Help with dance recital settings?

Discussion in 'Photography Board' started by Wadecool, Jun 5, 2011.

  1. Wadecool

    Wadecool DIS Veteran

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    I'm looking for some help from the photography experts here on the Dis. DD3 has a dance recital today and I need to find the settings setup for this thing. Any help is appreciated.

    The location: a darkened theater with the only light on stage where the little ballerinas are. I will be shooting from a dark area but at a lighted subject, if that makes sense.

    My equipment: Nikon D3100 using the kit 55-200mm 1:4-5.6 lens.

    It has been made very clear that NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY will be allowed! Can you guys and gals recommend a good, semi-easy setup to get some decent shots of DD3.

    Thanks in advance.
     
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  3. rtphokie

    rtphokie Photo board moderator Moderator

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    Any specific aperture and shutter speed settings you get here may or may not actually work once you get there. Let the camera do some of the work for you.

    Try Aperture Priority Mode (A) and make sure the flash is off. Take a few test shots if you can and adjust the ISO until you can see some detail in the shots. Start at 800 and go up from there.

    Another option is using exposure bracketing. Each time you shoot, it will take one photo plus one underexposed and one over exposed. Think of it as an insurance policy.

    Also use a tripod if possible.
     
  4. photo_chick

    photo_chick Knows a little about a lot of things, a lot about

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    The no flash rule isn't a big deal since most of the time the flash really won't help you out in this type of shooting anyway... unless you want to light up the back of the heads in front of you.

    Expose for the stage and not the audience. The camera's light meter might not always give you the right exposure for the stage, so you may have to set things manually or use exposure compensation. You may have to play some to get the right exposure and bracketing isn't a bad idea.

    I tend to shoot in shutter priority mode so I have what I need to stop motion, then I use exposure compensation if I need to adjust for a difference in lighting. But everyone has thier own way to go about it.

    I don't have a really fast telephoto zoom myself (mine is a 70-210 f/4) and I find that for some dances I have to push the exposure. That is, I shoot RAW and intentionally underexpose a stop. This allows me to get the shutter speed I need. Then when I process the images I bring it back up. It does make the image a little noisier, but I figure that's better than motion blur from a too slow shutter speed.

    But the most important thing... don't be so absorbed in taking the pictures that you miss the dance. Last year my DD was in a large production number and I was so busy getting shots of the whole thing that I totally missed one of her parts. LOL Good thing for me that they performed that one twice that night.
     
  5. Wadecool

    Wadecool DIS Veteran

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    Unfortunately, using a tripod isn't possible in this particular theater due to size constraints. Can you explain more about how to set for exposure bracketing?
     
  6. Wadecool

    Wadecool DIS Veteran

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    I'm afraid I am still too much of a newbie to be shooting in RAW and I don't have the processing software yet anyway. I haven't really shot much outside the preset mode settings (mainly sports mode), so I'll definitely be going way outside my comfort zone here. If I get any decent shots, I'll post them here.
     
  7. mom2rtk

    mom2rtk DIS Veteran

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    A couple things that might be easy for someone new to this.......

    I would choose single point focusing. That way you can be sure that YOUR child is in focus. Anything else and the camera has more say and might choose wrong.

    If the dancers are brightly lit, but the background is dark, you might switch to center weighted (or whatever your camera calls it) or spot metering. This is a measure of what the camera takes into account when it sets the exposure. If there's a lot of dark with one bright subject in the middle, it will probably overexpose the subject.

    If other groups are performing ahead of yours, practice on those.
     
  8. pointandshoot

    pointandshoot DIS Veteran

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    Some dance recitals tricks I have found.

    First, stages are not evenly lit. Look for spots where light is brighter and wait for action to go to those spots. Tough if you child is positioned in back or side. Some dance recitals invest in extra stage lighting where others go with what was installed at the location.

    I shoot manual. Aperture as wide as I can get it and ISO as high as it can go WITHOUT adding too much noise in the image that cannot be cleaned up. ISO 1600 is a good starting point for slower lenses.

    Take test shots on dancers early in show and check your histogram and your image sharpness as previous poster stated. If you have not gotten comfortable adjusting your camera settings in the the dark, might want to play with that before the show.

    If you camera has high ISO noise reduction, use it. Be aware, it can slow down camera processing the images onto the card.

    Dance tends to have points where you have movement and where the dancer is posed. Shoot when the dancer is posed/stopped if you cannot get shutter speeds fast enough to freeze action.

    Tripod is likely not to help you. You need to get shutter speeds somewhere in the 200-400 range. And that is low end. Balances you elbows on your knees or arm rest of chair to help reduce camera shake.


    Chuck
     
  9. photo_chick

    photo_chick Knows a little about a lot of things, a lot about

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    That is really good advice. Especially with the little bitty ones since they do more posing in the various positions than dancing.
     
  10. Wadecool

    Wadecool DIS Veteran

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    Could you explain exactly what I'm looking for in the histogram to know when I've got the right settings?
     
  11. photo_chick

    photo_chick Knows a little about a lot of things, a lot about

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    On the histogram you should really be looking to see that it's not all bunched up at one end. If it's bunched up on the left at the blacks it's underexposed. If it's all over on the right, at the whites, it's overexposed. Generally you want the peaks to be spread over the histogram.
     
  12. Theosus

    Theosus Homeschool Valedictorian

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    I work dance recitals as security sometimes... I think it's hilarious when some momtographer sits in the balcony with her flash bright enough to initiate nuclear fusion. *POOF*... I can't imagine being a dancer trying to deal with that. I always tell them it's not helping anyway...they can stop.

    Try spot metering. That way it will be exposing for the child, not the dark stage surroundings or the person in front of you. Try manual.... Not manual focus, just manual.
    If your kid isn't first.... Do a lot of practice shots on the other dances so you can dial in on about where you should be.

    Bring a monopod if you can. It will help with camera shake. I saw a guy with a 60d and a tripod set up at his seat, and what looked like a 70-200mm zoom, three rows back from the stage. He had it all arranged and contained to his seat.
     
  13. rtphokie

    rtphokie Photo board moderator Moderator

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    My apologies, I should have looked at your camera's manual first. The D3100 doesn't offer exposure bracketing.

    Instead bump up the EV to +1 (see page 83 of your manual) to increase the exposure. You'll need to balance EV and ISO. Dont raise them both too much or your photos will be over exposed washed out.
     
  14. Daisy14'sDH

    Daisy14'sDH DIS Veteran

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    Talk to the stage manager and inquire about the lighting that they are going to use. They change ever so slightly before every new performance...

    I got this at 1/180, f2.8, 135mm, ISO 800, cropped pretty good.

    Heres one from my daughters dress rehearsal for her recital on Saturday!

    [​IMG]
     
  15. Gdad

    Gdad I'm fuzzy on the whole good-bad thing

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    You can always shoot in raw+jpg so you have both. You may be glad to have those raw files someday.
     
  16. Wadecool

    Wadecool DIS Veteran

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    Ok, I want to thank everyone who advised me on the recital. We had a great time but I learned a few things firsthand that I've read about here previously. First, having good glass is as important as everyone makes it out to be. I used my 55-200mm kit lens and although I got much better shots than if I would have using our old P&S, they would be better with a higher quality lens. I did take a bunch of test photos of the groups before DD performed in various settings including Aperture priority, shutter priority, and manual. However, when DD's group came up I chickened out and shot the photos in auto/no-flash mode. I am confident that the tip on using the single point focusing saved me because DD was positioned behind other girls and I think full autofocus would have made the wrong choice, so thanks for that. I'm fairly happy with them, but I do want to invest in a good zoom lens that would be better for shooting in low-light situations like at recitals and in gymnasiums. I included a few photos from the recital below for you to critique. Thanks again for the advice.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  17. Daisy14'sDH

    Daisy14'sDH DIS Veteran

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    Be happy! Those are wonderful photos, congratulations! Remember what we see on a computer screen is a high resolution at the highest resolution we can muster. 5x7 prints will always look cleaner and crisper because of that! Those will turn out fine in print. Have no worries, but now you can justify to your better half the purchase of faster glass... say you want larger prints!
     
  18. photo_chick

    photo_chick Knows a little about a lot of things, a lot about

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    Those are wonderful shots for a first recital!

    I remember DD's first one and I was so totally embarrassed by the shots I got. It's a really different environment than I usually shoot in and knowledge isn't a substitute for experience. Even after 5 years of recitals and competitions I'm still not as good as I'd like to be at it. Although my dancer is in 10 numbers this weekend so I'll have lots of practice really soon.
     
  19. mom2rtk

    mom2rtk DIS Veteran

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    Those are great, and she is as adorable as can be!

    Start a fund now for a high quality fast zoom. She looks quite young (did I mention adorable????) so if you amortize the cost out on a per-recital basis......... it's much cheaper to buy it now! :thumbsup2 Good luck and keep at it!
     
  20. Wadecool

    Wadecool DIS Veteran

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    I believe I will quote you in my sales pitch to DW. ;) Can you or anyone else point me in the right direction as to the kind of zoom lens I need that is compatible with my D3100?
     
  21. MinnieForMe

    MinnieForMe DIS Veteran

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    Hi:
    I'm impressed since it was your 1st try. My 1st try was last night and I did terrible. I have the 24-70 f2.8 and assumed I wouldn't need flash. Wrong! I did end up using the flash as it was allowed but I couldn't get the shutter speed up fast enough to stop the movement.

    I tried everything that I knew using TV, AV and Auto and had no luck! Hopefully, I'll learn more and get a faster prime for next year!
     

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