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01-11-2013, 12:25 PM   #1
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First time shooting an event

My wife dances with a clogging group (Bull Run Cloggers in case you're curious) and her group puts on an annual event (Potomac Double Down in case you're even more curious) that is a big regional meet up with instructors and workshops etc. My wife has volunteered me to shoot the event. I've got a K-30 with the 18-55 kit lens and an old A 50 2.0. I know I'll probably need a tripod and possibly a flash but, does anyone have an advice whatsoever for me? A lot of the stuff takes place in a gym but there are some workshops in the school classrooms as well. I'm not under a lot of pressure here. If you look at the pictures from last year, you'll find a lot of iphone pics and such so, anything I do will be an upgrade. These people are fantastic and I'm trying to get involved since my wife loves it so much. Any advice would be great; new gear to get, techniques techniques to learn, things that I should look for, must have shots etc. I'm nervous. I haven't really shot much in the last 15 years or so and I'm worried I won't get many keepers. Thanks in advance for any input. You guys are always so helpful, I'm hoping to get some guidance. Warning, I will shamelessly take full credit for all your ideas and pass them off as my own.

01-11-2013, 01:28 PM   #2
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The A50/2 ought to be good for one or two person shots. When you are back far enough to include the whole body, the depth of field at f2.0 should be just about enough for a person. As long as you can focus it, the extra 3 stops of light will be useful.

Your wife volunteered you so now she is your test subject. One test is what shutter speeds you need to freeze foot motion entirely, show a little motion or a lot of motion. I think a small amount of motion makes a better shot; otherwise it looks like a bunch of people in a room. Remermber distance from the camera will matter a little, but you can see moving feet in relation to the rest of the person even farther away.

Typical flash settings will cause the people to freeze because the flash burst is really short, probably like 1/1200 sec. or shorter. You can try using settings that let in a lot of ambient light. That will also reduce the darkened background, nuclear blast effect of a bad flash shot. I like to use M mode, 1/30 sec., f5.6, higher ISO like 800-1600, and let the P-TTL flash figure out power, with a lens like the DA 18-55. If your flash does trailing curtain sync, that might work too. Those settings would give you a shot with some motion blur for moving people, leading up to where the flash burst freezing them in place. Increasing shutter speed will reduce blur. Increasing ISO increases ambient light.

If you can get an advance idea of the gym lighting, your planning is way easier.

White balance will be a factor. With flash you will probably have a mix of two white balances, one ambient and one from the flash.

With your lenses, you'll need to be closer, without being in the way.
01-11-2013, 01:36 PM   #3
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School gyms are notorious for incredibly poor lighting. So, you're right you'll either need faster lenses or a flash (perhaps with triggers). Is any of it to be posed or is it all event, action, candid?
01-11-2013, 01:48 PM   #4
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If you can't use flash: Use the 50mm @ a wide aperture, expose to the right and up the ISO. Use continuous shooting mode and spray and pray in case overall body motion gets severe.

A tripod could help some but use it as a monopod - it will give you better movement freedom if you want or need it.

Actually, I think you'll do just fine. I've done some shooting @ 200mm and still got away with it (sharpness and overall exposure).

01-11-2013, 01:49 PM   #5
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Depending on the time frame and how much time and money you want to invest there are a lot of different things you could do. But since you don't have a lot of experience and you don't need professional level portraits I would suggest keep things as simple as possible. While better lenses and off camera flash will without doubt improve the image quality, that is money invested and even more time to set up and learn.

So I would stick with the 18-55, it's AF and while it is not stellar it will produce. Then I would invest in a good P-TTL flash, and practice with it until you feel comfortable. Try learning bounce flash or maybe with some diffusers. but that is a quick, simple setup that you can move around with and get decent shots. Can you do better with more gear? Sure but do you need better?

Like Dave said, your wife will need to be your test subject. Have her practice for you at home until you can nail the shot comfortably. That will give you more confidence when you have to do it for real. And if you have the opportunity to get in the building ahead of time, take it and get some test shots so you know what will work.

Non-photographers think all you do is point the camera and press the button. It is tremendously more complicated than that, and half the battle is knowing what is going to happen before it happens so you can anticipate.
01-11-2013, 02:10 PM   #6
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Diffuser - even the Gary Fong Puffer for the on-board flash make a huge diffference. Bounce in the gymn might be tough, but a decent diffuser can make all the difference.

Take time early on to test setups. Remember, you're there all day so you can burn time early evaluating your results before settling in.
01-11-2013, 02:19 PM   #7
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I suspect the tripod wlll be useless as your subjects will be moving. Decide how high you are prepared to take your ISO. Think as much about how you will use your ISO as you will about any other feature of your camera and lens. Do a few test shots in low light at various ISOs. At times move around a lot.

may the force be with you
01-11-2013, 02:50 PM   #8
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Keep it simple.
This is what I would do were I in your situation:
Flash on camera - in my case a Vivitar 285 set to "A" with proper exposure at f4.5 or so.
I'd have my 35mm 2.4 DA lens on camera, set to f4.5 or so with the shutter speed set to somewhere between 1/60 and 1/180.
I'd find out exactly what was going to be happening and where so I can anticipate my shot and know where I need to be and when. Talk to the event organizers and ask questions.
Then I'd get my shots.

Yes, available light looks more artistic etc etc, but your chances of success in getting well exposed and focussed shots are extremely low. You're more likely to please your "client" with well done flash on camera.

01-11-2013, 03:03 PM   #9
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I'd use the 35mm because its the shortest auto focus lens I own. If I had a 28mm auto focus or a 24mm auto focus I'd use those instead. Then I'd shoot as close as the focal length allows. If you don't shoot close, someone will step in front of you and get the shot with their cell phone. Guaranteed. ;-)

I don't care much for zooms so I tend to "zoom" with my feet.

If you elect to go with your kit lens - and that's a perfectly reasonable thing to do - set it wide and work in close. If you work in close enough, you could likely get your shots using your camera's built in flash. Practise and find out.

Good luck with your shoot.
01-11-2013, 10:22 PM   #10
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Coice of equipment aside, I'd suggest getting there extra early and testing the flash in gym conditions and whatnot so you dont have to experiment with the settings during the event.
Be careful where you stand, but also at the same time, stand somewhere you can get good shots. And don't get trapped in by people =D Happened to me before..
01-11-2013, 10:35 PM   #11
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I've been shooting my kids' dance recitals for years. If you can, try to see a dress rehearsal first so you can anticipate the moves. With my K-x I do not use flash, ever; it is distracting to the dancers. I try to keep the shutter speed around 1/320 or faster to freeze action and adjust ISO accordingly. Remember, your K-30 does high ISO quite well.

A couple of examples:

01-12-2013, 01:26 AM   #12
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Wow, that's a lot to take in. Thanks for all the responses. I'm going to have to sift through them more.

A few things;

- This isn't a recital as much as it is a workshop. There will be instructors there and a lot of different dancers of ranging skill levels. A dress rehearsal isn't really possible but, I will know what's going on and where.

- As a small organization, they don't have a lot of people to do the grunt work. Luckily (or unluckily depending on your outlook) I've not only been volunteered to shoot the event but also to help set up the night before so, based on all of your suggestions, I will be there the day/night before helping and will bring the camera to get some test shots done in the different rooms. This should help with the white balance/shutter speed issues. I'll try and pick up a flash before hand and play with it a little as well that night so I can know a bit more about bouncing/diffusing. LOL this is going to be a lot of work figuring this all out.

- Luckily, their previous events have not been shot by anyone of any real skill so, my substandard shooting will likely look very good in comparison.

- I'll be trying out both the kit lens and the 50 to see what the both can do. I'm thinking the 50 in the gym for the low light performance and for the larger crowd shots. I'll use the kit lens in the classrooms for more personal single person images. Also, shooting in a smaller room will help get more of the scene at wider angles. (Please let me know what yo all think about this strategy)

- I'll be moving around quite a bit I'm sure so any ideas on must have angles or types of shots are extremely welcome. I'd like to get a good idea of the order of shooting so I'm not aimlessly walking around looking for something interesting to shoot. It would also help me to get the shots I need with each lens all at the same time so I'm not wasting time changing lenses back and forth.

- I'd like every person there to be in at least one picture. It always makes it more fun when you go to something like this to see yourself in a picture. Any ideas for keeping track of this? There should be a lot of people there so I don't know if this is feasible but, I'd like to at least try to make it happen.

Again, I can't thank you all enough for the help. My wife keeps saying it doesn't need to be super professional but, I have high standards for myself, even at something I just started back up on after a long break. I'd love to hear more on this and if you all need more info on the event, please ask. I'd hate to miss out on some info that might help because I didn't explain things properly.
01-12-2013, 04:54 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Navmaxlp Quote
Luckily, their previous events have not been shot by anyone of any real skill so, my substandard shooting will likely look very good in comparison.
Hahah, Mr Modesty takes the cup.

But seriously..
If you said you're setting up, and youre going to be in a classroom as well, it might be worth asking for a stool or something to be placed in the room (with a large "do not move" sign) so you could get that shot from a higher angle. My current camera has an articulating screen so I just kinda hold it above me, so I'm not sure if this could work for you if you cant see what you're shooting at =D
01-12-2013, 01:26 PM   #14
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I will chime in as many of the posters already made very good suggestions. The lens (focal length) you use depends on the how the event is conducted. If the event is like a concert hall where everything is happening on the stage with sufficient stage lighting, I probably only need to use the 135/f2.8 lens and don't even need off-camera flash. However, if the event is mainly for people mixing up and talking to each other on the floor, then I would use a lens with shorter focal length (either 24mm or 28mm) and I do need an off-camera flash. Your A 50/f2.0 lens is probably too long limiting you to just head-and-shoulder shots if you are in close quarters and on the other hand, it is just not long enough for stage shots. If you are handy and don't mind using manual focus lens, you should try getting some 28/f2.8 and 135/f2.8 lens for cheap. The sweet spot for aperture is f3.2 to f4 with sufficient DOF and light, your kit lens may not be sufficient for that. You also give up a lot if you don't use external flash - without flash, the true color will be overwhelmed by the indoor ambient light.

One important point about taking wide angle shots (between 18-24mm) - be aware of distortion where people on the edge of the photo have very broad shoulders and skewed faces.

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