drive. Then the camera keeps firing as long as it see focus confirmation.

Other times I'll zone-focus or prefocus. Zone-focus is tricky in low light with not-wide lenses, so I'll skip that for now. But prefocus: Find a spot next to where you want to shoot a subject. Focus on that spot. Wait for the subject to get there. Then shoot. And don't feel you need to shoot with the aperture wide open. Stopping down for thicker DOF gives a bit of leeway in focusing -- as long as the background doesn't intrude.

Hope this helps!
05-27-2012, 08:50 PM   #7
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To echo what others have said: don't be afraid to bump up the ISO. K-x does not have the TaV mode, so I usually set my aperture to as wide open as possible, then my ISO to allow me to get at least 1/320s shutter speed. I have successfully used up to ISO 6400. I have used both my 55-300 and my Sigma 50-150 2.8. You can see some of my photos in my gallery at DPR. Good luck.
05-27-2012, 10:31 PM   #8
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If you can attend rehearsals, do. Even if you are not allowed to use flash, knowing where the dancers will end up at certain times will help you be ready for the shots. Also, there are moments in dance where the motion slows down. Lifts, points where the dancers change direction, dramatic pauses, all allow you to catch shots that aren't in furious movement. The slower the movement the better the potential for crisp images. Again, shooting rehearsals, even if the dancers are not in costume and you can't share the photos will give you an opportunity to anticipate the best moments for catching useful images.

The 55-300 is a great lens but not one that focuses quickly, even in good light. Dress rehearsals that allow you to get close to the stage will give you the opportunity to use a shorter prime, that has a lot of low light advantages. I shoot theater, concerts and a little bit of dance with an old F 50mm 1.7 That extra stop or two can make a big difference in shutter speed.

05-28-2012, 04:48 AM   #9
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Ishot many of my daughters dance and stage performances for years, starting with the *istD and then K10D.

The only advantage I had, is that I did have a sigma 70-200F2.8 and it is great for shooting this type of event, but out of reach for you, as you start off.

YOu also do not have a K5 in mind, but I will tell you something from experience,.

I would let the ISO go up, and get the shutter speed you need for the shots. A little grain/noise is acceptable but if the image is to be sharp, blur is unacceptable.

THe other thing to consider is some shots can have blur, to show motion, and you need to consider this also.

I shoot mostly JPEG and if you expose correctly there is nothing wrong with this.

you may wish to concentrate on your settings to make use of the correct contrast and saturation as well as WB.
06-03-2012, 02:23 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by jasonch Quote
Hi guys,

My friends just asked me to take photos at their dance group's spring show!

I dug around and found this post a few weeks ago, but I'm probably not going to buy a k-5 for this, nor do I have a very fast lens.
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-dslr-discussion/185402-dance-recit...lp-please.html

I posted a couple of recent examples in the thread mentioned above.
06-04-2012, 03:50 AM   #11
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Thanks guys for all your suggestions!

Here are some of the photos from the performance!

There was an unexpected challenge of the sunset causing really harsh highlights..
but I did get some good pictures!

Not to turn this into the Photo Critique forum, but anyone has suggestions it'd be much appreciated!!
Attached Images
View Picture EXIF
PENTAX K-x  Photo 
View Picture EXIF
PENTAX K-x  Photo 
View Picture EXIF
PENTAX K-x  Photo 
View Picture EXIF
PENTAX K-x  Photo 
View Picture EXIF
PENTAX K-x  Photo 
06-04-2012, 06:30 AM   #12
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There's a bloke here called Marc Sabatella who does a lot of performance shots:
Photos Posted By Marc Sabatella - Pentax User Photo Gallery

His trick is to habitually under-expose and then lift exposure in post where noise control is better. Go into manual mode. Try setting ISO to, say, 800 or 1600, raw image format and then prioritizing shutter speed: 1/200 (or faster) @F5.6, ISO 1600 with the 55-300 will probably underexpose by two to three stops indoors. Lift the exposure when developing in your preferred software and see whether that reduces some of the unattractive noise that is evident in the second and third shots. Shoot in raw and apply luminance noise reduction regardless. Slight loss of detail is less unattractive than high ISO noise.

Since you're working in some sort of official capacity, why not see about doing some posed shots where you have better control of light?

Some of the best shots I've seen from my daughter's shows have been taken by the children themselves on their phones and suchlike. If there's a child / young adult you trust with your pride and joy, let them borrow it for a while. You'll probably get a lot of craptastic shots but you may well get some candid gems too.

First shot is fab, by the way. I thought it had been taken under controlled conditions.

EDIT:
Just saw the new shots you posted. Quite nice. I'd suggest some tighter cropping in 1-3. The CA in shot 1 should be fixable in post. The metering has blown some of the highlights. Not much you can do now. You want to meter for your subject when the background isn't important. Framing isn't quite spot on in shots four and five. It's hard when the action is fast.

Last edited by top-quark; 06-04-2012 at 06:39 AM.
06-04-2012, 09:40 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by top-quark Quote
There's a bloke here called Marc Sabatella who does a lot of performance shots:
Photos Posted By Marc Sabatella - Pentax User Photo Gallery

His trick is to habitually under-expose and then lift exposure in post where noise control is better. Go into manual mode. Try setting ISO to, say, 800 or 1600, raw image format and then prioritizing shutter speed: 1/200 (or faster) @F5.6, ISO 1600 with the 55-300 will probably underexpose by two to three stops indoors. Lift the exposure when developing in your preferred software and see whether that reduces some of the unattractive noise that is evident in the second and third shots. Shoot in raw and apply luminance noise reduction regardless. Slight loss of detail is less unattractive than high ISO noise.
Thanks for the plug! A couple of things to note, though:

- Musicians tend to be moving a lot less than dancers, so I'm able to get away with slower shutter speeds

- On the other hand, dance performances tend to be somewhat better lit than jazz clubs, so its a bit easier to get faster shutter speeds

- The main reason I shoot underexposed and push in PP isn't because it gives me better noise control - it's because my camera tops out at ISO 1600, so this is the only way to get faster shutter speeds. It is true I'd be unlikely to prefer in-camera NR over the NR that can be done in PP, especially shooting RAW. But if my camera went to, say, 3200 or 6400, I'd probably shoot there - but still in RAW, and still doing my NR in PP. There should be no difference at all between the two approaches (actually shooting 3200 versus shooting 1600 then pushing a stop) if you are shooting RAW and doing your NR in PP.

QuoteQuote:
First shot is fab, by the way.
Agreed! I really like #2 and #3, too. At the posted size, I don't notice any objectionable noise, either, although I'm sure a monitor that was turned up much brighter than mine would be more likely to show some. Chances are, even if the images were shot JPEG, they could be cleaned up if desired.
06-04-2012, 04:40 PM   #14
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You know what, I practised this today. I took identical shots at ISO 1600 and 6400 (the correct exposure). I lifted the 1600 one in post and applied the same noise reduction to both. The results were subtly different, but I couldn't say hand on heart that I preferred one over the other.

Nevertheless, the idea of intentionally underexposing to get the desired shutter speed is still a beautifully simple one. An exaggerated sense of motion can be very effective. A subtle one - in the hair, say, or the hands - doesn't look quite right. In my experience, dance needs 1/200 or faster.
06-04-2012, 11:42 PM   #15
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It seems that you have already shot the show but in case it may help for later, I'll add to the thread. I have been shooting stage musicals, including the dance sets, for 30 years. Since faster digital has become the norm, it is really much easier and since I got my K5 with its improved high ISO performance, better yet. A few ideas:

Although I shoot RAW in most cases, for dances I sometimes switch to JPG in continuous mode so I preset the WB to Tungsten to match the stage lighting. I try to take a few test shots ahead of time to tweak the setting for best color match with the lights. Stage lights always seem to vary a lot in color.

I use only 2 lenses, my 17-70 and the 55-300mm. The 17-70 is fast and sharp and permits me to go wide enough to get group production numbers all in the shot. For solo or duet numbers, the longer lens gets me in tight without having to get too close to the stage. If I HAD to use just one lens, I'd use either the 55-300 or my 18-135, even though the latter isn't as sharp as the others.

Crank up the ISO as far as your camera will perform adequately. The last show I did was on an outdoor stage and shot mostly at either 6400 or 8,000 and at least 1/250 or faster, using the shallowest DOF aperture I could get away with unless the scenery was important to a shot. A few shots had to go even higher to ISO 12,800.

If you can get permission, dress rehearsals are much better to shoot than the actual show. At a rehearsal, you can move all around the stage and audience area, shooting from different angles, without getting in the way or standing in front of the paying audience.
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